Original post by phantom
The problem is probably cultural to a degree; everyone expects crunch and over time so they don't take a stand when it comes up. Couple that with the supply of fresh faced people coming in at the other end and you find youself looking over your shoulder.
There is also the peer-pressure aspect of it; if everyone else is doing 60h weeks and you come in and do your 37.5h and then bugger off leaving them to it the team will start to dislike you and no one likes that.
It may even halt your advancement in the company; it can be hard enough to get a raise/promotion at the best of times, if you aren't putting in the extra hours like everyone else then you'll stand out as 'not a team player' and thus go no where.
Finally there is the fear in some cases that 'if we don't ship I have no job'; this is the same thing which keeps people working places when pay stops turning up. "Better to have a job and some hardship then to be out of one now", so they keep quite and carry on.
I'm pretty certain, unless you had a harshly worded contract, that they would have a hard time firing you if you said 'no.'. Even a clause like 'sometimes required' could be worked around by doing an hour or two every now and then when required (something which is common in most jobs, not just the game industry) as it forfills that requirement.
The only way this is going to get sorted out however is if EVERYONE says 'no' together in one voice; from the oldest engineer to the youngest new recuit so that overwork is tackled at that level.
Unfortunately any time someone even mentions the idea of a 'union' people get all jittery and dismiss the idea most likely because they are more aquainted with the power abusing unions of modern times (car plants or the recent Xmast thing with BA where the company was losing cash and the union demanded more for the workers) rather than the reason they came about in the first place; to give the common worker a collective power to get rid of poor working conditions.
Unfortunatly we loop back around to culture again at this point because for a union to be effective it needs to have large buy in and too many youngsters come into the industry wide eyed and taking crunch as 'normal' because they have hit their dream of being in the games industry where the magic happens...
I fear complete change is still some way off.. best you can do is start local and hope it spreads...
Definately agree here. Many of the poorly run studios do so nefariously -- They are not ignorant of the fact that their actions cause such demands of their employees schedules, and they equally are not ignorant of the fact that most employees will simply put up with it.
Whether its fear of not being held onto for the next project, not getting that raise, being replaced, or peer-pressure from / solidarity with their counterparts.
Places like this are simply taking wonton advantage of people's shear love for their ideal of the industry. To do this knowingly makes them bad people in business, and bad people in life. I do not want to work for, or even know, these people.
Faced with the cultural inertia as you say, standing together is really the only way to change the direction of that inertia, and all transgressions should be taken seriously.
This is not to say that the industry needs to be unionized, as that may introduce problems of its own. But I would love to see a company that had formal meetings/councils to address employee life, similar to a student-body council but with the veto-like power of simply walking out if their not being taken seriously.