Beating the Crunch Out of Crunch With EOB Academy
Lets begin with what crunch!
Beating the crunch out of crunch
Let's begin with what crunch is and what is the problem. Well crunch is generally referred to as the panic period at the tail end of a video games production period, which reportedly tends to be uncompensated overtime. A 2019 survey reports that around 40% of video game developers reported to have experienced a period of crunch in the last year at their place of work. This constitutes anywhere from 10-20 hours of overtime after a full 40 hr work week.
How did it get so bad
Well a big reason that a lot of companies experience crunch time is due to the mismanagement of time due to some AAA games having ever growing project scopes. This is one of the drawbacks of the inherent iterative process designers go through. As an educational provider, we aim to emphasise the importance of planning and being realistic with project scope.
During the development of CD projekt’s latest release Cyberpunk 2077, it was reported that the company mandated 6 day work week which in some countries in modern europe this would be against labour laws. Despite this CD projekt Red has been a beacon of some pro-consumer practices. However, what we must consider is that in a time where the world is more and more aware of mental health concerns and the impact it has on workers, their families.
Solutions to Crunch time
There's also a problematic culture of employees being treated as though working this unpaid overtime is somehow heroic and neglecting the damage to one's mental health such a heavy workload can entail. It can be a toxic work environment where others are peer pressured into working overtime, ignoring the toll it might take. Rather than engage in overworking, it's better to take the approach of overplanning. With our students we like to include information on project scope and iterate on their ideas early so a realistic approach can be taken to planning the scope of their games against their desired outcomes. Being honest is much more helpful than being too late.
Implementing bottom-up planning ensures that as developers we are figuring out how long tasks will take from creation to implementation, with a strong emphasis on being retrospective so that we know for future scenarios how we can reduce the crunch further. The list of things to blame can feel endless, but what’s and what we at EOB try to convey is that we should be aware of possible outcomes and be mindful of how to avoid crunch. After all we must all put our mental well-being at the forefront.