PlayStation Intern, Ordered To Test Games For Free, Sues And Wins

PlayStation Intern, Ordered to Test Games for Free, Sues and Wins

Chris Jarvis, 25, thought he would be shadowing a staff developer as an unpaid intern last year at Sony Computer Entertainment's Cambridge studio in the U.K. When he showed up, he says he was ordered to test games instead.

Forgive me for finding that kind of servitude, well, Dickensian. Jarvis didn't think it was funny, either, and "politely informed" his employers that this role entitled him to the U.K.'s national minimum wage, reports The Independent. When he still wasn't paid -- and Jarvis said he worked a 9:30 to 6 pm shift for three months -- he reported the company to U.K. authorities and sued for his unpaid wages. Jarvis reasoned that the testing job he did would pay someone £100 a day and SCE Cambridge (now Guerilla Cambridge) took advantage of his intern status to save itself some cash.

Not only did Sony settle the case for £4,600 (£1,000 more than Jarvis demanded) they asked that he sign a gag order -- and he flatly refused. And still got his money. So keep that in mind if you're ever in a situation where some corporation is paying you money to go away.

Jarvis' lawyer reminds that, in the U.K. a voluntary worker may only be employed for no pay by "a charity, a voluntary organisation, an associated fund-raising body, or a statutory body." Even voluntary workers at a commercial company are entitled to minimum wage.

Unpaid intern who sued Sony awarded £4,600 [The Independent via Joystiq]

To contact the author of this post, write to [email protected] or find him on Twitter @owengood.


    Well looks like he just killed his chance of any future job aspect in a technology firm.

      Uhhh, did you read the article, it said that UK law entitled him to be payed for the work he did. The only companies that would refuse to hire him are ones that are also acting unscrupulously (if you are deliberately not paying workers when the law says you need to, you don't want to hire people who know their rights, because you not only end up paying them, but also have to pay all the other people you took advantage of)

        Pretty sure everyone's misunderstood what i mean't by that comment.
        Companies don't like when people who public about any of their affairs. By not agreeing to that gag order he's effectively killed his chance at a future position at any firm that deals with keeping tight lips about what they're working on.

        Last edited 08/09/13 3:26 pm

          By not agreeing to that gag order he's effectively killed his chance at a future position at any firm that deals with keeping tight lips about what they're working on.

          I don't see how. He refused because they want him to be quiet about their misconduct. At no stage did he say he would not sign a NDA about a private IP. YOU are the one misunderstanding his refusal.

            Effectively, by taking this to the courts, and then not agreeing to an NDA, it may or may not highlight him as potential trouble to any companies that he applies to in the future. If you were the manager of Qwerty entertainment and you had to choose between this guy who has all this baggage (or even word has spread around that he's not a good person to hire) and someone else who is similarly qualified, you may well go with the other guy due to less perceived risk.

            Yes ideally it shouldn't happen, and his employability should be based on his own merits and not on whether or not he tried to stick up for himself, but it's what often happens traditionally.

            That said, I don't think it's necessarily a career ending move. Not every company wants a mindless drone that doesn't rock the boat.

            When you get a job with most companies in Australia they ask if you have had prior experience with workplace claims because it means you either A) might exploit the system or B) are a bit of an air head, either way if you do answer any such questions it does hurt your chances, no company wants to hire a liability in the making. This is no different, as a matter of fact it might be seen as worse from a big business point of view, internal information is just that and if some one like Mr Jarvis cannot accept such offers he would be seen as a threat to any misconduct performed by a business, purposely or otherwise.

          So what? It's unlikely he'd have ever been promoted. Have you ever taken on an unpaid internship? Because I have, and it sounds exactly like what this guy did. Either you stick around to learn the ropes and hopefully get offered a job, or you go elsewhere with a letter of recommendation and a reference. If they're unwilling to pay you, let you go, or teach you the things you need, they're exploiting you.

          Last edited 08/09/13 5:23 pm

    But... Alot of devs start guys out as unpayed interns testing games for a whole project... Insomniac games for instance, some of the devs tested ratchet 1, then they made ratchet 2's tutorial level then they were given freedom... thats just how it works...

      That doesn't make it ok. He was told he would be an intern. He would be learning the business, getting to know people in the industry and making contacts. What he did was replicate bugs day in, day out for 3 months. That's not an internship. That's a job.

      If we want to keep the Dickensian thing going, children used to work on industrial machines and were often underpaid and even injured or killed. There were certainly plenty of successful businessmen who started that way, but just because that was how it worked didn't mean it was a good system.

        Uh, you gotta start some where. In the film industry you start at the bottom: The runner. You fetch peoples coffee. You dont just jump in at the top.

          Yep, that's true. But you still get paid.

            Sorry to tell you this, but not when you start out, I would know. You run for recommendation so that next time you run for pay. Besides, internships normally don't pay.

              Internships as we know them normally don't pay, but internships as we know them are more of an American thing. The article mentions that unpaid internships for commercial organisations/companies aren't legal in the UK.
              I know that here in Australia, you have to be paid at least minimum wage (plus casual loading where relevant) for at least four hours work, if you work at least 2 hours in a two week period (that week count might be a mistake, but I'm pretty confident the hour count is right). Unpaid internships and unpaid trial periods aren't legal here.

                Unpaid work is real. In creative industry you don't just jump to the top.

                  Yeah but in any event, they did tell him one thing then make him do another.

                  I did an internship at uni (B. Management) where I worked office hours, 4 days a week for a semester, and paid uni for 4 subjects for the privilege. I didn't mind doing it though because it gave me a massive edge over my fellow students, and in the end I got 2 jobs out of it.

                  The reason I didn't mind though was because it was relevant experience, I was working on a real project and in the end made recommendations to the regional CEO.

                  Early on my manager tried some bs with getting me to get lunch for them every day, and I talked to the uni about it and it stopped.

                  I understand that in 'passion' industries like game development you have to 'pay your dues' but only if that work is relevant to what you want to do. Totally agree that Jarvis did the right thing.

                  PS. One of my mates is a map maker and he spent several thousand hours making maps for a certain shooter before he got paid work there. Difference being, he did it of his own volition and wasn't baited & switched.

                  Un-paid work is real in the entertainment industry because large parts of it are unregulated and unmonitored. The music biz and the movie biz are pretty much the Wild West.

                  Last edited 08/09/13 6:23 pm

                  I never said it's right, but that is how it works for many reasons.

          All of the replies defending this managed to miss my entire point: Just because it's standard, doesn't mean the standard is a good one. Pay minimal and work them hard. they are there to learn. But to bait and switch an intern like that AND refuse to pay him is the height of unprofessionalism.

        Most devs dont hire interns or even guys without years of experience, but now that guy has AAA experience, he could apply for a job at say... Naughty Dog... intern-ships are not for the $ in games, they are for learing the workflow of a dev (not how to make the game, you should know that already) and that workflow of an AAA studio that you would be learning is all you want out of an intern-ship... Thats what gets you the REAL JOB... that guy got offered a golden ticket in terms of recommendations into a real gamedev job...

          He does not really. Testing is the bottom-of-the-barrel for developer jobs. Unless you have a a bevy of design/art/code work from your internship/own time and/or experience in a real non-testing position; he's just going to get more testing jobs with no real worth.

          The major tickets people get is from testing is:
          a) Internal testing not external testing - working for developers not publishers gives better experience and opportunities for recognition and promotion.
          b) Internal Promotion - working at an actual developer is considered a foot-in-the-door.
          c) Shipped titles - this is the first thing employers look for is how many games you helped ship, either while you were employed there (better) or after you left (okay).

          Since his internship was a sham he would have nothing now but more opportunities to be a tester.

        It depends on what kind of internship he applied for, if he signed up for a art internship that's different but most internships get people to test the product. The point of an internship is to network and get a feel for what it's like in that industry. He would have had to know what he was getting himself into to agree to do it,

        For the games industry most people start at the Q/A level. But handling this the way he has, he has ensured that it will be very difficult to be employed in the games industry.

        Also the gag order would have be to protect the company for loss of work. Yes they may have handled this badly (we only have his word on that), but if he goes on about them negatively, it may cause them to lose work, endangering the jobs of their employees. They have to protect not only their company but they employees' jobs as well.

          Hahaha! Protect work? they were caught violating the rules and so were forced to pay the plaintiff. The gag order was clearly to hush-hush this embarrassment. if you think these companies would have any trouble finding new employees then you've got another thing coming.

            The way devs are being closed down left right and centre these days and losing their jobs is the true embarrassment here. You cant find new employees if you don't have a dev any more.

    Testing games, must have been terrible for him, my heart really goes out to him, for is horrible experience.

      ah you joke, but honestly games testing would be a horrid job in my opinion.
      All day for months\years for the same game would be brain numbing.

      It's different if you are an artists\game designer\programmer then doing the testing is not an issue since it's not what you spend most of your time doing. - go read the archives and realize that anyone who thinks, "Boo hoo, you have to play games," is woefully uninformed.

      Somehow... I just knew some gleefully ignorant neckbeard like you would post that exact comment. "Hurr hurr, if playing games is so hard, let ME take his thankless, hard, unpaid job!"

      Last edited 08/09/13 5:22 pm

    He squandered a great opportunity to get paid to play games and then move on up in the workplace. Some people have no patience I guess.

      He was a intern.
      The idea is to get some experience, which he wasn't getting by pure game testing.

        The experience wasn't to make games, he wouldn't have been given the inter-ship if he didnt know how to make games, it was to learn HOW a big dev works... Where jobs go, and who sorts what out...

          He was getting none of that. There's a big difference between knowing how to make games and doing so. Working as a tester (especially as a publisher run tester) gets you very little exposure to developer experience.

            he wasnt at a publisher tho, The way the article puts it sounds to me like he was testing for Cambridge, so he could have picked up on how a dev like that works... Clearly he didnt tho...

      The problem was that he wasn't getting paid.

      Also, there are still a lot of people who seem to have no clue what game testing actually involves.
      A game tester does not 'play' a game. They run around in circles, walk into walls, jump up and down and all manner of other mind numbing tasks for 8 hours a day.

    Right at the bottom there "Sorry, no internships or student works." - the guy in this article just got the experience he needs to apply at a big dev that doesn't offer internships... And he sued over it...

    The point of an internship is to work on a demo reel while gaining that crucial recommendation and experience from the dev you are intening for.

    Last edited 08/09/13 1:02 pm

    Sony was lucky not to face legal action by the government.

    What is wrong with you? Internships are for what they're prescribed to be. They are not free labour. He was right. You don't become an apologist for companies taking advantage of people, you say, "that's not right". I don't understand this wierd internet culture that's developing which is associating victims with more responsibility than they should. As if any one of you would tell a victim of domestic violence that they bit the hand that fed them. If we read the story, we also find out he was legitimately entitled to wages by law. Considering how moral people get when someone downloads a torrent of R.I.P.D., this is ridiculous.

      The only reason things like this stand out for me is cos I had a lecture last week by the head of Just make games and he told us all about different local devs offering internships. He told us that it will most likely be free work experience like most school work experience and its purely to see how the devs workflow folds out, to gain recommendations and to work on your demo reel so you can get a job at a bigger better dev.

      But its cos of stories like this that there are only 2 or 3 devs that hire interns, as publishers do not pay for interns as they are a large liability, so these internships are mostly favours to upcoming devs. but now cambrage will probably not take on another intern... IE its now even harder for guys like me to break into the industry cos one of the VERY few AAA devs that did take interns, now wont take interns... Considering that to get a real job at an AAA dev you need some experience at a dev like Cambridge...

      Thats what is upsetting. But to be fair, his shift seems to be rather long... Normally what you are meant to do is test AND make your own demo reel or have a part time job elsewhere doing freelance work (once again building that demo reel)... But if he spent all that time only testing...

        I get where you're coming from, but simply it's Sony in the wrong here. It doesn't matter if that Sony dev will no longer supply internships because they are grifters. I mean really would you have been happy with getting an internship and then plonked in a seat to be a tester day-in day-out?
        while you sit there next other testers who are actually paid employees? I wouldn't. Also forget about working on your demo reel because you tester now! Really though just work on that reel, get a real job at a real developer that pays and then the path to a AAA job will open up. Interns only have an edge in internal hiring, and that's because most devs see them as trainees (hopefully not for testing). When external hiring begins, it's the most experienced non-interns that make the cut and get in.

          I would give anything to get an internship at one of those big devs, they are so rare to begin with. It would not change the fact that i would still be working on my demo reel and indy projects from 6pm onwards and on weekends, cos I dont have time durin the week to do that.

          With that recommendation I could get anywhere I wanted in the industry.

    I love how everyone on the internet hates on the guys that are in the industry and know what they are talking about, especially when they provide proof and links...

    Sure, it sucks he wasnt paid... But at the same time he was getting something far more valuable, THE RECOMMENDATION.

    The truth of the matter is that the industry is incredibly competitive, its why there are so many small indy devs these days. Most interns are indy devs AND unpayed interns... I know a bunch of em. That way they get recommendation, cv's, demo reels and shipped titles... I see how hard they work and how little time they have trying to make a name for themselves and then I see this guy that wanted a full on job right away without having to do any other work.

      AKA: My backwards work practice completely justifies this guy's treatment because no-one expects better. In any other field, this would be not fly but somehow it's okay in the gaming industry, simply because it's a meatgrinder that preys in bright-eyed kids and exploits their naivety and the number of graduates. Oh yeah? You don't want this unpaid internship, you're free to leave because there are a hundred other guys behind you. Oh and forget about any upward mobility and job security.

        Like I said, if he was doing so much testing it sucks that he was unpaid... On the other hand, internships are ment for guys to get recommendations while they work on thier own indy games and game reels... Most these interns get cash from their indy games and freelance work. With those things and a recommendation, he could have moved up in the industry and gotten a job at any big dev.

        but then again, Im cruel cos im stating these facts.

        I know guys in film that make free adverts and do freelance work on tv-series just for the recommendations when they come fresh out of studies... If you dont want to do internship, then start your own freelance or indy studio. I know its not cool that the industry works like that, but thats how it works...

        it wont stay like that for much longer cos gaming is going back to where it was years ago with the small devs making the big games, just look at the witness or minecraft.

        Last edited 08/09/13 5:26 pm

          Guys who make free adverts get their work out there. Games testers don't. They smash a characters face into a wall for 8 hours a day trying to find clipping issues while their creativity dies. But hey you're the industry expert right?

          Also putting the word "cos" everywhere doesn't make you look intelligent or like you are actually knowledgeable about what you are talking about. You should probably stop that.

            So a guy cannot say things that are true that he has learned from being in the industry and having co-workers and mates in the industry as well as other creative fields and even gets called out for how he speaks with stuff like "But hey you're the industry expert right? Also putting the word "cos" everywhere doesn't make you look intelligent or like you are actually knowledgeable about what you are talking about. You should probably stop that."

            Look, I never once said that it was cool that it happened, I never said it was right, All i said is that thats how it happens in the industry and when you get offered an internship you are told upfront things like pay and length of that said internship.

            Its not right, but its how it happens.

      It's sounds like you're a uni student who's learned a handful of things about the industry (you seem really excited about this 'demo reel') and you think you've got it all figured out.

      Companies still need to operate within the law, Sony broke it, plain and simple. If people don't challenge company's on unfair conduct, they will continue to get away with it and exploit people and that's never beneficial. The industry is extremely competitive, and that opens up the door for people with power to exploit those without ie: Sony tried to get away with not paying people (which they can afford) because things are competitive. That's never a good thing, ever. In fact, it's why we have the kinds of labour laws which Sony broke.

      Last edited 08/09/13 6:35 pm

        Never once did i condone that he didnt get paid, several times ive said that it wasnt cool, secondly, im not a uni student and im not applying for an internship, nor do i intend on creating a demo reel, but i know guys in the industry that have landed big jobs and that have internships and all of them have those things ive mentioned.

      You've provided one link, to Naughty Dogs website, where they state that they don't take interns, which is common in this industry for a variety of reasons. Also Naughty Dog is probably the worst example because if any dev doesn't need interns because they are at a pinnacle of success and can pick and choose from hundreds of veteran developers to join their ranks - it's Naughty Dog.

      This event is not the reason so many devs deny internships. Interns are effectively unproven employees and unless you've got a legal non-payment arrangement: costly too. They are also high risk, not expected to stay and can pilfer IP secrets. They're only there to learn and not necessarily contribute greatly to the game, so they become an extra responsibility to their co-workers who must take the time to teach them. If an intern is as skilled and as useful to the team as a worker then they may as well be hired as one.

      Yes this is a competitive industry and people do capitalise on experience and recommendations gotten through work paid or unpaid, but that's only where it's legitimate. If Sony are guilty of doing wrong then they guilty regardless of how well they could recommend they guy.

    With that work experience and a demo reel and 1 shiped indy game, ANY AAA dev would have hired him. But he sued...

    Does suck that it was unpaied tho... But still... Creative industry's work with their own rules cos they are run by rich guys and have few outsiders.

    In Australia, you couldn't legally do this, either:

    Whether or not you agree that the work the "intern" was doing should have been unpaid as it will improve future job prospects and that graduates "shouldn't expect to come in from the top" doesn't matter - it was illegal under UK law:

    Last edited 09/09/13 8:27 am

    Why didnt he just leave, or make it known to someone early on?

    Theres more to this story

    Regardless of how you feel about internships and their usefulness, if he was doing the job of a tester then he deserves the pay that a tester would make. That's all there is to it. It doesn't matter what opportunities he got.

    If he'd been shadowing a developer, watching what they did, learning about the process for them, then maybe he'd have been happy taking that on for free. That'd be a great bit of resume material, I'd probably do that. But he was used as unpaid labour doing a job that other people were paid for, and that's unacceptable.

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