I’ve been reading the IDGA Quality of Life White Paper and trying to write about crunch.  And I’ve been finding it terribly difficult.  Not because understanding the role and effect of overtime is difficult, but because talking about it publically is.

There’s this implied threat that if you don’t fully support the company’s interests in voluntary and involuntary overtime, they won’t hire you.  But the company’s interests are gray.  Frequently crunch makes a project worse, but sometimes makes it better.  The morale and health of the people at the studio are in the company’s interest, but the best judges of how to serve that interest are the employees themselves.  Sometimes even a team wants to work overtime and management stops them.  And yet, talking about crunch and overtime in a reasoned, rational way as a potential employee, even from the company’s interest alone, is seen as a threat.  To me it just seems like a step – a step both towards better employee quality of life and a step towards more successful projects and more successful companies.  I believe the single greatest factor in a game’s success is the team’s drive to create a great game.  And the second greatest factor is their happiness and amount of stress.  Anything we can do to manage and improve these two factors is a tool that we should use wisely and well, and a tool we should fully understand.  Not a tool we should put on an alter behind a curtain and strike down any who question it.  Questioning is part of understanding – if there are no questions there is no discussion, and with no discussion there is only blind ritual.

So read the white paper.  While not perfect, it goes over these things far better then I can.  And encourage your teams to talk about crunch openly.  Work to ambush potential hires in employment agreement about crunch, but rather to talk about it respectfully in the interview.  So that when the time hits, your team will be right there with you, best they can.  Or maybe, just maybe, you’ll find a way to avoid crunch altogether.


2 thoughts on “Crunch

  1. I have to go with the last premise. Work to avoid it. Crunch to a milestone or final ship is a sign of bad project management. Most frequently it is because of the desire/need to ship something for the holidays. So, because of one single, almost arbitrary deadline, we have established an accepted practice in our industry that is damaging to people as well as the product. There have to be easy solutions to that problem.

  2. To be honest, I think crunch can actually be a good thing. It brings people together on a common goal, and it has many great properties — done well. Many systems in nature go through this boom/bust cycle: muscles, the weather, etc. There’s nothing wrong with it for game development as long as you have the down time to recover and understand what you’re supposed to do in the “bust” period.

    However, I’d never recommend crunch for anyone without being paid — except if you’re starting your own business 🙂 In that sense, our practices are not QoL SIG approved, hehe!


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