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Is it true?! (work/life balance in gamedev question)

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I've wanted to make video games ever since I was in middle school. I've thought of it as a career but then studied Networking instead because I've always heard that programmers are the over worked (80 hours / week)without over time pay in order to meet deadlines and this affects their work life balance and even family life at home. Is this true? Is this a reasonable fear to deter me from going down this path?

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From experience; this isn't perse related to (game) development, but office jobs in general.
In practice the more responsibilities you get, people expect that you work more. I personally think the opposite, if you're not able to manage your responsibilities within the available time, you're either not the right guy for the job (and/OR) expectations are not realistic. In that case I would talk to my 'boss'/ employer.

Note: I'm not saying you can always influence this 100%, but it helps to have a good mindset and standup for yourself when needed.

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Agree with cozzie, it's general.

I've worked in a few IT companies in the past. The first one let me work for 7 hours a day, 5 days a week. It's a small, family-oriented company.
Then the 2nd one gave me a workload and deadline that implicitly forces me to work 12 - 16 hours a day, 6 days a week without overtime pay. (I quit right away 3 months later right before
they give me a freaking legally bound 1 year "suicide" contract).
The last one is 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. I can't work beyond that hour because they turn off the lighting and the cleaning service start cleaning the room,
which annoys me a lot that I can't work at all (probably intended). The office is also closed at Saturday so there's no chance to get in there to work unless the big boss
have some sort of event or extremely rare urgent matters.

It really depends on which company you choose.
I'm glad I had my first job that is quite sane. If I get to the 2nd company as my first job ever, I may think that's how I should work for my life. Edited by away2903

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In the UK at least, the main warning sign is something called the Working Time Directive. It's a piece of Health and Safety legislation which limits workers to a 48-hour week, so most game studios (every non-indie I have ever encountered) will ask you to opt out of it. 

 

A normal week will be your contracted hours, usually 37.5 or maybe 40 hours, plus ten or fifteen minutes before you leave on Friday so you can finish the code you are writing or finally answer that email you were putting off. Deadline weeks (once every couple of months if you are lucky) tend to go over quite badly. You work until the work is done, even if that's 60 hours or more, because missing a deadline usually means penalties and / or delayed payments and either of those can bankrupt a game studio. This is called 'crunch' and is something to watch out for.

 

In a good studio, the management team are still there (if only because they are on the phone to the publisher trying to keep them updated) and will buy you pizza.

 

If you have more than one 'crunch' week in a calendar month or more than two in three months, something has gone wrong. If you are lucky, it just means management screwed up and will get 'restructured' soon. If you are not, expect to arrive at work one day to find the locks have changed.

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In the UK at least, the main warning sign is something called the Working Time Directive. It's a piece of Health and Safety legislation which limits workers to a 48-hour week, so most game studios (every non-indie I have ever encountered) will ask you to opt out of it.

 

This is a big one. We have the law to protect us in theory, but in practice some (most?) game developers will expect you to waive your right to use it. It may be difficult to find somewhere that wouldn't do that, especially if you're a junior.

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I've wanted to make video games ever since I was in middle school. I've thought of it as a career but then studied Networking instead because I've always heard that programmers are the over worked (80 hours / week)without over time pay in order to meet deadlines and this affects their work life balance and even family life at home. Is this true? Is this a reasonable fear to deter me from going down this path?

Been a programmer for over 4 years now. Never was forced to work late on a project. And, if management knew that we were wrapping up a new product and saw we were working a little over our usual time - they would buy us dinner. I think you have to find a pretty deplorable company that 'forces' you to work 80+ hours a week.

Edited by _Martin

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This is a big one. We have the law to protect us in theory, but in practice some (most?) game developers will expect you to waive your right to use it. It may be difficult to find somewhere that wouldn't do that, especially if you're a junior.

 

 

Junior? I think you need to get pretty far in your career (studio manager at least) before they stop expecting it. The simple truth is that every studio does it, so any studio who didn't would get priced out of the market. I still don't understand why there is even an option to 'opt out' of health and safety legislation though. 

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