A Creative Commons-licensed LiveJournal weblog post from someone describing themselves as 'ea_spouse' has raised a number of questions regarding continuing 'quality of life' problems within the game development industry. In the post, which specifically targets giant publisher Electronic Arts, the anonymous writer documents what she considers an unacceptably escalating work schedule for her partner on a currently in-production EA game, explaining:
"Within weeks production had accelerated into a 'mild' crunch: eight hours six days a week... When the next news came it was not about a reprieve; it was another acceleration: twelve hours six days a week, 9am to 10pm... The current mandatory hours are 9am to 10pm -- seven days a week."
'ea_spouse' goes on to argue that this 'calculated' crunch isn't necessarily a last-ditch effort:
"This crunch also differs from crunch time in a smaller studio in that it was not an emergency effort to save a project from failure. Every step of the way, the project remained on schedule. Crunching neither accelerated this nor slowed it down; its effect on the actual product was not measurable."
Although it's unclear whether these allegations are in any way true or universal, the 'quality of life' issue continues to be a major discussion point within game development.
In particular, an International Game Developers Association Quality Of Life survey recently found that game developer spouses are extremely likely to respond that "You work too much..." (61.5% of those surveyed) or that "You are always stressed out." (43.5%), and that 34.3% of developers expect to leave the industry within 5 years, and 51.2% within 10 years. Jason Della Rocca of the IGDA commented at the time of the survey: "While game development is a stimulating and rewarding career, the work conditions are often taxing, making it hard to sustain a balanced lifestyle and leading many senior developers to leave the industry before they've done their best work."
[UPDATE - 11/12 10.40 AM PST: According to consumer site GameSpot, San Francisco law firm Schubert & Reed LLP has started legal proceedings for a class action lawsuit on behalf of a number of EA employees unhappy with lack of payment for continued overtime. This event is believed to be unrelated to ea_spouse's specific case, though definitely symptomatic of the general problem.]