Kotaku:The Horrible World Of Video Game Crunch


n February of 2011, fresh off nine months’ worth of 80-hour work weeks, Jessica Chavez took a pair of scissors to her hair. She’d been working so hard on a video game—14 hours a day, six days a week—that she hadn’t 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,” she’d 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. (She’s 5’4.)

Spend any amount of time talking to people who make video games and you’ll hear thousands of stories like this. 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. 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 forms—sometimes it’s long and drawn-out; sometimes it’s just a few weeks at the end of a project—but for people who work in video games, it’s always there. And because most game developers work on salaries, it’s almost always unpaid.



This scene came to my mind while reading that text. :frowning:

The pic is from HERE.


I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again - studios will keep getting away with this because employees keep going along with it. There comes a point when the artists have to take responsibility for this. Either get up and leave once you’ve done your eight hours, or quit your job. You can’t run your health into the dirt, working months of ridiculous overtime, and then blame your employer, because there’s a point when you’re the one to blame for doing it.


On the bright side she did get a new hairdo and now can get into a size 1.


I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again - studios will keep getting away with this because employees keep going along with it. There comes a point when the artists have to take responsibility for this. Either get up and leave once you’ve done your eight hours, or quit your job. You can’t run your health into the dirt, working months of ridiculous overtime, and then blame your employer, because there’s a point when you’re the one to blame for doing it.

that’s all it really takes, stand up and say enough is enough. until then nothing will change and it will just be business as usual.

I’m sure everyone remembers the EA spouse letter from about 2004



The problem is that, especially for places in Asia, that is legitimately not an option. There are 100 people behind you just as willing to do the work for cheap if you leave or get fired. It’s not like you can go to another studio and get treated any better; they are ALL like that. (I am going by the word of someone I trust implicitly). You are signing your own death warrant basically.

Even in the west it really isn’t that easy sometimes. If you have a family to provide for, it becomes VERY hard to just up and leave at the risk of being let go. And we probably don’t need to get into the psychological issues that come along with all this as well.

shrug Just my two cents.

I am not saying it’s RIGHT, I am just saying, it isn’t easy. :stuck_out_tongue:


I can’t speak for people who have a family, house etc… but this goes out to the young passionate creators who are stuck in these situations. If you are good at what you do, you will always have a job. You may have to move overseas and travel but take this as an opportunity, not a downside.
Know that if you choose to work in horrible conditions you will only last about 5 years before you physically cannot do that work anymore. What will you do after the 5 years is up? Probably the same you can do in week 8 of crunch - walk out and find a new means to make a living.
Do not be fooled into thinking there is only one option. Make the most of your time in a studio to make connections, show your skills and share your passion. Contrary to popular belief, retaining workers is cheaper for the company due to training time/relocation etc. If you discuss your problems before handing in a resignation, you might just get a good deal - even if that deal is your workload is halved and more team members hired.
Just my 2c.


Yes but that simplifies a not very black and white situation. For instance, not everyone is like Oliver Twist with balls or backbones enough to stand up for themselves. They often have to consider how they will pay the next bill if they get fired for speaking up. Also they can be afraid to organise with fellow workers for the same reasons.
To be honest, I used to think anyone not standing up for themselves were just plain cowards. But now being a few years older and grown out of the schoolyard mentality, I can understand better why things are what they are.


First time I have seen this. Excellent read, does anyone know if it made any difference for the better?


I did just that and got fired when the project ended. The studio got away with it. Yet again. :shrug:

The thing is, a siginificant number of employees would have to do that, which - obviously - is not happening, ever.


I’m pretty sure my head has ended up on the chopping block at some places due to my refusal to do overtime too, but the way I see it, I’d rather have a life and have to occasionally look for a new job, as opposed to working around the clock for a studio that will never appreciate it anyway (because they don’t, and people need to stop kidding themselves about that).


Ha, amen to that! :thumbsup:


Yeah, Leigh… Amen!

And remember: life is too short to be wasted in front of any screen.


Of course we always have to have someone post a photo of factory workers working at industrial sewing machines to support arguments of abuse in the workplace.:rolleyes:

I’d stop encouraging people to “follow your dreams” bs and instead suggest that one make life choices with your eyes wide open. Sure this poor soul wasn’t bright enough to make sensible choices but do we always have to use the exception and not the rule cases to support arguments against the evil companies that so many of you are dismayed with? And, it must be a lack of critical thinking skills that takes one who loves watching anime for example to make the insane leap towards wanting to go live in Japan and gain employment within that industry. what?


At least you didn’t say the pic is a CGI creation depicting a distopic fantasy reality. LOL


Makes you wonder where they’re conducting their interview doesn’t it…


Yep, pretty much how it is ATM, well actually for some time now. As an example, a couple of mates back in 2004 working in the industry would on occasion relate similar instances as to these entrenched draconian work practices, as a result both got out to do other things, but that said a circumstance not wholly exclusive to the gaming space by any means. From memory one perhaps two manufacturing companies I’d held employment with in the past deployed near enough too exploitative worker conditions, which tellingly due to I would strongly suspect, the absence of any form of Gov’t legislated and/or industry self regulatory oversight.


That sums it up. Regardless of any job/job title, regardless of any region of the world, regardless of any family circumstances…

Those beancounter suckers know that you are afraid of your future and they will abuse it to no avail. You have no future either way, so at least be brave.

There might be consequences. Lets get very very miserable. Lets say you can’t pay your rent/credits/debts and go to jail. If everybody would be brave enough to face even the hardest consequences, 2 choices would remain.

Either the whole economy/country collapses, or new regulations that allow you to have a balanced life would be introduced immediately. Guess which one will be preferred by those who run your country.


Crunch time occurs because artists (and programmers) have no power in the game studio structure. Even many independent developers have no power to set deadlines, these are set by large publishers. What is needed is stronger worker representation in the workplace. Someone (or thing) to advocate for ALL of the workers in the building, not just one or two individual people. What is needed is a contract between all workers and management that clearly spells out rules and responsibilities. How would this come about? Well it starts with workers from all departments and companies coming together and organizing. It starts with workers collectively banding together to stand up together. Yes of course everyone can be fired. But if it is truly everyone then management is very loathe to fire and hire (and train) all new workers right before or during a project.


I’m of the same opinion. I have overall been very lucky in my career to have always worked for companies that treated their employees the best they could. Still, I’ve done my share of OT, but it has lasted as long as it needed, and then it ends (and I get properly compensated for it). However, I think this is also a consequence of decisions I’ve taken in my life regarding my limits, and communicating those clearly.
I have friends that work for other companies here in the city that tell me stories that make me wonder why some people will put up with things that I consider just plain insulting. We all have our mental prisons, I guess… I know I have a few (non-work related).
Anyway… off to trying to shorten my current OT schedule… :smiley: