Night in the Woods is a beautifully crafted narrative adventure game that managed to take home a couple of awards at the Independent Games Festival Awards. However, behind the scenes, the development team suffered a good deal due to bouts of crunch. In a recent interview with gamesindusrty.biz, Scott Benson spoke about how he feels that there needs to be a cultural shift.
Crunch is a gigantic issue in the video game industry. It causes employees to work tons of extra hours and wring themselves dry of enthusiasm so games can be released by specific dates. Some might even recall how when development studio Neocore announced a delay for Warhammer 40k: Inquisitor – Martyr and “joked” about how “we’ll push this extra three weeks in 90+ hours per week”. The joke did not go over well.
In his interview, Scott talked about how people aren’t overworking like that because of passion, but out of material concerns like money and deadlines. When the Kickstarter for Night in the Woods received four times its goal, it added more stress, as some treat having to announce delays as a “mortal sin” and a direct insult. For context, Night in the Woods was originally slated for a January 2015 release, and released February 2017.
Scott also mentioned one of the other causes for crunch in Night in the Woods: the internal pressures to overwork:
It’s a cultural thing we have to fight against. One of the reasons I talk about the experience is because I want to say that was not heroic. That was not cool. That was bad. And it came out of some material conditions, but also because I was not valuing myself enough to stop, I don’t think.
Scott concludes by stating that despite the intrinsic desire to work hard, people should never “find their jobs hanging on it.” He considers that form of crunch as abuse and exploitation, which he believes can only be stopped by laws, unions, and organization:
That’s the only way. No executive’s going to say, ‘Man I just hate making money. I hate this. Maybe I can just give it back to the people I work for and maybe the game can come out next year some time.’ No one’s going to do that. There is no opposing force to that that isn’t someone producing that value they’re using to buy a yacht. There’s no other place this could come from.
The full interview with Scott Benson can be read here.