In light of today's news from Rockstar Games co-founder Dan Houser that employees at Rockstar crunched 100-hour weeks to work on the upcoming Red Dead Redemption 2, members and developers in the games industry started sharing stories of their own experiences with crunch to help contextualize the experience.
Crunch time, or the practice of working extended hours to help complete a project, is common in the video game industry to the point where sometimes there is an understanding that joining a company comes with some crunch time. International Game Developers Association (IGDA) president Jen MacLean told USgamer back in March that "a lot of studios out there that crunch are very well known for crunching. When you go to work there, it's not a surprise when you're asked to work 60-70-hour weeks."
Rockstar Games and Houser later clarified that he was only referring to select senior staff when he told Vulture that Rockstar team members worked 100-hour weeks in 2018. That doesn't change that crunch in the industry exists, as these developers shared.
My first job in Games we had a leaderboard where we tracked who worked the most hours in one week on the project. I made it to 3rd place...with 118 hours.— ???? ????s (@amboyes) October 15, 2018
Everyone in the games industry has a story about what it’s like to deal with exploitive work conditions. Mine comes from my very first job within the industry and the only reason I feel comfortable talking about it now is because the company no longer exists— Jared Rea (@jaredr) October 15, 2018
In my career, I've worked and crunched a lot on assets and concepts that were deemed vital one week; only be told the next by the same person that they weren't needed scrapped my work. That's repeatedly disheartening.— BelgianBoooooolean@BelgianBoolean) October 15, 2018
1/1 I quit R* after just under 3 years. Went travelling with the money I had no time to spend. I got a new job when I came back from travels. But for some people it isn't that easy. They have families to support, mortgages to pay etc. We had no say in it.— Dylan Wildman (@wildman_dylan) October 15, 2018
My fav thing about crunch times at Telltale was when we’d be given 80 hrs worth of work to be done in a week, but asked to complete it all in 6 days instead of 7 so we’d have some work/life balance... & our time cards wouldn’t look so dismal.— Emily Grace Buck Sweden Game Conf (@emilybuckshot) October 15, 2018
1) You want a crunch story from my experience in the industry? Here you go. I get pretty emotional thinking about the toll crunch has had on my family during my time in the industry. It all crystallized last year when, after the launch party for the last game I shipped.— Ryan McCabe (@TheRyanMcCabe) October 15, 2018
In one company I worked we were pulled into a room and told we were ‘naturally selecting ourselves’ if we didn’t crunch.— Byron, game designer (@xiotex) October 15, 2018
We have see how crunch can lead to very negative consequences for developers. Take Telltale Games for instance which we reported had a culture of crunch that led to intense workplace pressure, rapid release schedules, and low morale. Telltale recently underwent a majority layoff last month.
As we go forward and labor practices continue to be more commonplace in the games industry we will see how the industry responds to such criticism and conversation regarding what constitutes normal workplace conditions.