If you’re a budding video game developer, which is a career path even I briefly considered when I was young, you could one day help create the games critics and fans alike rave about.
But, based on recent reports, if’s also likely you’ll be abused and forced to work ridiculous hours during “crunch” periods to make it happen, and that’s a problem the industry needs to fix.
Video game sites have, in recent months, unveiled behind-the-scenes looks at what it takes to make blockbuster video games, including “Red Dead Redemption II,” “Fortnite” and “Mortal Kombat 11.” The truth is that it isn’t pretty, and developers are overworked and sometimes underpaid to get video games out the door by deadline.
It started in October when Kotaku published an in-depth piece looking at Rockstar Games, the creators of the huge, sprawling epics of the “Grand Theft Auto” and “Red Dead Redemption” series. Through several interviews with staff, Kotaku revealed many Rockstar developers worked 60-hour weeks in the months leading up to “Red Dead Redemption II’s” release.
“Fortnite” is the most popular game in the world right now, but just because it has been out for years doesn’t mean its creators are sitting back and raking in the dough. Polygon last week published an exposé unveiling Epic Games developers to this day still work ridiculous hours, including up to 100 hours a week, to refine and push out constant weekly updates for the game.
Working that much leaves hardly enough time to sleep, eat and groom, let alone spend time with family or pursue hobbies and outside interests. It’s wildly unhealthy in any profession to work that much, though Epic Games has said 100-hour work weeks are “incredibly rare.”
“Mortal Kombat 11” released last week as well, and former NetherRealms developers and contractors took to Twitter to expose the working conditions of the studio. Many said they, too, were overworked to develop “Mortal Kombat” games.
Take a look at any blockbuster video game—and there seems to be a new one every other week—and it’s obvious how much work was poured into it. From incredible graphics to in-depth stories to refined gameplay to realistic animations and beyond, an obscene amount of blood, sweat and tears goes into the games we know and love.
But I’d rather see a drop in the frequency of releases of my favorite games than have it take the abuse of passionate, talented workers to see them released. Game developers are hardworking folks, and it’s wrong to exploit them.
Some have suggested video game developers unionize to demand better working conditions. I’m not sure what the solution is, but it’s now apparent that overworking game developers is not uncommon, and something needs to be done.
The heads of Respawn Entertainment, the developers of “Apex Legends,” have recently said they will not push out major weekly updates akin to “Fortnite” in order to protect their developers. Fans have criticized Respawn for not updating frequently enough, leading to a declining interest in the game. But if less frequent updates to one of my favorite games this year is what it takes to make sure its creators are healthy and happy at work, that’s a sacrifice I’m glad to accept.