Talking about crunch can be frustrating. While many of us agree that it’s a problem, no one’s quite sure about the solution (though we offer some research-backed suggestions in our white paper). So every time an article comes up that highlights the toxicity of crunch culture, it gets passed around, condemned, and then we all seem to move on.
But there are solutions, and they’re being discussed. They’re even being put into practice. Change is often slow, and it feels like we ought to be further along after 13 years of talking about this, but a shift is happening.
And last week, in an article that didn’t get nearly as much attention as a previous week’s paean to crunch, Keith Fuller gave Polygon readers some outstanding ideas on dealing with overwork in the video game industry. It’s a powerful call to action, and it recognizes that crunch is both a personal and systemic problem.
Here’s Fuller pointing out how quickly and dangerously crunch culture can consume us:
The flu is inherently dangerous enough, but what if you deliberately infect someone who says they like the fever and the aches? Is it somehow justifiable to do so every two years because “that’s the only way games get made” and “that’s just how the industry is” and “that’s how we’ve always done it?”
Overworking any employee is bad enough, but the situation becomes even more evil when you start with people who have addictive personalities and then reward their worst impulses.
These are heavy words, so I should take a step back and state clearly that overwork exists on a spectrum. There’s the fairly benign end of things where you call your significant other to warn them you’ll be late for dinner because you’re finishing something.
That might not even qualify as overwork to most of us, but it’s very easy to quickly move up this scale. You can fly right through “missing dinners” and shoot past Danny Bilson’s “thousand yard stare” and Amy Hennig’s “my health really declined” until you’re at the Japanese word for “overwork death.”
Read on for some practical steps all of us in the industry can take to help reduce overwork and its glorification. It starts with being accountable for our own work habits, and continues right to the top.
[Polygon: Fixing overwork isn’t easy, but it’s the best investment we can make]