Bodycount developers detail “unlawful” working conditions

3 min read


Last year, amidst a flurry of shoot ‘em up games, you may have picked up the rather mediocre Bodycount, a FPS that was supposed to be a spiritual successor to the cult classic title Black. It was a terrible game frankly, and it led to Guildford Studios being shut down by Codemasters after the title failed financially and critically with gamers.

But according to one employee, what was really terrible, were the abysmal working conditions that the development team had to suffer under, thanks to publisher Codemasters.

Semi Essessi grabbed whistle-blew on what he termed as “unlawful” working conditions, last week, bringing to light unpaid hours, lack of time off and dodgy accounting errors. And that was before Codemasters shut down Guildford Studio.

According to Essessi, he has yet to receive compensation for over 400 hours of overtime, of which he was promised time off as compensation, which also never materialised. Furthermore, Essessi was tasked with work that was not in his job description, and was told by HR that he was in fact, eligible for nothing.

But the icing on the cake has to be his final paycheck, as Essessi claims that the studio all received a little something extra that month… Only for Codemasters to demand that it be paid back, due to an “accounting error”.

“I needed legal advice and they were asking me to repay the money faster than I feasibly could get any” Essessi said to Eurogamer.

In fact they were asking me to pay by bank transfer as well, meaning I would have to make a payment immediately to have any chance of meeting their ridiculous deadline.

After laying us off, after horribly mistreating us, after cocking up the redundancy procedure and best of all, just before Christmas, they are coming at us aggressively because they made yet another mistake.

I have a general feeling of anger that the redundancy is ultimately down to the people at the senior level, having left a studio to burn through £20 million of expenses without any checks or balances to safeguard the investment, and yet we were blamed for this!

I am sick and tired of big businesses being incompetent and getting away with it because of fear and naiveté. I don’t like bullies, I never have, I never will.

After hearing of the story, Codemasters was quick to issue a response, saying;

The company has been, and continues to be, in open dialogue with Semi regarding the reimbursement of funds paid into his account following an administrative error, as it is entitled to. As the conversation regarding his personal situation is ongoing, the company has not, as alleged, pursued it as a legal matter with him. The company’s advisers are now aware of the additional comments that Semi has published and these will be addressed with him directly through the appropriate channels as necessary.

This isn’t the first time that we’ve heard of such work place abuse in the gaming industry, with the memory of the draconian practices at EA still fresh in our minds, with studio Team Bondi joining that infamous list thanks to the deadline lunacy of Brendan McNamara and co surrounding the launch of LA Noire last year.

And it most likely won’t be the last time we hear of such abuses either, sadly.

Last Updated: January 16, 2012

Darryn Bonthuys

Word-slinger at Critical Hit. Inventor of the macho Swiss gym chocolate known as Testoblerone. That's...that's about it really.

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