TERMINUS 2017 Continued: Video Games Are Destroying the People Who Make Them

Among video game developers, it’s called “crunch”: a sudden spike in work hours, as many as 20 a day, that can last for days or weeks on end. During this time, they sleep at work, limit bathroom breaks and cut out anything that pulls their attention away from their screens, including family and even food. Crunch makes the industry roll — but it’s taking a serious toll on its workers.
— Video Games Are Destroying the People Who Make Them, New York Times
photo credit: hiroo yamagata

photo credit: hiroo yamagata

The crunch was one of the major inspirations for our Spinning Plates: Balancing Work and Your Personal Life panel at TERMINUS this year. An infamous aspect of game development, the impact it has on neophyte developers can be absolutely brutal. 

In almost any industry, it's accepted wisdom that long hours are a right of passage for new folks. Late nights are required as deadlines rapidly approach. If you can't handle loosing a few hours of a sleep, and the extra stress, you need to rethink if this job is the right fit for you.

Gaming and film are nothing but deadlines that must be constantly met. Each one missed can be costly in terms of both money and public perception. The delay in a major game or film's release can hurt a stock's price, send the press into a feeding frenzy, and lead the public to speculate that it must be terrible if it's taking this long to finish.

Yet, the cost of all those long hours can take a toll on personal relationships and health. Chronic pain, headaches, weight gain and even memory problems have been linked to a severe lack of sleep. If you work in the film industry long enough, you eventually will know of crew who have fallen asleep behind the wheel coming home after a long shoot.

Jason Schreir's article on crunch and game development is a vital read for anyone coming into the game industry, runs a game development company, or is an industry veteran with any type of pull. As Schreir rightly states it, "the occasional long night or weekend at the office can be useful and even exhilarating, but as a constant, it is damaging."

Video Games Are Destroying the People Who Make Them, New York Times