ZeniMax and Bungie are part of a joint effort to fight against gamedev crunch

    
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People are becoming more and more aware of the abusive mill game developers are being ground against in order to release the titles we all play, and while this multi-faceted problem will likely need a number of solutions and changes, one such step forward is being made with the announcement of a new initiative that includes Bungie and ZeniMax (which we assume also includes ZeniMax Online Studios and Bethesda as part of the ZeniMax Media umbrella).

Take This, a not-for-profit organization that seeks to improve mental health support for game enthusiasts and game industry workers, has asked that human resources representatives from five game companies — Big Huge Games, Certain Affinity, Wooga, Bungie, and ZeniMax — join forces with the organization to examine their development practices. These five companies will share their data with Take This and meet with the organization on a monthly basis to discuss crunch and other mental health factors unique to the industry like job security, diversity and online harassment. The hope is that this effort will be expanded to even more game companies, especially publishers.

“Responses to this challenge vary wildly. Some companies are committed to this, are very concerned, and are spending resources on solutions. There are other companies that don’t understand why it would be an issue. […] Some of the companies are good at one thing and bad at another. These are hard things to solve, but these are companies that are willing to look at their practices.”

In addition to this new initiative, Take This has published a whitepaper about mental health in the games industry in 2019. According to a Take This representative, a follow-up will be published next year that will offer up data and examples of solutions that companies have tried to implement.

source: Polygon

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Rodrigo Dias Costa

Working on software development, I used to think crunch was just a normal part of the job. But I’ve learned over the years that it’s just management problems that end up blowing up on the bottom (on devs hands).

After participating on various projects to so many companies and wholly different businesses, I’ve worked across all levels of workloads, from more than 24-hours-coding non-stop every 2 days, to 15 hours daily 7 days a week, to normal 8 hours shift on 5 days week. I say that the amount of work doesn’t change, it’s just the schedule, forecast and planning.

Mewmew
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Mewmew

A good deal of Management would like you to think it is a normal part of the job.

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Lateris

You should see the conditions in India and China as well. Workers are regularly exploited for long hours that grind them into dust.

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rafael12104

So first, a tip of the hat to any efforts to fight crunch.

And now for the jaded and cynical perspective.

So, corporations love to do this. A new corporate bureaucracy emerges to deal with an issue which is easily solved. It generally has no teeth but spends a lot of money so when asked it can show that it is doing something. Oh, and the loopholes? Did I mention the loopholes?

What needs to be done is no mystery. And it seems easy on the face of it too. But might I also suggest that it requires a cultural shift in our working paradigm?

I’ve said it before, and I will continue to point it out. The gaming industry is not the only one that has crunch. Hundreds of professionals outside of gaming do it all the time. Workaholic is a term derived long ago to describe the problem.

It’s in our DNA, so to speak. We work beyond the pale because work is what we do to get ahead, and that is what we need to do as Muricans, get ahead.

Here, a simple example that better illustrates my point.

I was in Ireland a few years ago on business. I was part of a project that needed to be completed in Ireland to launch a new product worldwide. So, I had my game face on. We had to get this done! Our company was relying on us! Rolled up sleeves, work day and night, whatever it takes. Crunch was on!

Except that it wasn’t. I found that out when after a couple of hours of being at work the team took a break for breakfast. And then, more than an hour for lunch as the team took me out to a nice place. And when 5 o’clock rolled around? I was the only one left in the office. Everybody else was at the local pub.

But thing is, my Irish coworkers worked very hard. And they were very bright and we found ways to get the work done.

It’s just a different mindset. They prioritized other things ahead of work. Friends, family, etc. It didn’t change mine though. I still ended up doing what I do during crunch and they were just as amazed by my work habits as I was with theirs.

TL;DR Crunch is a cultural phenomenon too. So as corporate throws money at the issue to cover their ass, just remember that the gaming industry is not the only one suffering from it and there are many people that will self-crunch anyway.

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3dom

So – 4 work days per week and/or 6 hours work days? Just like in France.

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rafael12104

Lol. Thanks. This made me laugh out loud. People think I’m crazy anyway, so.

Hey don’t forget those 3 month holidays during the summer!

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John Mynard

**This is going to get me a few downvotes, methinks.**

Continuous crunch is bad, you have my sympathy, you really do. Twelve hour days for a few weeks leading up to the release of the project you’ve been working on for the last three or four years is soul crushing.

So let me ask you this:

What were you doing the previous year? When you cut out 2 hours early to go to the bar with your buddies? When you took a two week trip to Boca with a milestone due 2 days after you left?

This isn’t about mental health. There are careers, like farming, where 12-hour workdays aren’t just for a few weeks because we’re behind and our release date is coming up, but are standard and expected. Is it desirable? No, but we don’t get what we want a lot of times.

So, yeah, crunch time is necessary, when you haven’t done your job properly over the previous whatever period of time.

And it’s possible to have an environment where crunch time isn’t necessary. But a lot of what makes games dev so fun will go out the window. There will be much more criticism and your jobs will be less secure.

I guess I’ll end with the old adage “Be careful what you wish for…”

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Josh

I’m curious how you’ve determined that crunch happens because the developers subjected to crunch aren’t doing their jobs properly.

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Sray

This isn’t about a few devs here and there playing catch up. Large scale crunch doesn’t happen because John and Steve like to take off two hours early on payday, nor does it happen because Mike took that vacation he booked six months before a conflicting milestone deadline was dropped on his team. A studio of 200+ employees don’t have mandated 70+ hour workweeks to make up for a couple people having a life. That happens as a result of mismanagement.

Why is it whenever someone wants to say that crunch is perfectly fine, they use self employment scenarios as their counterpoint? Long hours are the choice of the self employed individual; long crunch is not the choice of the game studio employee. The farmer who works 12 hour days is self employed: large corporate farms are staffed by people working 8 hour days in shifts. The self employed have made the choice to that, knowing that the demands on their time are far greater; the guy who decided to get a job with someone else’s company did so because they didn’t want the hassle and hours of self employment. These two things are not realistic comparisons.

Mewmew
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Mewmew

What job could be less secure than game development?! Seriously, you used the word “secure” when talking about game development jobs, do you know the game industry at all?

And wow, you are clueless. You’re lucky there are not downvotes here, seriously.

Did you read any of the reports about crunch time we’ve had recently? Are you just assuming that this is what game development is like? You think it is this lazy fun time fun of bar visits and long vacations and that’s why they all end up in the crunches at the end?

Sometimes people are so very off, that you don’t really feel like debating with them. I was going to use the people who truly think Elvis are still alive as an example, but they really have a much better chance at being right than you do.

I’m at a loss you’re so off. It’s hard to know if you’re saying this out of pure ignorance or trolling it’s so off.

Maybe you’re the head of some group that does things like this and so you’re defensive of the crunch you required your group to do. Just because your group is full of lazy half working people doesn’t mean that is what is going on in the lower ranks of the game development industry.

Since when are the poor slobs working for a pittance as the workhorses of the game industry able to afford all this extra luxury and partying you are assuming they are doing? That’s what the studio heads are doing, not the programmers.

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GiantsBane

Just curious as to how diversity falls under the umbrella of mental health issues. Unless you mean the practice of trying to shoehorn racial /colorist diversity as a catchall bandaid to all of the world’s problems is a mental health issue, to which I’d agree.