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Unpaid overtime in the games industry is endemic?

jherikojheriko Registered User regular
edited January 2012 in Games and Technology
I want to thank those few who commented before the thread was closed about my blog post on Codemasters.

I'd like to answer by saying that there are a great many companies who do not push their employees to do such ridiculous hours, nor operate so poorly in general. I used to work at Rebellion for instance, where I think I actually failed to do as many hours as I was supposed to. They are not some small indy gig either.

I'd be curious to know though, since there is the impression of a common problem, if this is something that any other people in the industry have experienced and if they are willing to talk about it?

I'm also curious what the players of games thing about it. Whether they think we are just moaning and whinging whilst having dream jobs, whether it factors into decisions when buying games, if they actually know how much we get paid, or how much overtime was poured into project X, Y or Z.

If this kind of discussion is not appropriate for this forum please delete the post - I will take no offense and consider. I appreciate that this is not a place to promote my blog and so I exclude any relevant links, but it seems like a good place to discuss games and the industry in general and I seemed to have prompted the beginning of such a discussion yesterday. It is a shame I could not have gotten back sooner but I was kept pretty busy on Friday.



jheriko on


  • Local H JayLocal H Jay Registered User regular
    there's a video game industry thread that'd be a perfect place to discuss stuff like this

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  • ElvenshaeElvenshae Registered User regular
    there's a video game industry thread that'd be a perfect place to discuss stuff like this


    Also, thread title should be, "Unpaid overtime in [every white-collar] industry is endemic?"

    The only way to guarantee paid overtime is to be unionized.

  • Skelly BSkelly B Registered User regular
    There's not a product you can buy where all of the employees and workers that went into making it received fair wages. Games are probably better than most.

  • kenhcwookenhcwoo Registered User regular
    I've worked in the video game industry before and I feel that the overtime hours really depends on your PMs. If the project is managed well, overtime hours should be minimal (i.e NOT assumed extra man-hours). At times, I feel like the reason overtime hours are needed is because somewhere along the line, people decided to ease up at work and let milestone slip. Agile development really helps with this becuase people have shorter term goals and that's easier to manage. Of course, that's not to say that overtime hours ONLY happen due to mismanagement. I definitely know people who get work in crazy ambitious projects that are way understaffed.

    There's always the deadline rush, but I feel that is more general to development jobs (or even jobs in general) and not just specific for the video game industry.

    Sometimes, when I complain about my hours, I take a little comfort by looking at my friends. Accountants during tax season, consultants who get worked like slaves, and various other jobs that demand crazy overtime.

  • CantidoCantido Registered User regular
    That video with the severed head guy who elaborately explains issues... I forgot the name of the videos but he cuts apart the issue pretty good. The situation is bad but getting better.

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  • McAllenMcAllen Registered User regular
    edited January 2012
    My only question is:

    Do Eastern or Western developers have it worse when it comes to unpaid overtime?

    Also, my statement:

    Bioware worked on SWTOR for around six years and the game excludes a lot of quality-of-life features for MMOs (deep interface customization, combat logs, traveling and mob placement are below standard). The story was in development a year or two before that, and all things included, I don't know what Bioware Austin or whomever were doing when they were making this game. It clearly shows a lack of direction and a lot of the bugs seem to point out that their engine/coding/organization is an incredibly convoluted mess. And now we have to wait even LONGER for some combat breaking, game breaking, fun breaking bugs to be ironed out because I guess these things take a shit load of time to fix or they don't see eye-to-eye with this game's soul-sucking grind philosophy.

    I don't know if I should blame Bioware or EA, whoever had set the trajectory to stupid definitely needs to stop managing game development.

    McAllen on
  • jherikojheriko Registered User regular
    Cool. thanks for the answers. I can't believe I missed the industry thread... thanks for the tip, although that does seem like a strange way to manage discussions. Not popular enough for its own sub-forum I guess?

    McAllen: I find its difficult to guess at what is happening with other developers... crunch time doesn't usually cause bugs as much as not having a good tech base to start from imo. The other thing is that, from a code side, if a team is inexperienced they will can be very slow - and sadly that applies to a lot of programmers because working in the industry is inconveniently a terrible way to gain in skill as a programmer. Its quite possible that a programmer can complete tasks 4x faster than the one next to him consistently and it be his first job, whilst the other guy has been around for 10+ years. At the extreme end of the spectrum John Carmack like programmers can write game engines in months, or even weeks, singlehandedly - whole teams can spend years and not even get the core stuff working

  • lowlylowlycooklowlylowlycook Registered User regular
    jheriko wrote:
    Cool. thanks for the answers. I can't believe I missed the industry thread... thanks for the tip, although that does seem like a strange way to manage discussions. Not popular enough for its own sub-forum I guess?

    It used to be more focused on sales, i.e. "Game X sold 200k in Nov" and kind of expanded from there. It has the benefit of concentrating a lot of the resulting fanboy wars in one place where those that just want to talk about actual games can easily ignore it.

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  • McAllenMcAllen Registered User regular
    edited January 2012
    That's what I was wondering too. Maybe some developers took a painfully long time connecting/coding/wiring the exposition, animation, and sound to the thousands of cutscenes in SWTOR. But then again a lot these steps have their individual departments in development, at least for triple A titles right? Either the game's foundation is already at a weak start or some department is incredibly swamped or Bioware's priorities are out of whack because of the Hero engine / ignorance.

    Sadly it's probably a little of all things. There's still a ton of bugs in SWTOR and it's disheartening to see that they may not get addressed until 3 months after launch, when most of the fanbase (and people new to MMOs) will be cynical towards Bioware's work ethic by then.

    McAllen on
  • cckerberoscckerberos Registered User regular
    McAllen wrote:
    Do Eastern or Western developers have it worse when it comes to unpaid overtime?

    Hard to say. I have a good friend who started working at Platinum Games as a programmer a couple years ago. He works unpaid overtime everyday and regularly has to give up weekends. This is when there's no particular deadline looming. Once things start getting close I could pretty much forget about seeing him.

    But this is true for any salaried employee in Japan. I could say the exact same things about my friends who are engineers or in sales.

  • jherikojheriko Registered User regular
    Thanks for the feedback.

    Its a shame that the problem is present in other industries. I should perhaps make clear that I am talking about 9 months + of crunch, not some few months on a run up to release. Pretty much my entire time at Codies could be described as crunch except the last two months or so...

    I find it hard to believe accountants have similar problems, but I guess for them it is their dream job too, and exactly the same arguments can be used by their bosses as game dev bosses.

This discussion has been closed.