“Crunch” was surely the gaming industry word of the year in 2018, thanks to a massive backlash over horrible working conditions at some Rockstar studios working on Red Dead Redemption 2. But it was neither the first nor the last incident, not even in 2018, which was also the year Netmarble finally released its own plan to combat crunch after the Korean government held it responsible for the death of an overworked employee.
This spring has seen its own scandals: first with Anthem, and now with Fortnite. Polygon’s Colin Campbell has a lengthy piece out this week focused on conditions at Epic Games after Fortnite blew up, the result of a dozen interviews the publication conducted. Interviewees chronicle what can only be described as extreme crunch, with folks working upwards of 70 hours a week – in some cases 100. Here’s one source:
“The executives keep reacting and changing things. […] Everything has to be done immediately. We’re not allowed to spend time on anything. If something breaks — a weapon, say — then we can’t just turn it off and fix it with the next patch. It has to be fixed immediately, and all the while, we’re still working on next week’s patch. It’s brutal. […] I hardly sleep. I’m grumpy at home. I have no energy to go out. Getting a weekend away from work is a major achievement. If I take a Saturday off, I feel guilty. I’m not being forced to work this way, but if I don’t, then the job won’t get done.”
Another source claims that in at least one instance employees who refused to work weekends missed a deadline and were fired, with another sayings employees are “in tears” because of the constant crunch. Managers reportedly referred to hiring disposable contractors as getting “more bodies.” While Polygon notes that Epic executives – some of whom are worth absurd amounts of money – “have sent out directives that overtime is voluntary, and must not be demanded,” it doesn’t actually seem like those mandates are being followed.
This is why we can’t have nice things.