There are a good number of horror stories that have become public knowledge regarding excessive working hours. 7 day weeks and 12+ hour working days, including resulting health problems, etc are all covered, as well as the angry responses from relatives and colleagues.
To counter balance this, there are companies who are completely against crunch and will absolutely never demand overtime regardless of circumstance. Fair enough. If this works and the company succeeds then great; we have huge respect for this.
Something which also occurs is ‘optional overtime’ which comes with a type of emotional blackmail where staff are made to feel guilty for working anything less than life consuming hours. This happens through all the roles over all career stages, and in the junior positions such as QA, the paycheck just doesn’t match the required commitment.
So what about our view on crunch?
First of all, in no way would myself or Guerilla Tea condone the spirit of making employees feel guilty. We do not demand staff work additional hours on a regular basis. We sometimes find ourselves virtually insisting on staff going home and relaxing in the evening.
I suppose we sit somewhere in the middle ground. If we’re being honest, as directors of the business we have worked long hours since our part time days as students, and continue to work until we are finished, rather than until 5pm. I think anyone in the position of running an indie studio or start-up will relate to this. There is a general notion that if you’re only doing nine to five when running a company then you’re doing something wrong… I believe this, but since the business is your ‘child’ you don’t feel the same drag of working long hours.
People often talk of crunch as the result of poor management and scheduling. I’m sorry, this may be a nice theory and it’s very easy to say this when you’re on the outside, but the practical reality just doesn’t always allow for things to run smoothly, particularly in the pressure cooker that is a young games studio where maintaining sufficient cash flow is a constant worry.
Ergo, there are periods of time when work picks up considerably. Just recently several of the Guerilla Tea partners worked through the night to finish a major work pitch. It was very much worth that brief, extra effort.
I have to be careful here. I may be walking a bit of a tightrope but the other pertinent point about crunch I can’t ignore is the general contempt that the very word itself evokes. Crunch is simply another word for ‘working overtime’, which in other industries isn’t something that has been completely demonised. And yes, the games industry isn’t the only industry in the world where people work additional hours! Sometimes I feel people forget this in the haze of complaints. This is not to say that certain companies don’t overdo it and do take advantage of employees as I mentioned in the opening paragraphs. However, there is nothing wrong with extra exertion now and again. Making games is not easy, and to be successful you need complete dedication. In the paraphrased words of success expert Brian Tracy, “If you think it’s hard trying to be successful, try being unsuccessful. You don’t know what hard is until you’ve lived like that”.