Crunch mode caused a young Netmarble game developer’s death, Korean government says

South Korean MMO studio Netmarble is being criticized this week for contributing to the death of an overworked game developer in 2016.

The Korea Times is reporting that the government agency Korea Workers’ Compensation and Welfare Service has acknowledged that the Netmarble employee “died from a work-related cause” when he passed away from coronary arteriosclerosis (heart disease).

“The employee had been subject to irregular night-time work and excess duty in the 12 weeks before he developed the symptoms and it has been confirmed that the employee had worked 89 hours a week in seven weeks prior to developing symptoms,” the government documents state. “Considering the worker was in his 20s and that his health checkup did not show any underlying symptoms, the correlation between the worker’s death and work is recognized.”

The game developer’s family’s filing for compensation has consequently been approved. According to the paper, there were two other deaths the same year. As MMO Culture reports, Netmarble now forbids excessive overtime work in its substudios.

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24 Comments on "Crunch mode caused a young Netmarble game developer’s death, Korean government says"

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Herro Mongorian

Similar problem with college. When I was studying mechanical engineering in college I would easily log over 100 hours of studying + design projects per week. Shit was brutal, so color me surprised that there was only one suicide (not an engineer) during my time there.

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agemyth 😩

“Lazy devs”

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John Mynard

You know, this could all be alleviated by setting REALISTIC milestones and release dates, instead of trying to fit the 2×6 rectangle of development into the 1x1x1 triangle of sales length wise and aim to “glide” into release instead of grinding your most important staff down into a pile of dust.

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Melissa McDonald

A friend of mine who immigrated to USA from Italy recently complained that “Americans have to work too hard”. I guess he would really flounder in Asia.

(as an immigrant myself from the auld sod, I have to disagree. The opportunities here make it all worthwhile)

Siphaed
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Siphaed

Um, no they do not. UK and most EU countries have 4-day work weeks with far more benefits than the average US worker has in today’s “competitive, at-will employment market”. Universal healthcare is standard in several of those countries, whereas in the US it is a ‘benefit option’ by employers that is taken from an employee’s paycheck and still requires a sizable deductible in order for any benefit to kick in.

And right now a large portion of the US population is in the Poverty line, below Middle Class, and in requirement of having 2 full working adults in a household in order to just pay rent, bills, and get by with minimum accessible ease of living features (cable/TV, cell phone, multiple working vehicles, etc.)

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Bill

Siphead it looks like you have little to no experience living or working in the EU. 5 day 40 hour work weeks are the standard with France being an exception of 35 hours per week where most folks still work at least 40 hours.

I laugh at Americans that look to the EU and shout “universal healthcare.” Funny, the first time I walked into a doctor’s office in the EU they said, “do you have private health insurance.” There is a large gap in services that you’ll receive using the public system vs. having private health insurance.

As for this young lad in his 20’s that died from working ~89 hours a week, unlikely that there weren’t other factors that aren’t being surfaced in the discussion. Plenty of months where colleagues and I worked ~100 weeks and yes, it’s tiring, but it doesn’t kill people. If it did, we’d never have any doctors. Just take a look at the medical field and the work practices that take place during residency.

Crunch mode in the gaming industry sucks, but it goes with the territory. As long as devs continue to be willing to do it, it will happen.

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Sashaa

Well, I don’t know for the rest of the EU, but in France most people work 5 days a week, and the “universal” health care is not that universal in fact. And what you say about the need of two full working adults is also true for most poor to middle class people I know of.

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Melissa McDonald

yeah-huh. And taxes are way higher there as a result of all that faux-free ‘stuff’. you get to keep more of what you earn in the US.

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Schmidt.Capela

Well-managed government-provided services like healthcare and education cost less than equivalent private services due to a not-so-small detail: no shareholders siphoning off profits from them. They also don’t have to waste money competing with other similar services (which means, for example, no advertisement costs), and if they are truly universal there is less administrative overhead to boot (as you don’t need to keep track of who is entitled to what).

Besides, they remove part of the competitive disadvantages faced by the working class, and as such promote social mobility; when the daughter of a toilet cleaner get access to similar quality education and healthcare as the social elite does, it becomes far easier for her to achieve more than her parents.

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Leviathonlx

Healthcare is less in Europe because the US subsidizes most the worlds healthcare.

Siphaed
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Siphaed

10% more is not “way higher”…but with all the benefits, that 10% isn’t bad. Again look at perspective of having ’employer provided health care’, which usually comes out to 10% or more of a person’s net, yet covers less than 1/10th of what the Universal Healthcare systems of those countries incorporate.

But it’s okay. US has near lifetime Senators that have “free” healthcare (at taxpayer expense) that have a salary well above the shrinking Middle Class average; and are able to make deals with lobbiests and such in order to even further increase their individual income while not supporting the citizens they’re voted in by. Everything is fine….

Line
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Line

The effective tax rate is actually not that different for most western countries, and it’s also pretty damn different depending on where you live.
Above average pay means living like a hobo in Los Angeles, while it would be very confortable in rural Mississippi. Getting home a bit more money every month means nothing if your job offers barely exist and pay little. That’s why you don’t see people flocking to corporate heavens. Pointless for living.

But in the case of overworking and little to no paid vacation/sick days… it’s just that American citizens get massively fucked by their employers.
And it’s even worse in Asia.

Japan and Korea claim that they want to work on those terrible conditions, we’ll see how well it goes.
But it is very much needed, insane work hours and their associated problems put more and more strain on the healthcare system, doesn’t grant any more productive employees (far from it), and is a significant cause of low birthrates.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

japanese and korean factories are pretty similar to western ones in terms of working conditions.

it’s the other asian countries that have issues with healthy and safety and labour regulation.

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MeltWithYou

“Netmarble now forbids excessive overtime work in its substudios.”

Excessive is still a very vague blanket statement that might not mean much in the end. Listen, I’m in the industry, I understand crunch is apart of the job WHEN NECESSARY, we’ve all done it at one point or another. Thing is, I’m old now, I understand there is a work/life balance and I’ve developed the necessary communication skills to tell my boss or bosses a flat out NO, if i feel like I’m already overworked. However, in my 20’s when I was kicking my own ass to work my way up the food chain, I was scared to say anything at all…it was a weird feeling of letting my team down, letting my boss down and ultimately making myself looking bad and unreliable.

I understand there are in fact some people that can totally thrive in these conditions BUT this is not true for everybody. There are some weeks that are total hell and should be expected from time to time BUT not all the time.

Ultimately this is a failing of the project lead, who is technically suppose to set realistic expectations, execute those expectations in a timely fashion, micromanage the pipelines to make sure milestones are being met and if they can’t be met, have the balls to get up in front of a ton of people, explain why, then fix the problem. Project managers make a fking ridiculous amount of money to do this job, they should earn it.

^with all that said, thats just my perspective on what I’ve experienced in my career, I’ve seen projects that went smooth as butter and I’ve seen projects that were a complete shit storm – 95% of the time it came down with who was leading the show.

Line
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Line

Sadly, not saying no is standard in East Asia.
But it goes even further than that, you’ll be socially ostracized if you don’t follow the same tacit rules, you’ll get the worst things to do (or nothing at all with mandatory presence – that one’s nasty), or you’ll just get some bullshit reason to get you out dishonorably while making sure that you won’t be able to find another job in a similar spot (look at the fuckers at Konami that sabotaged the healthcare plans of Kojima studios and harass their former employees).

When you have an entire culture that will push you to be exploited, it’s much more difficult to resist. And if you do… nothing says that it will work because so many people on every echelon will not think like you do.

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Sashaa

I can’t agree more.

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MesaSage

Sadly, a very visible instance of industry acceptable practices. Imagine the scale of the long-term impact.

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silverlock

I once had to put in 110 hours in a week do to being screwed over by a departing developer “Oh yeah that section is all done don’t worry about it” It wasn’t even close to done. That sort of work load isn’t good for your sanity let alone your health. Normally though I only worked 50 to 60 hours a week, 89 hours for weeks on end is just hellish. Don’t miss the tech industry at all. Well the challenge was fun but the rest kind of sucked.

I feel sad for his family such a senseless death for one so young.

As for that dev who screwed me over well karma was kind and I found his resume in the printer some months later. I talked to HR and made sure he wouldn’t be returning.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

tech/compsci industry can be bad but video games are worse in every way for workers.

it’s amazing what people will put up with to be able to brag about working in the games industry.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

one of my complaints about how this industry operates, which it only gets by on that to get work in the industry at all you have to really want to work in games and companies exploit that, is how companies treat their rank and file labour force in various ways especially at crunch time (to be followed by the usual layoffs which ultimately generally mean workers can’t own homes even if they can afford them because they will likely need to move cities for the ever present next job to repeat the cycle.

it’s just a shitty way to do business and really only being sustained so far by the fact being a video game developer is a dream job for so many people in their youth. ultimately tho this paradigm can’t last forever and there is a near certain probability that there will be a labour crunch eventually as enough people move out of the industry into more stable and better paying with less stress jobs in relevant fields to video game dev skill sets.

which ofc you don’t hear alot about this in public places/news outlets becuase of the code of silence that blacklists those that speak out on teh record.

DeadlyAccurate
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DeadlyAccurate

I’ve had brief moments where I thought it would be cool to apply to one of these companies as a 3D artist, but honestly, I simply refuse to work more than 40-hour work weeks unless I’m working for myself (even then I find it unsustainable for long). I love making 3D art, but I value my time at home and with my husband too much to give that up for any career.

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mistressbrazen

Tragic and unnecessary. Parent companies need to do better project management, allocation of resources and need to care about their employees. People, even young ones, are neither indestructible or fungible. When you combine these deaths with the 24 hr streamer deaths, it really make you question what our values are as gamers ad the insatiable desire to have everything right now.

Minimalistway
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Minimalistway

A tragedy that should never happen, video game/tech industry in general have this issue, just search: video game developer crunch, and you’ll see so many articles about this problem.

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Sashaa

When you make 100hrs a week a few weeks by months, than yeah, it’s hard to say that health is not impacted at all by your work. I’m glad if there is any kind of recognition for the far too frequent and sometimes unpaid overtimes in this industry.

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