Can the Game Industry Ever Do 40?

game-industry-weekThe Videogame Industry and the 40 Hour Workweek

TIME Magazine has a new article up about the 40-hour workweek. Most people in the game industry find this concept quaint. “That’s for regular jobs,” they’ll say, or “Never gonna happen.” Not only are long “crunch” hours often necessary because of publisher deadlines, the dreaded holiday season shelf space rush, and the difficulty of creating bespoke software, but crunch is part of game industry lore. Crunch is a rite of passage. No one likes it, but we often accept it as a beautiful torment, like labor pains for an expectant mother.

Still, the article makes some great points. I hadn’t been aware that Ford Motor, of all organizations, had run a series of trials to determine the optimal workweek, and they concluded that forty is the magic number. The guys who invented the American assembly line decided that more hours would actually decrease productivity and increase errors. Longer hours would create sloppy work that would have to be redone.

We’ve definite seen a tremendous amount of labor wastage in the game industry. Producers or department leads chasing bad ideas down rabbit holes, rogue employees fighting fiercely for features that are clearly out of place in the game’s schedule and scope, and yes, flawed game concepts that never should have left the drawing board. Each of these wrong turns costs thousands of dollars and precious resources. However, game industry veterans could easily argue that many such missteps are made by executives who are getting plenty of sleep (and perhaps too much alcohol or other mind-altering substances).

For those of you who want to get a game industry job, make sure you know about the work-life balance in games and read up about “EA Spouse,” the infamous person who stood up to Electronic Arts (and many many other industry players) about the sacrifices it demands.


Pizza Delivery? Or Papa Murphy’s?


Pizza Parties and Videogaming = Bliss

The next time you’re thinking about getting some pizza delivery, don’t forget that you’ve got other options, including the take n’ bake offerings from Papa Murphy’s.

Trying the Taco Grande Pizza

The kind folks at Papa Murphy’s set us up with a taste of their limited-time-only Taco Grande pizza on a recent Friday night, and we gotta hand it to them — they are adventurous! And not only that but successful. This pizza sounds like a mindbender, but it’s remarkably harmonious on the tongue. The ingredients: seasoned taco beef (which tastes a bit like sausage), refried beans, salsa, mozzarella cheese, black olives, roma tomatoes, green onions, and cheddar.

Note the utter lack of tomato sauce in the mix. That’s right: rather than spreading on tomato sauce to start the pizza, like 99.9% of the pizzas you’ve ever consumed, the Papa Murphy’s folks decided to start with refried beans and take it a la mexicana the rest of the way…! And que sabroso — it totally works! “It’s really good!” says Nicole. Also, there’s no sales tax, as I found out recently. It’s not cooked, so it’s not taxable, and the Papa Murphy’s prices are already pretty darned good.

I have to applaud the innovation. Also, they don’t skimp on the toppings. For the price of a two-topping pizza, we got this monster with — count ’em — seven toppings, not including the refried beans. Nice. Too bad there’s not one of these places closer to my house.

Gaming Recap

We started out with a strong dose of Portal 2, which Fred kindly brought. It was my first Portal experience (I know, where’ve I been) and it was an enjoyable one. It’s deviously simple and yet oh so deviously difficult. It takes a certain puzzle-solving kind of mentality to enjoy, one which I wasn’t 100% in thanks to a rough week, but I still got a kick out of. It’s also a surprisingly good group game because there’s little time pressure and everyone can sit around and throw out puzzle-solving suggestions. I think Fred also enjoyed the chance to see the co-op levels that he’d never been able to play.

As before, Rock Band was the capper of the evening. We got to try a huge variety of genres, and several people sung themselves happy and hoarse. Good times indeed.


Mini-Review: The John Carter Movie

Writer Patrick Sullivan contributes this mini-review of the new movie based on Edgar Rice Burrough’s books:

I saw a sneak of John Carter recently and I say go see it. Really, ignore the horrible marketing and lackluster trailers Disney have done for the film, and give it a shot. It is breezy, accessible, swashbuckling fun that never takes itself too seriously, just serious enough to deliver the story earnestly without any kind of postmodern nudge nudge, wink wink.

It is definitely a “boy’s story”* in that there’s essentially only two female characters** (one red and one thark) but the screenwriters (including Michael Chabon) did decent work at giving Deja Thoris real motivation and elevating her above being just a mere damsel in distress. The only clunky bits for me were Taylor Kitsch’s dreadful delivery of several lines.

I’m glad this film survived the post-production hell it languished in for a bit.

* Well, it was a proto-pulp adventure written in 1912, how could it not be?
** Though if you look closely at the extras, you’ll see that there are a fair number of female soldiers serving in the Heliumite and Zodangan armies.