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What can student game devs do to avoid crunch?

May 11, 2017 | By Alissa McAloon

May 11, 2017 | By Alissa McAloon
More: Indie, Production, Video

"You have to learn what you're capable of creating in what amount of time and how you're going to create a quality game in 'x' amount of hours."

- Francesca Carletto-Leon makes the case for how scope awareness can help game dev students avoid crunch.

The very structure of a typical college semester seems to almost encourage crunch. So what can game developers and educators do to move away from what is often regarded as an unhealthy but all-too-common element of game making?

This was one of the many topics discussed in a recent roudtable with developers Catt Small, Francesca Carletto-Leon, and Lauren Scott. The trio shared their experiences with academic game development programs, both on the student and educator side, to try and pin down what can be done to help steer devs away from the long hours that are all too commonly accepted as part of the gig. 

The answer seems to lie in teaching game dev students to better understand their own abilities and learn how to accurately gauge scope early on in their education.

Scott, who spent four years as a TA for a game design program, advocates that the best way to avoid crunch and create a quality project in a limited amount of time is to be aware of your own abilities and the abilities of your team.

“Each year there were the teams that tried to make the huge RPG, the amazing thing they’ve had in their hearts since they were 5 years old,” said Scott. 

“As the years went on, a trend started coming out. The games that did the best were the ones that just focused on one really really interesting thing. For students I think it really helps to find one really cool, crystallized idea and have a small little agile team and really just make that one thing just come to life.”

The panel agreed that one thing educational programs could do to better set game development students up for success was to teach project management alongside the more technical aspects of game development. 

“[Scope] should be taught. As much as programming, as much as art,” she said. “Project management and producing should be just as big of a part of the curriculum because it impacts everything as much as your actual ability to make the game.”

The full roundtable discussion can be found on Gamasutra’s Twitch channel. We regularly host discussions like this, live interviews with developers, and other helpful sessions on Twitch, so be sure to follow the channel to keep up with the latest from Gamasutra

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