I've always loved video games. As a child, I spent hours playing on my Atari 2600, on our home PC, or at a friend's house on his Nintendo and Super Nintendo. As time went on, I discovered QBasic and started to learn to make simple programs. It clicked - this is how the creators of the games were doing it!
From there, I became very interested in learning about the creation process. I experimented, read articles in magazines, and as the World Wide Web took off I ventured online to learn more. Games got bigger and fancier, and some of them in special editions with documentaries about the creation, and I loved all of it.
Well funded teams of hundreds of people were now working to create fantastic games with hours of gameplay and breathtaking visuals. I read articles and watched "making of" documentaries which described how developers would work long hours, forgoing days off, working late nights, and sometimes even sleeping in the office to meet deadlines. I was so impressed with the effort and dedication they put in.
How much must you love a product to give up your nights and weekends, and spend time away from your family to finish it off? This was how great games were made, and I was in awe of the industry and the process. This was what I idolized. This was what I aspired to.
I was wrong.
The process I have described above is not necessary, and it is not cool.
Developers do not need to sacrifice their free time, their sleep, and their health to create great games. The science is in. Numerous studies have shown that well-rested people are more productive and less prone to mistakes. The stress of this schedule and lack of sleep is profoundly damaging to people's health, causes burnout, and drives talented developers away from our industry.
Just think about a cool feature that you loved in a AAA game. If the team went through a period of crunch, the developer who created that feature may have burned out and left the industry - they might not be creating awesome things for gamers anymore.
We should not idolize a process that is harmful to developers. When we hear about crunch, the overwhelming reaction should be that this is not ok. Crunch is not cool, and developers still using this process should work towards a better way.
Happier, healthier developers will produce better work, and in the long run, they will produce it more efficiently. Happier, healthier developers are more likely to stay in our industry rather than seeking greener pastures, resulting in more people with extensive experience who can then work on more advanced tasks and ideas, and push the industry forward.
Thankfully, a growing number of developers have moved on or are moving on from this toxic culture of overtime and crunch, and a growing number of people are willing to speak up. Unfortunately, it's far from everyone, and there are many developers still exploiting workers.
I'm putting my foot forward to say that I do not support a culture of overtime and crunch. We can do better, and we need to do better. I'm not the first person to share these sentiments, and I'm not an influential person, but I hope I won't be the last, and if I can convince even one more developer to stand up for better treatment of workers, then hopefully I've made some small difference.
If you agree with me, next time you hear someone discussing crunch as if it's just a normal part of the process, let them know that there's a better way and that you don't support crunch and overtime. Let them know that crunch isn't cool.