There are obvious drawbacks to crunch time. There is a tangible human cost. Individuals who are working an 85 hour week (12 hours a day, 7 days a week) are paying a toll with their physical, mental and emotional health. Working those kinds of hours leave no time for anything short of eating and sleeping. No kids birthdays, no Sunday lunch with the family, no hungover Saturday mornings in bed with the other half. In short - no opportunity to do anything that makes life worth living.
As well as that, it destroys people creatively. The standard 40-hour working week has been shown to generate more employee productivity over an extended period than an increase in hours. The more hours an employee has to work, the less productive they become. And in an industry that relies heavily on creative people being productive, heck, needs creativity to survive, treating game developers in this way is nonsensical. To paraphrase the Ars Technica article, do you think that Clint Eastwood would be directing movies aged 80 if he was expected to work twelve hours a day?
|Erin Hoffman aka EA_Spouse|
One could point out obvious comparisons between games developers and, say, junior doctors who work a similarly punishing schedule. Why should it be any different for games developers? I'm not saying it should, I'm saying that asking an individual to work 80+ hours a week isn't desirable in any profession, but at least there is a possibility of making changes to how the industry operates.
You see, as consumers, we endorse this system. Every single time a studio employs ridiculous crunch time practices, only to see the game in question make millions, we are sending a message. We are saying "Hey, it's ok! Run these men and women into the ground. Show no regard for their wellbeing or that of their families. Just make sure you get that game out in time so I can claim my pre-order bonus. I don't give a fuck about the people who made this product, and I will prove as much by giving you my money." Don't get me wrong; I'm not claiming the moral high ground here. I have bought crunch time games, and because the practice is becoming more pervasive, I will probably do so in future. It also doesn't help that we often don't find out about these tings until well after the game is released, so it is impossible to make an informed choice on release day.
Either way, it makes me feel fucking shit doing so and I would like it to stop.
Personally, I would like to see studios sign up to a voluntary code that ensures their developers are not subjected to unreasonable and damaging crunch time, and that they are properly remunerated for those periods when overtime is unavoidable. Similar to the Fair Trade mark which idenifies genuine fair trade products, a stamp could be awarded to those studios who can prove that their games are ethically produced. It would not only provide reassurance to the consumer, it would also identify those studios whose labour practices are in tune with what we expect from a decent society.
I was recently interviewed for the Culture NI website on whether games can be considered art. It occurs to me that this issue has relevance here.
How can we ever elevate games into an art form if we allow their creators to be treated with such contempt?
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