On April 19, 2018, a joke fell flat, calling more attention to a major problem in the video game industry. Neocore Games revealed Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor – Martyr would be delayed. When the delay from May to June 5, 2018 was announced via Steam, the update from Zoltan Pozsonyi, the game’s producer, originally had a quote saying, “We promise we’ll push this extra three weeks in 90+ hours per week so it’ll be very-very useful for Martyr.” To provide an idea of how ludicrous this was, a typical work week should be about 35 hours, though some people end up working around 45 hours. This implied the studio would be forcing its employees into a video game crunch.
People did not respond well, which led to lots of backtracking. Neocore Games’ Csikos Matyas tweeted, “We won't do 90 hour weeks - it was meant as a joke, and I have removed it from the original post already. The wording was off and misleading…” The developer’s Linda Bozoradi said, “We don’t force ppl to work 90/7, even the 3 producers/owners don’t do it and they have the longest days.” Everyone from the company is trying to deny it and reassure people that everything is all right.
Except, things are not all right. Probably not at Neocore Games, for one. The developer has had issues with overworking its staff before. On March 21, 2018, a Steam update said employees were working 80-hour weeks on Warhammer 40k: Inquisitor – Martyr, with the exact quote saying, “Of course, we still have tons of work to do, and many of us are already pulling 80+ hour weeks, as it usually goes during crunch time." And it is definitely not okay in the industry in general, as plenty of companies do overwork their employees and rely on crunch to get things done. Which is a terrible thing.
Crunch means people are working inhuman hours. Let’s think about how an 80-hour work week would go, since that is what Neocore Games said was the schedule for some employees back in March 2018. A 35 hour week would be about 7 hours per weekday, so around 9am to 4pm. It is impossible to have an 80-hour week only using the five weekdays, as that would mean 16-hour days. So you need to go with a full week, which would be around 11 hours per day. That would mean from 8am to 7pm, people would be developing a game. Can you imagine working that kind of schedule for a company that could very well drop you the moment the project is finished? Knowing that every day of your life for maybe a year would break a person.
It does break people. Video game crunch has been shown to have a number of detrimental issues. It zaps away creativity, since people basically become mindless drones doing everything they can to hit milestones in time. It can cause more problems, since the developers are sleep deprived and working in inhumane conditions. It ruins family lives and social lives, since there is no time for people in this situation to do anything but work, eat, and sleep. People’s health even fails, since they are held to unreasonable schedules, are not eating right, and sleeping well.
There is some positive to come out of this incident. After Neocore Games made this joke, people fired back. They responded with links to the Gamasutra study saying crunch made games worse, rather than better. People said they would be fine with waiting, if it meant the developers making the game did not suffer. Fans spoke out and said what was happening was not okay. There have even been comments still asking what the development process is like, what hours staff will be working, and how much they will be paid. Fans realize how horrendous video game crunch is and are speaking up, noting that the people making the game are more important to them than the game itself.
Crunch is a terrible thing. We should address it in the right manner. And a developer that has made comments about 80-hour work weeks in the past should not be bringing up 90-hour work weeks as a “joke” when announcing their delay. We know how damaging overworking people can be, and should be willing to do like the Warhammer 40k: Inquisitor – Martyr fans did when they stood up for the developers and said delays were okay.