Are Most Game Developers Still Dealing with ‘Crunch Time’ and Overwork?

“Crunch time” remains an endemic problem in the software-development world, despite companies’ very public attempts to squish the practice. Video game development has a particularly bad reputation as an arena in which technologists can put in 100-hour weeks to ship a game by a certain deadline.

However, it seems only a minority of game developers report working insane hours, according to the latest edition of GDC’s State of the Game Industry report. Just three percent reported working more than 60 hours per week during at least a single week over the past 12 months; more than a quarter (26 percent) reported working a reasonable 36-40 hours per week, and 18 percent pegged their time at between 41-45 hours per week.

When developers worked insane hours, many reported doing so of their own volition, not company pressure. Some 14 percent said they worked more than a standard work-week due to management pressure, while 9 percent said they did so due to peer pressure. Take a look at the chart:

“Work-life balance and crunch continue to be important topics in the game industry—especially with rising talks about permanent remote options or a four-day workweek,” the report added. “It looks like those conversations may be starting to have an impact.” 

Of course, we can’t just declare overwork a solved issue—last summer, for example, reports accused Activision Blizzard of grievously overworking and underpaying its QA staff. A new article in Polygon suggests that technologists at TT Games have been subjected to a “crunch culture” that’s led to low morale and burnout, although the studio is supposedly trying to change course by limiting overtime. But with other game companies experimenting with stress-reducing measures such as a four-day workweek, there are signs the game industry as a whole might be headed in the right direction when it comes to technologists’ quality of life.