“Times were different back then” can either be an explanation or a blanket excuse. Whatever side you fall on, that’s effectively what was said by Xbox Games Studios head Matt Booty in an all-hands meeting spawned by an exposé of chaos and crunch at Fallout 76 developer Bethsoft and ZeniMax Media.
“The challenge with a lot of these articles is that they look backwards, sometimes pretty far back in time,” Booty is quoted as saying. “Crunch culture is…if you go back 10 years ago, it’s a little unfair to put that on one studio. It was just part of the industry. I don’t say that to justify it, I’m just saying it was part of the culture of the industry. I literally slept under my desk early in my career. And we looked at that like a badge of honor.”
For context, crunch culture being an accepted part of the industry is a hard pill to swallow; long-time followers of the games industry will recall the whistleblowing from EA Spouse in 2004, which is arguably one of the earliest moments when developer mistreatment was brought to the forefront. Wikipedia has additional information, historic points, and data on the practice.
Booty would also point out “independent systems of checks and balances” available through anonymous reporting to Xbox’s human resources department and support groups for individual dev disciplines. This suggestion was apparently not taken well with everyone, as one anonymous employee said, “As an employee what I’m taking away from this is that he’s saying to go through HR. And we know how that worked out at Blizzard.”