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'Crunch' Time Isn't A Good Thing | Your Move

There are several games coming out this year I’m excited to play. I’ve been anticipating Final Fantasy VII Remake since before it was ever announced, and I’m also very interested in seeing Cyberpunk 2077. However, last week the developers of these respective games announced they would be delayed - Final Fantasy by a month, and Cyberpunk by five.

After an initial pang of disappointment, I was content with the delays. I’d certainly rather wait a little longer to get a higher-quality product. There are plenty of games that are released whether they’re ready or not, just to meet a published release date, and then they need half a dozen patches after release just to make them playable, or to add features that were promised but not ready for the launch of the game. Better a complete package to begin with, I think.

But delays can also add to the stress on the individual developers working on the game. To make initial published release dates, developers often “crunch” - that is, work long overtime hours to make sure the release date doesn’t slip again. Often, the crunch is mandatory, and while overtime isn’t necessarily bad, when coupled with the high stress and relatively low pay - programmers are often salaried and not paid for overtime - this can lead to burnout.

I think crunch is ultimately a failure of project management, a result of poor planning and setting unrealistic goals, then putting the burden of those bad calls on the backs of the developers. Other creative industries have a similar problem, like post-production effects for film and TV. Where you don’t see this problem as much is in TV and film production. The difference, as far as I can see, is that these jobs are unionized.

Samuel McConnell is a games enthusiast who has been playing games in one form or another since 1991. He was born in northern Maine but quickly transplanted to Wichita.