n February of 2011, fresh off nine months worth of 80-hour work weeks, Jessica Chavez took a pair of scissors to her hair. Shed been working so hard on a video game14 hours a day, six days a weekthat she hadnt even had a spare hour to go to the barber.
As soon as the overtime came to an end, so did 18 inches of hair. [It was] retaliation for the headaches the weight of it had given me while working, shed later tell me. It got so heavy
it was unbearable after a while.
Chavez, who writes and edits text for the boutique publisher XSEED Games, says she dropped 10% of her body weight during this period, where she handled just about all the dialogue for the text-heavy role-playing game Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky. By the end of the project, she weighed 99 lbs. (Shes 54.)
Spend any amount of time talking to people who make video games and youll hear thousands of stories like this. Crunch, as its called, has become status quo for the video game industry, as normal to game developers lives as daily commutes or lunch breaks. From multimillion-dollar blockbusters like Call of Duty to niche RPGs like Trails, just about every video game in history is the net result of countless overtime hours, extra weekends, and free time sacrificed for the almighty deadline. This crunch comes in many different formssometimes its long and drawn-out; sometimes its just a few weeks at the end of a projectbut for people who work in video games, its always there. And because most game developers work on salaries, its almost always unpaid.