While the video game industry has been maintaining the same struggle with crunch — long hours and unhealthy levels of overwork — for at least the last decade and a half, our understanding of it has changed. We know more about the dangers of crunch to both developers and studios, for example. We’ve also come to a more nuanced understanding of what it means to crunch, and how sometimes crunch feels like the right answer.
Whether it’s a personal passion, not wanting to let down the team, or an unhealthy relationship with work and deadlines, lots of developers make the choice to crunch. That muddies the water when it comes to discussing how much of a problem it is, because how do you condemn a practice that you find personally rewarding, beneficial or necessary? Fortunately, Game Informer has stepped up to dismantle the arguments in favor of crunch, from the passionate to the pragmatic.
In a lengthy feature, Game Informer explores the current scope of the problem and consults with developers across the crunch spectrum — those who feel it’s widely beneficial, those who consider it a necessary (and sometimes appealing) evil, and those who believe it’s an entirely avoidable labor problem. Game Informer also speaks with Take This executive director Kate Edwards, whose expertise on the subject has also been informed in part by five years as the executive director for the IGDA.
Crunch has become such a standard, accepted practice in triple-A studios that it’s rarely considered a planning or budgeting mistake. On the contrary, schedules tend to factor in a certain amount of crunch in advance.
The IGDA asserts that for the situation to improve, crunch needs to be reframed as a management failure rather than an inevitable part of development.
“Instead of openly admitting project planning failures, or adjusting deadlines appropriately – or perhaps replacing management with more skilled individuals – the burden is often worn by the rank-and-file employees,” Edwards says.
“They are expected to just dig deep into their passion for making games and overlook how their passion for their profession and their specific project is being exploited to cover poor management practices. Sadly, for too long the industry has accepted a sort of fraternal ‘rite of passage’ attitude towards crunch, as if it’s necessary to prove that one is a ‘real’ game developer.”
So how do we fix this? In the Take This white paper on crunch, we identify several methods of avoiding crunch as a producer or studio head, and our experts offer suggestions on how to mitigate the effects of crunch on employees. Ultimately, though, a systemic problem will require a systemic solution.
This piece doesn’t have all the answers, but it does offer one approach: treating crunch like they treat unfair labor practices in many other industries. For the scope of the author’s recommendations, read the full article at Game Informer.