Overwork is endemic in game development, whether it’s driven by our employers, our own ambitions, or simple time management issues. But while many developers wear their crunch hours as a badge of honor, some are coming to acknowledge that crunch is dangerous — and glorifying long hours contributes to a culture of unhealthy overwork.
Fighting a cultural norm is hard work all on its own. Despite that, over 500 developers have chosen to publicly decry crunch and have pledged to do their part in preventing or avoiding it in the future.
Created by Tanya X. Short, the pledge asks developers to agree that crunch is failure. It’s a powerful statement:
Crunch, or excessive overtime, is not necessary or normal. Excessive overtime is one enemy of good game development.
Game development is worsened by the practice of “crunching” or excessive overtime.
Game development is improved by the practice of admitting when mistakes are made, and avoiding crunch as much as possible.
The game development community and industry would be improved by the admission of excessive overtime as a failure.
Excessive overtime is not admirable, virtuous, or empowering. Crunch can sometimes be a personal choice, but it is a cause for concern when practised as a habit. Inasmuch as I contribute to forming a culture of professional work, I see crunch as one of the ways that a game’s development can fail.
When it is my failure, I will take ownership, apologise, and try to do better in the future. When it is another’s failure, I will try to help support them in creating a better process.
Some of the developers who have taken the pledge are indies, some work solo, and some come from studios you may know, like Ubisoft, Double Fine, Havok, Telltale Games, ArenaNet, Carbine, Vlambeer, and many, many others. Some of their studios undoubtedly crunch, given the statistics — according to IGDA, over 62 percent of developers reported regular overwork in 2015 — but with more than 500 developers fighting to change that, healthier work hours may someday be common.
If you’re a game developer who agrees with the pledge, join the rest by adding your name. Crunch has a human cost, and we all have a part to play in ending it.