Video game crunch puts unnecessary strain on video game developers


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Video game developers are getting worked to the bone day in and day out without even getting paid for the inhumane amounts of overtime they’re forced to do just to make sure the game ships.

Ethan Rees, Staff Writer

The Crunch Crisis is a very prevalent problem that plagues most studios in the industry. If you don’t know what The Crunch Crisis (or just Crunch for short) is, here is an analogy: If you’ve ever had to pull an all-nighter studying or working on a project, you know what kind of fresh hell that can be. Your body craves sleep but you know your grade relies on you getting this done.

Now imagine that, but every single day for approximately four months straight with your career hanging in the balance.

Most video game companies nowadays say “Pshh, work-life balance? What’s that? Work is your life balance!” And call it a day there. Meaning employees in Crunch barely have time for a life outside of work. No real time to see their friends and family or have any semblance of a social life. Just 80-100 hour work weeks and getting three hours of sleep under your desk.

And if you don’t Crunch? Well then, guess you’re fine with them not re-signing your contract. Because most people who are being forced to crunch are under that threat. Many companies hire cheap contract workers to do the “grunt work” so to speak, and if the employee doesn’t, well, they won’t fire you, but they certainly won’t rehire you.

And since the majority of the workforce in these companies is contract workers, they don’t get paid overtime.

That’s right: 80-100 hour work weeks, 12-16 hour work days. And nothing more to show for it. At the end of the day your paycheck looks the same as it would had you worked a normal, healthy work week.

People know what crunch is and actively support it. There is a plethora of people who know about the extent of Crunch and actively support it, going as far as to say it makes games more realistic because apparently that’s a factor that matters now. 

All many of these people care about is getting the game, not even thinking for a second that maybe it’s simply not ready yet. Maybe video game development takes more work than just beep-booping on a keyboard a couple times and boom, masterpiece. 

Just because a projected release date is announced doesn’t mean it’ll be done by then. Ideally, yes it would, but that’s just not realistic in a lot of cases.

It’s gotten to the point where developers have received death threats through dms from numerous people simply because they’re trying to make the game good, polished, optimized. And once the game is out and is none of those things, those same people complain endlessly about how much of a waste of their time and money the game was.

We shouldn’t be literally running people out of the industry just so we can have a few cheap thrills and fun hours. 

And the worst part is that a lot of things are perpetuating this cycle of abuse. As long as there are money-hungry CEOs and bright-eyed college students wanting to become part of the thing they love dearly, Crunch will continue to be encouraged. Not to mention the fact that it doesn’t even really work.

Admittedly, yes, good games can come out of Crunch, but that doesn’t mean Crunch is the reason those games were good. It’s because the developers gritted their teeth and worked their hardest for months on end and had enough time to do so, but at the expense of their physical and mental health.

Good games have been made and can continue to be made without Crunch if we support it. Thankfully there are companies that actively refuse to make their employees crunch, at least not to the extent some of the bigger companies do. Obsidian, Respawn and Insomniac are all great examples of this. They are all makers of well acclaimed games and yet they’re managing to keep their employees happy and healthy.

So is it okay for you to continue enjoying the games you’ve loved in the past, despite their troubled history? I would say do whatever feels right. But that’s solely in terms of liking the games.

This endless cycle of abuse where game developers aren’t getting paid nearly enough for the hours they work is an invariably bad thing. People shouldn’t be forced to take years off their lives just to make sure a video game ships on time. Not for something trivial as entertainment.