Mark Wherrett (Cleverbeans)
Is the Crunch Really Necessary?
Wherrett (2018) says “We [Cleverbeans] always try to avoid the crunch,” but later admits its inevitability and that anyone attempting to be a part of the games industry should be “prepared for it.” Other members of the industry also weigh in on the subject: "Crunch has been prevalent in the games industry for decades, and while it’s not unique to the games industry, it has become a negative practice that has perpetuated for too long." (Edwards, cited in Milner, 2018). Many feel as though it is an unfair practice on workers, which only comes about due to poor planning and a lack of respect to developers from financiers.
There is a drive within the games industry to produce high quality games in as short a timescale as possible. Wherret claimed this again in his lecture, citing his work on the LEGO games handheld ports (TT Fusion, 2003 – 2016). After each release the team had worked hard to get the game out on time, and succeeded, with a consequence being that subsequent releases had increasingly smaller development windows. Despite the negative consequences developers will continue to suffer through the crunch.
Why do they do it? “We push ourselves so hard sometimes, because we feel the responsibility to support our team, or because we feel that not doing so will impact the company, or because we love what we’re doing enough to make sacrifices for it, or because management dangles a carrot of a higher bonus, or because we feel trapped.” (Douville, 2015). This quote shows a wide variety of reasons for putting up with the crunch. Having it as a supposed “industry standard” (Schreier, 2015) also perpetuates a sense of necessity; it’s always happened, so it’ll always happen. This practice actually makes the industry weaker.
Innovation could come from the removal of the crunch on an industry-wide scale. Miyamoto (2012) says "A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad.” The crunch doesn’t just produce worse games, but it also damages the health of those working on them. If the degradation of the health continues to fall, talent could be lost, damaging morale and further projects down the road. The crunch isn’t just unnecessary, it’s harmful on so many fronts that it would be universally beneficial to work to remove it.