Never-Ending Crunch Time

Nestle-Crunch-Fun-SizeNo, not that kind of never-ending Crunch, unfortunately. This post is about “crunch time,” the name given to the period of time when employees are expected, if not required to work long hours to meet a deadline on a project that is behind schedule.

I mention it because there was a recent article published on LiveJournal by the spouse of an employee at renowned game studio Electronic Arts, calling out EA on their demanding labor practices. According to the article, EA employees are subjected to crunch times that never end until they either burn out and resign or move up the corporate ladder.

Apparently these work conditions are quite common throughout the game development industry, which is one of the primary reasons that I don’t have much interest in taking my programming skills to a game company. Admittedly, the development of application software requires massive crunch times as well, but overall they seem far less extreme than crunch times for game developers. I’ve seen it written many times by those in the industry: “If you want to write games, you’d better really have your heart in it.”santas_sweatshop-293x307

Studies have indicated that after 40 hours of work in any given week, the performance of most programmers degrades significantly. Tired, stressed out programmers tend to produce code with higher bug rates than normal. The time required to diagnose and repair problems from bug-laden code further taxes time constraints when struggling to meet a deadline – nullifying any “advantages” that might be gained from overworking programmers.

I caught an article (log in required) on Gamasutra which may yet give some hope to the industry. It’s about the practices of Blue Fang, a game development company that has already shipped two full games and two expansion packs, all while discouraging overtime. All it takes is competent management techniques, proper planning, and making employee morale a top priority.