How Crunch Affects the Lives of Game Developers
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.
The video game industry is currently one of the world’s biggest industries. Talented game developers can earn quite a sum working for big companies, plus they can find success independently. On top of that, there are always a huge number of games in development. Whenever a cool project is announced, there are countless fans who anticipate the video game. But in order to meet deadlines and satisfy both the public and publishers developers have to work insane hours, especially during the final stages of development.
The problem of mandatory overtime, also known as crunch, has been present in the gaming industry for many years. In most cases, companies impose crunch during the last few months prior to the release of a video game. However, it can sometimes last even longer. In an interview for Variety, the co-founder of Rockstar Games Dan Houser noted that his team of developers were working 100-hour weeks during the final stages of Red Dead Redemption 2.
Dan, who was heavily criticized for these comments, later clarified that not all of the employees worked insane hours, just a handful of developers. Nevertheless, many people are aware that in fact a big number of employees are expected to work overtime in order to meet deadlines. One of the biggest problems is that these developers don’t speak up because they fear their careers will be ruined. Meanwhile, their lives are negatively affected by staying in the offices during most of the day.
The game developers that have to work overtime sacrifice a lot just to meet deadlines. In most cases they have to come to work on weekends, don’t get to spend much time with their families and they become extremely stressed, which takes a toll on their personal health. These are all reasons why companies should stop imposing crunch on their employees and think about expanding their workforce before demanding developers do overtime.
Devolver Digital and Good Shepherd co-founder Mike Wilson mentioned in an interview with GamingIndustry.biz that developers need to stand up for their rights in a legal setting. He noted that there aren’t any unions for game developers and that these individuals don’t have the money or the means to fight big legal battles, which is why they must come together to fight these issues.
However, it’s not just the people working at big companies who face this issue, but independent developers as well. The only difference is that independent developers get pressured by users online who make nasty comments and constantly send messages demanding the game be finished.
Unfortunately, spending most of the day working comes with a lot of consequences. Many relationships can get ruined when a partner is not able to spend time with their significant other. Not to mention that some families can even get torn apart for this very same reason. But perhaps the biggest issue is the toll overtime takes on personal health.
By working long hours, game developers are constantly under stress, which is extremely unhealthy. Although some people probably perform better under pressure, it’s important to know exactly how stress affects your health. Namely, when you’re in a stressful situation, your levels of a hormone known as cortisol get increased. When your cortisol levels remain high for too long, it can cause a number of health problems including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, weight gain, sleep problems, and a weakened immune system.
On top of that, chronic stress can cause mental health problems like anxiety and depression. Since so many game developers fear taking a stand because they think they’ll lose their jobs, it’s important that they at least get proper help for any physical or mental health problems they may experience.
Nevertheless, the only way for game developers to really improve the quality of their lives is to unionize. This needs to be done in order to provide a better working conditions and a brighter future for all the developers working mandatory overtime.