Crunch Culture in the Gaming Industry






It’s easy for career-driven people to fall into hectic schedules, especially nearing the end of a deadline, but what happens to the people who turn it into a lifestyle that affects their general well-being? Crunch is essentially a form of unpaid overtime where staff in a video game studio are forced to work long hours to finish projects, in order to release them on a promised deadline. Big gaming companies often tend to over-promise updates or special events to their audience and subsequently over-deliver, continuing this toxic cycle of work-life imbalance for workers.

Most see this occurrence in a positive light, motivating developers to pump out higher quality content under time pressure. However, the effect of the crunch is extremely detrimental to their personal and professional lives, as well as the industry as a whole and the content they produce. Game developers have habituated themselves to working incredibly long hours, sometimes racking up to 80 to 100 hours a week without being paid for working overtime; this usually occurs during the final stages of the development cycle, which reflects the sheer amount of work needed to be done for every update promised. However, the crunch is not just limited to this stage; it’s common to see this sort of working culture during other stages of development and it has increased in intensity, especially during the pandemic.

For most people, gaming had become a haven to socialise and occupy themselves during the strenuous lockdowns around the world due to the Covid-19 pandemic. So, to pique interest in games and keep players hooked, companies often introduce newer updates, seasons, and events more frequently, forcing developers to come up with and produce content at great speeds. Inevitably, this resulted in burnout or other mental health problems for most developers, lasting well over months or even years after the deadline. This only worsens as they are pressured by the industry to keep coming up with newer updates at accelerated speed to keep their audience engaged, doing so at the expense of their workers. When they are not capable of keeping up with the rapid development cycles workers are laid off with little benefits. It goes without saying that this work ethic is extremely unsustainable for game developers who work only with the incentive to keep their jobs.

As the number of video game players rises over the coming years, so will the pressure on many of the industry’s developers; it has become increasingly clear that workers’ calls for unionisation within gaming industries should be taken seriously to address these issues, alongside workplace discrimination and behavioural misconduct. It is vital to bring about change of any magnitude within the industry, especially when its growth is inevitably only accelerating.


By Kriti Jena

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