Following the heels of Corinne Yu, Naughty Dog dev Bothari has spoken out openly about crunch.
Much like Corinne, Bothari emphasizes that he engages in crunch, not because of workplace pressures, but because he genuinely loves his job and wants to do the best on it that he can. Bothari also argues that with the custody arrangement he has set with his daughter, he actually has figured out the best way to get work-life balance for himself. He basically does shorter work days when he is with his daughter, and longer work days when she’s not with him.
Here’s how he describes the experience after some time:
The crazy thing is, after something like nine months of doing this I didn’t feel the need to stop. After each previous crunch period that I’ve experienced, four in total, I’ve been dead to the world for a week or two. Exhausted, unhealthy, mentally weary, and in great need of a holiday. At the end of development for The Last of Us I felt great. I had been spending quality time with my daughter, I’d been cooking home cooked meals two or three days a week, I had been having playdates with her friends and even getting a babysitter once a month or so to hang out with friends or go to a movie. It was almost as if I was a productive and healthy member of society.
Crunch remains an issue in the industry, as developers are often compelled to render this extra work at the expense of their health and time with their families. Unlike Corinne Yu and Bothari, many of these devs may do smaller jobs, and often do not have a say in the conditions surrounding crunch. This extra work can even be rendered unpaid or below minimum wage. In fact, there’s been a concern regarding QOL of game developers and attrition that can be traced as far back as a decade ago.
It should be interesting to see if all this talk about crunch shifts the conversation around Naughty Dog from Uncharted 4, the subject of their extra work, to the industry’s own labor practices.