Stress killing game dev creativity?

I used to brag like that. But I also used to be much closer to 20 than I now am to 30. I now appreciate time not spent at work, be it for time with my girlfriend, time for personal projects, or just plain time. I would never assume that others would like doing the crap I did (who really wants to work 60 consecutive days, minimum of 12 hours a day (and usually closer to 16) without a single day off? ). I don’t understand how anyone can ever think others would like that kind of thing.

As a fun example of my previous job, there was this one day when I left work at 6 to have dinner with my girlfriend, in the middle of crunch. I had already worked 10 hours that day. My boss hadn’t actually rolled in to work until near 11am. When I got back from dinner at about 7:30, he had already left, but not before leaving me a nasty message which was approximately “Hey Charles, where the hell are you? Everyone here at the office is here cranking away trying to get things done for E3, and you are gone. That doesn’t inspire confidence, and I’m let down.”

Needless to say, I roasted that guy in reply, considering he hadn’t even worked an 8 hour day.

Edit: Have I ever mentioned that the absolute best thing that job ever did for me was lay me off? Because I believe that to the core of my being.

Only an extra 3 hours a night? That’s light to you? Crazy.

Everyone in any kind of a software management role anywhere needs to have a copy of Peopleware 2nd Edition handed to them, with a “read this by tomorrow or you are fired for cause” note attached (it’s a short book).

Everyone involved in software development needs to read it anyway.

And for those in the game industry, look at the chapter in the second edition on what happens during crunch when someone starts pushing back against the hours…

I have to read through Peopleware very very slowly, because every two pages I read make me so blisteringly angry I have to put the book down and go away for a few weeks.

Not angry at the book, but angry at every place I have ever worked.

This one?

I’ll have to pick it up.

Yes, that one.

Kevin, just remember that reading it all at once keeps you from waiting and reading something that makes you furious at yourself, rather than an employer.

Yikes, an extra 3 hours means it’s probably 9pm by the time you’ve gotten home, wound down, eaten…

And now, years later, many managers remember those days fondly, and assume it’s somehow fun for employees to do the same, because you enjoyed it when you did it. Not to mention the macho overtones–I’ve heard people brag about 30-hour shifts. That’s not healthy in any way.

Fortunately it’s not really like that in a business development environment, or at least not in my experience. The developers tend to be older to begin with, with those same familial responsibilities. Many had roots in the old mainframes in big corporate environments, where a strict 9-to-5 day was the norm. The younger people are more willing to work longer, but nobody really demands it of them and they’re usually student interns who aren’t sticking around for the long run anyway.

There are still crunches when critical bugs pop up or something’s seriously wrong or missing as a deadline looms, but it’s still fairly uncommon and short-lived. In the last ‘crunch’ I had, I came in at 10am on a weekend and worked until about 7pm. Any other overtime I put in is usually self-motivated in order to continue chasing a bug, avoid losing a flash of insight, etc. (Or to make up for time lost making stupid posts on forums. :P)

What’s the difference? Well I’m only guessing here, but I would imagine that game development is under far more intense time pressure in order to hit certain marketing windows, target specific hardware generations, etc., and it has to be a complete package. Our customers might want every feature under the sun, but we can generally take a more iterative approach and deliver it in bits and pieces, and keep the relationship going.

The most common driver is “End of quarter”.

I think you’re being overly optimistic. Most likely the difference is poor to nonexistent project management, unrealisitic schedules and a fundamental lack of understanding about productivity.

But if they are more poorly managed than other industries… why? What about the games industry encourages crap practices?

It is a glamor industry that skews younger than professional athletics, and has historically attracted (and continues to attract) employees with very deep, very narrow expertise.

So, you have a lot of people in senior positions with relatively limited and narrow expertise (and often professional expertise only in game development), who don’t know any better. You have an enormous downward pressure on wages from the hordes pounding at the door to get in, which winnows out more broadly experienced or senior people. And you have an amazingly inbred culture which will cheerfully disregard any statement it doesn’t like about better ways to do things if the speaker has not shipped a successful title.

It’s frankly amazing it works as well as it does.


Concise and accurate. NIH not only applies to tech, but management styles as well. I will say I am encouraged that some companies are looking for ways to improve and getting help from outside the industry. Not out of the goodness of their hearts usually, but because the industry has so much bad press relating to employee satisfaction and the churn rate. Regardless of the motives, it’s still a step in the right direction.

I often wonder how much negative feedback employees who try and work “normal” hours get. My impression from reading forums such as this one is that many developers don’t come in until almost lunch time, shoot the shit, play games, read forums, for several hours, and don’t really get down to brass tacks and start being productive until almost late afternoon and then proceed to work well in the late evening/early morning and the cycle begins anew. I can’t help but wonder if the guy who wants a normal life and comes into work at 7-8 am and tries to leave at 5pm isn’t looked down upon despite the fact that he may very well much more productive in the process.

Maybe I’m totally off base on this but that is the general impression I get for the standard working environment.

That entirely depends where you work. Generally, the larger the dev the more corporate and less tolerant they are of the come in late behaviour. You do have a point though, I have seen stories of people that want to treat it like a 9-5 job getting flak because they aren’t around during crunch hours.

I know someone who had exactly that happen to them. They received a talking to for leaving early when they regularly arrived at work 3-4 hours before everybody else.

As much as I would like to arrive and leave early, it just isn’t a possiblity with the culture where I am. Since the majority of the team doesn’t start cranking until later in the day (arrive between 10-11, sync data, get new runtime, hey now it’s lunch, etc), problems aren’t discovered until way later. In many cases waiting until the next day to fix them isn’t an acceptable solution.

But yeah, crunch blows. Especially for demos. Fuck E3.

Probably because, what another poster mentioned, the hollywood factor.

You can attract a lot of young talent who are not well versed in the world, fresh out of school, full of energy, so you can work them to their death for a shitty wage, and then if they decide to quit, there is another sucker waiting around the corner to take his place.

That, or you get the work done in low cost countries and pay them slave wages there for the same product, more money for the company/suits.

The gamers who buy the product could not care less about the ethics of the company that produced the title so you risk nothing there.

What was the job? Swimsuit photographer? International playboy? Sultan of Dubai?

Crocodile wrangler, i think.

FWIW, no developer I’ve ever worked for has had an atmosphere like what you describe, though I’ve only ever worked for small developers. There’s more than enough work to do that people don’t really waste time during the day…

Yeah. No one is playing guitar hero any more.