My worst experiences have been outside of games.
The OP wasn't talking about working conditions so much as creative freedom and the drive to produce shlock that consumers will buy en masse. Nobody really disputes that industry working conditions could use some help in a lot of studios, but then, there's also terrible places to work outside of games as well, so... meh.
Inside games I have had relatively good management, well-scoped projects, and managers who were understanding about QoL issues.
Outside games I have had bosses who didn't understand what a five-day work week was about, who felt that federal labor laws for overtime were overbearing.
I've learned what to look for when it comes to QoL. It applies both inside and outside the industry:
The biggest factors are average age of the workers and turnover rates. Low turnover and older workers means they treat people well. Most older people don't put up with that kind of crap for long. If the company manages to retain older and experienced workers then they are generally doing many things right.
Pulling back on topic, the creative juices for a multi-million dollar AAA project flow very differently than the creative juices from a 3-person team. The former has the original designers and producers craft their idea into a snowball, and eventually it turns into an avalanche where nobody has much input on its direction. It gets big, it gets awesome, it will impact millions, but somewhere along the line everyone's individual creativity gets subsumed. The latter is more like a block of marble and some chisels. They can take all the time they need to develop their art, and be the only ones interested in its success or failure. Hopefully they can craft a piece of art, but odds are it will die in obscurity.
The vast majority of games are tiny (often incomplete) art pieces that nobody has heard of, and nobody ever will.
The larger games that is known by many hundred million people have grown into money-needing creations like you describe. You may not like the way they grew, but big budgets (and therefore monetization) is the only reliable way they can reach the masses.
Edited by frob, 26 June 2012 - 01:18 PM.