To what degree, do you think, is crunch is done out of malice from management/leaders/stakeholders?

Normally when I do things out of spite it's a lot more fun than this.ALT

While I cannot say definitively, I would like to believe that there aren’t any leaders or managers who actively choose to crunch their workers out of malice, especially because that would mean that they are intentionally trying to harm their workers for some perverse reason. This situation generally can’t happen at the dev team level because the team leadership crunches right alongside the rank and file. I would imagine it would require a significant amount of rage to force yourself, as well as many others, to work 60+ hour weeks in order to hurt your enemy on the team. I honestly don’t think that malice is a common motivating factor.

I don't know what to do, my whole brain is crying!!ALT

Instead, I believe that the primary emotion motivating the call to crunch among leadership is fear. They fear the consequences of missing their deadlines. They fear the consequences of cutting too much content. They fear what might happen to the studio if they can’t deliver what they promised. They fear that their jobs might be at risk if they can’t finish the game. In order to assuage this fear, they pull out all the stops and order the team to crunch. Their fear leads to desperation, and that desperation is what leads to crunch. 

Once this fear becomes familiar and internalized, crunch becomes just another normal thing that happens when certain conditions are met. That is when crunch becomes crunch culture - it is a core part of the way the studio operates, like having free breakfast cereal at the office and donuts on Fridays. Once that happens, there is no longer any emotion involved at all. Crunch just becomes routine, which is probably the worst possible result.

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