How making video games can destroy lives


Why are 80-hour work weeks considered normal in the world of video games? At Kotaku, Jason Schreier investigates the phenomenon of "crunch time," where employees of video game companies are routinely expected to work nightmarish hours, most of which is unpaid overtime.

Crunch, as it's called, has become status quo for the video game industry, as normal to game developers' lives as daily commutes or lunch breaks… Developers regularly lament having to suffer through unrelenting crunch cycles where they go weeks or months without seeing their families. A 2014 survey by the International Game Developers Association found that 81% of polled game developers had crunched at some point over the previous two years. (50% felt crunch was expected in their workplaces and a "normal part of the job.")

Crunch has become an ingrained part of the culture at many game companies, one that has ruined relationships, driven people out of the video game industry, and prevented others from joining it. Schreier digs in to some of the reasons why crunch exists—bad management, unreasonable expectations, equating passion with sacrifice—and why it may not even produce better games.

It's also worth asking what the world of video games loses creatively (and in terms of employee diversity) when it drives out people who aren't willing or able to work 80-hour weeks. This isn't a new phenomenon, but it's been under increasing scrutiny since a scathing 2004 blog post by the spouse of an Electronic Arts employee, and a subsequent class action lawsuit. But the practice continues, and there are still plenty of game developers who treat it as a normal part of the industry, or even something to celebrate: