The New York Times ran an op-ed from Kotaku editor Jason Schreier last week outlining the perils of game industry “crunch”: 80-to-100-hour weeks, often not properly compensated, as a studio works its developers into a mad frenzy trying to release a game (or patch, or whatever). As the Grey Lady reports, some developers become sick from working so much — we’ve seen multiple deaths in the MMORPG industry over crunch — not to mention the fact that talented devs burn out or flee the industry. And Schreier doesn’t even touch on how crunch-like policies limit the labor pool to young men without families.
Let’s be clear: The studios, not the developers, are to blame here. And in declaring the current situation unsustainable, Schreier asserts that “game developers need to insist – to their bosses and, most important, to themselves – that health comes first.” But signing pledges is clearly not enough, and it doesn’t seem likely that after many decades of this that the problem is going to solve itself or that studios will voluntarily self-correct. It seems to me that devs need to band together more formally, to unionize like the film industry Schreier gives a nod and like the voice actors who said much the same during their long strike.
Is it time for game developers to unionize?