Does the video game industry still expect people to “Crunch”?

That’s still a really tricky question today. Video games are an ever growing industry in which the demand for high quality content continues to exponentially grow with the added pressure of taking less time to produce. It’s no secret that game companies are known to push their employees to the brink with 60, 80, or 100 hour work weeks, with no expectation of extra compensation, otherwise known as “Crunch.”

In my 20 plus years in the industry I’ve experienced my share of 80-100 hour work weeks in the middle of a game dev cycle. It’s not something I personally condone as a leader, but it has happened. This industry is extremely passion based so often times people will put in those extra hours “no questions asked” to ensure the team creates a beautiful and successful game.

I recall a time where Dave and I worked consistently from 10am to 1am everyday for several weeks to be able to make the deadline of a really prime title. We were in a bridge year, where we supported the PS2 and were simultaneously building for the new PS3. I recall after a long night of texture optimization Dave and I really needed to decompress, bad. We walked through piles of snow and went to the bar across the street. We grabbed some drinks and some super delicious late night apps, which included mini tacos, corn dogs, cheese sticks, and maybe even a small pizza. It was delicious, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t just because we were starving after the long day. 🤪 That built an ongoing bond for us, and honestly probably why you see us developing Chimirus today.

One could build a pros and cons list when it comes to Crunching, there can be no doubt that Crunching and burning midnight hours will bring diminishing returns and affect the quality of your work; but you do also build tremendous team relationships and creative collaborations. I wouldn’t trade these experiences for anything else, as they are what defines my work ethic and desire to improve situations moving forward.

*Image from CD Projekt’s Cyberpunk 2077

Today, we are definitely in a different era of game development and working culture. Since I transitioned into leadership around 2009, I’ve always done my best to plan and properly estimate work loads. As a result my art teams never had an instance where anyone was ever required to work past the standard 40-45 hour weeks.

So, do studios these days still crunch? Yes, with the rising demand of content I’m sure some still do. That said, will I ever promote the need to crunch or work for a place that condones it? No, I will NOT as it was part of my evolution. I’ve learned from it, and will continue to use it to improve the creative process for building visually stunning games.

To hear more detailed industry stories, sign up to be on our mailing list. I guarantee we will talk more about topics like this in our future virtual industry night programs. Let us know about your crunch stories, wether it was for a game, animation or your own personal projects, we’d love to hear it!