The 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.