How making video games can destroy lives

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Thank you. This is exactly the kind of stuff that needs to start getting reported. The video games industry needs a big, long looking over, and more than a few worker organizations (what’s that taboo word americans don’t like for this? my english fails me. It’s gremio in spanish.).


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again (and I’ll probably be crucified for it), they need a strong union.


My take-away question for myself, one that I’ve wondered since I first learned of this phenomenon (and then later had the displeasure of working with a video game company on a localization project):

How immoral is it for me to play video games and support this industry?

Of course, like buying my smartphone or shoes or all the goods I buy that are manufactured abroad in questionable conditions, it will likely take much more for me to change my purchasing/lifestyle behavior…


Blimey that’s almost as bad as Intern hours for young doctors…


As near as I can tell from this article nothing special is going on here wrt video games in particular. Any tech field where developers are held accountable for hard release dates will suffer a crunch time. These should be salaried employees for the most part. Welcome to the no overtime paid high tech corporate world, gang. Scheduling R&D is a b*tch.

This drove my husband out of the video game industry. He loved making games. He was good at making games. He still misses making games. But making games was killing him.


When my husband first started working in video games (mid-90’s) crunch time was two or three weeks before a deadline. By the time he left 10 years later, it was all the time. If there wasn’t a crisis then his bosses were inventing one.


I think the word you’re after is “Union”


He could make games as an hobby.

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Which is why Indie Games became a thing.


You can basically swap “video game industry” for any tech industry. Same expectations.


I’ve actually been offered an “introduction” into the industry by a fairly high ranking developer (level design in GTA IV, BF4, Thief 4 etc. etc. etc.) with the caveat that it would completely destroy my love for the games I play - but the money is good.

I politely declined, telling him that in all honesty he wasn’t selling it very well :smiley:

I do feel sorry for those who are forced into this kind of situation, it’s not right (not legal in many countries), but is seen as part of the norm for the industry…

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I’ve seen this happen in a couple of ways, but the worst and the most common, in my experience, is to let developers estimate how long a task will take, without providing peer feedback to tell them that they’re being recklessly optimistic, and without a way to handle the inevitable missed estimates other than crunch. And it sucks because you feel like you need to keep up with your own estimates - it can make you complicit in your own destruction. When I was a young developer at a small (non-games) company, this was a major problem for me

The good news I have on this topic is that all the video games companies I have worked for tried extremely hard to keep crunch in check. Like, it’s acknowledge that it will happen on occasion, but it is generally treated as a failure of planning. Both EA (circa 2006, immediately post EA-spouse) and Ubisoft have been pretty good at keeping my crunch time under control. I take this as a good sign, as they are among the larger developers.

The metric that 81% of developers have crunched within the last two years is a bit hard to interpret, as it includes people who did one 80 hour week in the last two years, and people who haven’t seen their families at all in the last two years. I’m fine with going a little nuts for two weeks in a year. The dose makes the poison


EA was part of why BC shafted “high technology” workers:

This quote from the page: The hours of work provisions of the Act, including those governing meal breaks, split shifts, minimum daily pay and hours free from work each week, as well as the overtime and statutory holiday provisions, do not apply to “high technology professionals”.

Complete bastards. I am just glad I am a IT worker who does not work in a “high technology” firm. I still hear horror stories from friends who are nailed by this however.

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I’m definitely not trying to say there isn’t a problem, but it isn’t as bad as the article implies. The same survey that says that 81 percent of devs have experienced crunch time also showed that only thirty percent were working more than sixty hours a week during crunch time (and only ten percent worked more than seventy). Likewise, length of crunch varies a lot; I can’t find the stats right now, but a good chunk of the artists that had to crunch only had to do it for a couple weeks.

The sort of extreme situations described in the article aren’t unheard of, or even particularly rare, but they’re not the norm either. Hours that are on the long side but not wildly out of line with other industries are more common.

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I am as guilty of this as anyone. It’s hard to remember to, especially if you can’t justify it to yourself in the moment, but my rule of thumb is to come up with an estimate, and triple it.

Your intuition seems to only remember all those times where you built something, and it was practically perfect right out of the box.

Worst case scenario, you’re as clever as you think you are, or fate smiles upon you, or both, and you end up getting done early by 2/3rds of your estimate. That is rarely the case, though.

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It’s not quite the same. There may be the same expectations in terms of day-to-day operations (i.e. long hours), but the game industry has ever-shifting specifications, poor management, absurdly long hours that last for absurdly long times (I’ve heard about people who had 80-hours-a-week+ “crunch” time that lasted for over a year, with all vacations canceled), and because wages are a lot lower than the tech industry as a whole, you can’t even pretend you’re being fairly compensated for your time. Oh, and plus, because of the cyclical nature of development, the end of a project is more likely to mean layoffs than bonuses, even at established companies. There are long hours and then there are hours so long that you’re stupidly getting less work done as a whole - the game industry operates on the latter.

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That is not what I’ve read about. How good? It was my understanding that a good dev could do 40-50% better salary-wise in Enterprise software than in gaming, with the same skillset. And finance, forgetaboutit. I’ve heard devs working on HFT systems can get bonuses of 400k.


Oh, that’s very true. I work for a enterprise software development company (as an IT monkey) and the devs do get paid a lot… The finance industry even more so.