back to article Crunch time: It's all fun and video games until you're being pressured into working for free

The majority of video games devs do long stretches of unpaid overtime, and bullying and harassment is rife within the sector, according to a survey by entertainment trade union BECTU. Games workers from across the UK described the sector's notorious "crunch working" – clocking up to 80 hours per week for six-week periods, with …

  1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "productivity, employee morale and retention"

    Because employers who harass and bully their workforce care about employee morale and retention ?

    I don't think they give a damn. To them, employees are like kleenex, to be disposed of when used up.

    1. EmilPer.

      Re: "productivity, employee morale and retention"

      they don't care about productivity either, after two weeks of 80h/week productivity goes below what you could achieve in 20h/week

      1. overunder

        Re: "productivity, employee morale and retention"

        "...after two weeks of 80h/week productivity goes below what you could achieve in 20h/week"

        Well, it diminishes greatly, but the company is still coming out ahead as they don't have to deal with pesky things like employee benefits and different/increased tax filings.

        Drive monkey drive!

      2. cream wobbly

        Re: "productivity, employee morale and retention"

        It shows, too. I haven't bought a game in decades (plural! count 'em!), specifically because game mechanics are formulaic and offer nothing new.

    2. JLV Silver badge

      Re: "productivity, employee morale and retention"

      They run, like some other industries like retail (for grads), a pyramid scheme. Suck in a lot of fresh grads. Pay poorly, work harshly, work long. Survival of whoever puts up with it. The rest quit.

      Presto, you now have a promotion path to the next level up in org. Bump up survivors to the next paygrade. Run that same lil game at level 2, with the bait of level 3. And suck in the next batch for level 1.

      I suspect a lot of this also boils to hazing psychology - “well, we had to do it in our time” - because the economics of running knowledge intensive workers at 70+ hr weeks are not clear. You can do it for a 2-3 wk burst but quality and creativity goes down if it’s institutionalized. c.f. medical interns, except there it can mean someone dying rather than a video game crash.

      1. cream wobbly

        Re: "productivity, employee morale and retention"

        There's also the fact that many of the the game dev founders, like Houser himself, started out in the bedroom dev days where they worked every waking hour with their face glued to a 14" TV, (stock still so they didn't get RAM-pack wobble).

        What they don't see is that for most of their team these days, it's a job, not a lifestyle, but their only friends are also in the same lifestyle, so they don't see a problem with it. "If you don't want to live the lifestyle", they think, "you picked the wrong career".

        Junior doctors work shorter hours, get paid more, and they're saving lives...

        *ETA - sorry, Houser wasn't a game dev until 1999. A mere spratling.

    3. boltar Silver badge

      Re: "productivity, employee morale and retention"

      Yup. I used to work for a big investment bank back in the early 00s. My manager in a 360 meeting once genuinely said to me that the team needs to deliver more or he wouldn't get his bonus. We were already working too hard as it was and peoples family lives were suffering. I stiffled a suitable epithet at that point but I didn't stay at that place much longer, it was sociopath heaven. I laughed when I heard a few years later that they had a slew of sexual harrasment cases pending. Didn't surprise me in the least.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It's the Circle of Shite.

      Of course they don't. This isn't anything new. The article says "the sector has recently come under fire"....

      Recently?! The notorious EA Spouse thing was itself fifteen years ago. This has been the modus operandi of the video game industry for- I'd guess- at least twenty years since games got larger and development became more industrialised during the 90s.

      The gaming industry has long been able to rely upon an endless stream of typically idealistic and naive kids desparate to make video games like the ones they love.

      It's able to exploit them because even if they start having doubts or thinking about protesting they know there are countless other wannabe developers desparate to get into the industry and take their place. (And, of course, being generally young even by software developer standards, they're easier for the bosses to manipulate with gimmicky perks and vague promises in place of half-decent pay or working conditions, and to exploit their general lack of experience).

      Eventually, when the scales have fallen from their eyes sufficiently and they're burned out, they leave the field for one that's less (apparently) glamorous but pays better. Such attrition might be a problem in some industries, but it's just part of the cycle in video game development where they know they can replace them with their pick on a neverending stream of bright-eyed, gullible and easily-manipulated young graduates they can mistreat and bully for another few years.

      They didn't- and don't- give a damn because they never needed to. End of story.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It's the Circle of Shite.

        It's exactly the same situation in the animation studios. Loads of disposable youngsters willing to work long hours, with more behind them to take over when they get worn out.

        The studio will promise a fast turnaround and low costs to beat other studios and get the jobs in, then the animators have no choice but to get the work done to almost impossible timescales or leave. There's no union to help, so if you complain, you're out as there's always someone foolhardy and desperate to take your place. The only people who survive are those without partners or kids who can keep up. Eventually age gets to them when they can't handle the long hours any more.

  2. Shadow Systems Silver badge

    Treat your workers right...

    Lest they lay down their tools, strike en masse, & string you up by the short & curlies when you can least afford the interruption.

    Game expected to rake in billions due in a week? Oh look, it's a strike & they demand to be paid for all those over-40-hour-weeks before they'll write another line of code.

    Sure you can fire them all & outsource the whole thing to a workforce that will work for pennies on the Pound, but if you think that game won't suffer from doing so then you're a sad, delusional little cockwomble.

    Treat your workers right, pay them fairly, do what it takes to prove that you value the fact that it's their hard work that makes your bonus happen at all, and then maybe they won't repay shitty treatment in kind.

    1. Just Enough
      Childcatcher

      Re: Treat your workers right...

      Unfortunately the majority of workers in the games industry are young, without much in way of experience of work outside the industry, but initially very keen to work in such a glamorous industry. They aren't unionised, they aren't sure of their rights and they don't know how a healthy working environment should feel. All they know is this is what are their colleges do, this is how work is, and there are plenty younger, hungrier developers happy to take their job if they don't want it

      This makes them ideal for exploitation and unlikely to organise against their employers.

      To be fair, the video games industry isn't alone in this. Other careers and industries with the same employees profile tend to treat their workers the same.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Treat your workers right...

        Yup. This is another big reason HP, IBM, Oracle, etc want younger workers.

        1. jmch Silver badge

          Re: Treat your workers right...

          Same for the "big 4" consultancies etc...

      2. Shadow Systems Silver badge

        Re: Treat your workers right...

        *Nodding in unhappy understanding*

        My best friend in High School took the path to become a doctor. He found out the stress, pressure, bullying, & bullshit were so bad that he wound up committing suicide two years into it. He left a note that documented his trials & tribulations & laid it all out on the table for everyone to see JUST how bad the environment had been. A few arses were sacked, many merely transferred to other locations where they could "start fresh", but in the end nobody did any jail time. His parents were incandescent with rage, his friends (myself included) were depressed as hell, & everyone was left wondering how we missed it.

        Such treatment may be in many different industries, but that doesn't make it Right. =-(

    2. Reg Reader 1

      Re: Treat your workers right...

      "strike en masse" was effective until an employer could move its work to a lower cost centre in a struggling economy where educated people will work themselves to death just to try and look after their family. This is maybe not an easy, overnight move, but watch for it.

      Developed economies cannot compete with un/under developed economies and big business has bought the laws to allow this. Of course, this will eventually kill the milking cow that is the developed economy but the wealthy are enjoying milking her dry and will continue to right up until her death.

      1. nematoad Silver badge

        Re: Treat your workers right...

        "...where educated people will work themselves to death just to try and look after their family. "

        Then judging by this article the UK should brace itself for a flood of these manipulative, greedy companies just waiting to take advantage of the culture here.

        1. AndrueC Silver badge
          Unhappy

          Re: Treat your workers right...

          And there's the Working Time Directive. Funny how we insisted on an opt-out of that one. I wonder what's going to happen to that bit of legislation in the near future.

          1. batfink Bronze badge

            Re: Treat your workers right...

            Yes - if only there were some piece of applicable legislation that outlawed people being forced to work more than 48 hours per week....

            Of course, people can always "voluntarily" opt out of the EWTD. And of course you can always volunteer to work the extra hours (out of the kindness of your heart) as we all know there are crunch times because that's the nature of what we do. However, there's a difference here between being forced to do it and volunteering to do it. Particularly on an ongoing basis, and particularly if it's unpaid.

            I thought it interesting that when I started my most recent (permie) role, buried in the usual mountain of paperwork to sign was an opt-out agreement. That went into the bin of course. Now I'm looking forward to the day when some fucker tries to tell me that I signed it when I arrived.

          2. Peter2 Silver badge

            Re: Treat your workers right...

            The Working Time Directive is unworkable at many small companies.

            Point in case, a few weeks ago I had a bit of equipment that had been kept limping along finally die. The replacement was one of the typical "blank cheque" type jobs. I was up until just after midnight making dammed well sure that a bit of kit was well sorted. I was then in early the next morning making bloody well sure that it was working before and as staff arrived on site. This is not exactly an unusual occurrence in IT; shit happens and in extremis you have to be available to deal with it. The last time I had to do something like those hours was probably 4 years previously, so not exactly something that's frequent. (and I get paid and/or the time off in lieu unlike people who are actually getting exploited)

            However, according to the Working Time Directive I should have had 11 hours from ceasing work to being back in work again, which I broke, and while I can't be assed to check I probably exceeded the number of hours you can work in a week too if you aren't opted out.

            Like many other people reading this, this is just one of those things that you have to do once in a blue moon and I expect that this is the sort of situation that the opt-out was intended to cover. Some companies are actually taking the piss though, and so presumably at some point it'll get updated to prevent that from happening.

            1. NogginTheNog

              Re: Treat your workers right...

              I don't think those who wrote, or enforce, the WTD give a toss about one off incidents? It's aimed at regular week-in week-out abusers. Now people have a law to back them up when they say "enough!".

              1. short a sandwich

                Re: Treat your workers right...

                Nobody gives a toss until the excrement hits the air-conditioning. Then watch as HSE roll up and start charging for their time from arrival, before inviting people for a date at the court to try and prove that they are innocent. That's when management attitudes start to change.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Treat your workers right...

              If you could be assed, it's 48 hours per week averaged over 17 weeks.

            3. batfink Bronze badge

              Re: Treat your workers right...

              Yes - my point is that there's a lot of difference between "we do this because we care" and "we do this because we're being forced to".

              I'd suggest the majority of us here are in the first category.

              However there are always some poor bastards trapped into the second, and they're copping the pain while those On High pocket the gain.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Treat your workers right...

            It’s funny because it was the EU that made it easy to offshore U.K. tech jobs to Eastern Europe, that created these conditions in the first place.

  3. the Jim bloke Silver badge
    Headmaster

    Survey of 350 people out of an industry of 50000

    I am hoping that that is the number that actually responded, and not the entire target sample.

    This would indicate that People who are overworked and have no free time choose not to participate in surveys

    1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: Survey of 350 people out of an industry of 50000

      Maybe they don't have the time (or energy) left to do so.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Survey of 350 people out of an industry of 50000

      "This would indicate that People who are overworked and have no free time choose not to participate in surveys"

      It could also mean that people in tech know better than to participate in surveys.

      (Facebook/Cambridge Analytica comes to mind)

    3. SMITCH79

      Re: Survey of 350 people out of an industry of 50000

      Check out Patriot Act on Netlix with Hasan Minaj he did a pretty good piece on this with American companies..

      Season 3 I think.

      Rockstar wasn't mentioned so I thought they were one of the good guys.

      Guess not.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How do people with children do it?

    we don't. We moved to other jobs, where the pay is shittier, but the (office) hours shorter.

    btw, this is not the only industry where employees are exploited and everyone pretends it's not happening. I mean, how do you expect the fortunes are being made, magic dust?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How do people with children do it?

      One of my previous employers was pretty crap. We were expected to do a 40 hour week, starting at 8 in the morning...

      But the boss didn't like people leaving before he did - generally 6 - 7 in the evening; with the slight hitch that he used to stroll in between 10 and 11 in the morning. Or if he was in a different time zone, he expected his key people to be in the office when it was work time in our time zone, but also when he was working in another time zone...

      1. Just Enough

        Re: How do people with children do it?

        One of my first jobs was in a project where ridiculously tight deadlines were slipping. The project manager's solution for this was to draw up a new schedule that involved the developers working weekends for the next two months. Unpaid of course.

        We weren't happy about this, but mostly young, single and keen to progress in our careers. Who wanted to be the guy who let the team down? One of my colleagues, however, was married with a child. He took a red pen through the new schedule and handed it back. He was a pretty quiet, unassuming guy, so it was a bit of a shock coming from him. But he got his way. The weekend working plan was shelved and he earned the respect of every other member of the team. He stood up and did what none of the rest of us had the guts to do.

        1. big_D Silver badge

          Re: How do people with children do it?

          I can understand having to work lots of overtime coming up to a deadline - the last couple of weeks. But before that, the project manager can see he isn't going to hit the deadline and it is his responsibility to see that either the deadline gets pushed or extra people get assigned.

          If you are still a couple of months from the deadline, there is no excuse for making people work weekends and excessive overtime during the week.

          That said, I did work on one project where the deadline couldn't be moved and we couldn't have more people working on the project (2 man project working on Lotus 1-2-3 worksheet macros). I put in about 60 hours overtime a week for a month. But I got paid for it, my tax bill for the month was more than my normal gross. But it paid for a nice hi-fi system and holiday. After we hit the deadline, I slept for 30 hours solid.

          1. Joe W Silver badge

            Re: How do people with children do it?

            ... and if you are months before the deadline and need to make such a crazy schedule to have a remote chance of making that deadline you are toast already. There is no buffer in your plan any more and the next unexpected snag will cause the whole thing to fail completely.

            Yes, a crunch in the last week or three can be neccessary. It should not (on a regular basis), and one should learn from this to plan better next time. Except people don't.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: How do people with children do it?

              This was planned in advance and quite intentionally done that way. They know damn well what they're doing setting deadlines that tight from the beginning and that those will "require" people to go into crunch mode for virtually the entire project.

              That isn't merely a side effect for a company that doesn't care about it's employees- it's a positive advantage for them because it effectively forces employees to work in crunch mode (i.e. lots of unpaid overtime) for the entire duration.

              Of course, this works best with naive, gullible and/or easily manipulated employees- which are typically younger, less experienced ones, and which is why "perma [fake/engineered] crunch" is most widespread in the video game development industry dominated by such people.

            2. Bonegang

              Re: How do people with children do it?

              Many moons ago I interviewed for one of the largest games companies (an anagram of "AE") for the role of PM... they were specifically looking for an experienced IT PM from outside the games sector BECAUSE of the industry culture with annual franchise games for dicking about for 9 months doing 'research' and 'customer intell' and 'feature POCs' then only getting productive 3 months out when it's realised that the release candidate really should be with test right now. The prevailing idea was it was a norm to be lazing about for 9 months and somehow ok to be pulling all nighters for weeks to get the year's work done at the end.

              Nope, didn't take it; they just wanted a hard-ass to crack whip in the salad days to get them on a more normal delivery cycle.

              Standout phrase from the management team in the interview, "we think it could be done better".

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: How do people with children do it?

          Yup. Having kids toughens you up. I won't let anyone take me away from my lads. They can't stroll into work and demand that my boss let me go home and play. Therefore, I have to do it for them.

          Moreover, I've paid my dues in this industry...insane overnighters, working full weekends with no sleep etc.

          If anyone wants the benefit of that experience, they now have to pay...because now I can do the same job without the all nighters, full weekends etc...thanks to experience.

          I do try and mentor younger engineers and help them out early in their career, but the level of fear these days is crazy.

          I was never as afraid as some of the younger guys these days.

          A lot of younger engineers seem to suffer from a form of "imposter syndrome" as well...believing that they aren't as skilled or knowledgeable as their peers.

          It's pretty key that us older boys teach the young uns that you can't possibly know everything. The older techies out there (pre-google era youngsters) don't know everything, we just come from a time where failing and iterating at high speed was necessary, we had to think in a completely different way, failure was necessary. These days we have Google and forums etc that we can use to figure things out and failure has become less normal...therefore people are becoming more afraid of it.

          Hands up oldies, how many of you still acquaint yourself with the factory reset procedure before configuring a new device you haven't used before?

          *raises hand*

          1. big_D Silver badge

            Re: How do people with children do it?

            Raises hand.

            I agree with you to a point - although things were so slow and making corrections was so time consuming, that we generally spent more time reading manuals, periodicals and books (remember them?) to make sure we were on the right track.

            I also spend time coaching younger engineers, although I still learn from them as well, as you say, you never know anything. But many do not have the ability to step back and look at a problem logically and work out a solution, they get their Google answer (or if they are lucky, the process description) and work through that, if if fails, they start again.

            At my previous job, I had an apprentice who literally followed the book. There were wiki entries about common problems and there were process descriptions for setting up new PCs, for example. He would start at 1 and work his way through. If it failed at step 7, he wouldn't look at the error, he'd just start at step 1 again, work through to step 7, start at step 1 again... It never occurred to him to actually try and fix the error, the documentation never mentioned an error (dodgy update download that month), so he didn't try and look at the cause of the error and find a solution...

            On the other hand at my current job my junior colleague has finished his apprenticeship with another company and joined us about a year ago. He is tip top, knows much of his stuff and, where he doesn't he actually listens and learns or finds the answer for himself.

            1. Bonegang

              Re: How do people with children do it?

              Couldn't agree more... but I find the situation much worse now, since the majority of our teams have been off-shored; the majority of our 'resources' have no interest in IT, let alone any passion for it or drive to improve or learn it 'because it's fun'.

              And, if you take the time to bring them on and the patience to ensure they actually understand, in a few months they're gone (in the promotion/new job spiral, leveraging what you have given them) and you're looking in a VC window at another 'resource' that HR insist meets your requirements.

              Cynical, me? Not so much, actually. More jealous that you are able to get colleagues on-shore that know what they're doing.

        3. LeahroyNake Bronze badge

          Re: How do people with children do it?

          It happens when you get older and have responsibilities outside work eg. Getting the kids to school and picking them from after school club etc. Apart from the cost involved, currently around £800 PCM (the youngest is in pre school private nursery) it does put a strain on your time and you just need to say no, my partner has a better paid job and still does their share . The kids come first and are spending just as much time in 'work' as I am (IT based) .

          The annoying thing to me was my boss calling me in to a pre disciplinary meeting about my attitude towards him on one occasion. Thankfully I am old enough to realise that my priorities are in the right place, my attitude was not the issue and I just needed to point out a few 'home truths' regarding behaviour at a customer site. Nobody else in the company had the balls to say it until I did as anyone that had tried in the past was managed out quite quickly. if you have an issue you should prepare what you need to say and ask independent trusted people what it sounds like when you say it, be calm, confident, explain your view and have an exit plan. On the upside we now get on better as the problem had been addressed.

          Working over time for free? Yes I do when it is really required. It is not expected of me and is usually only a few hours a month but I get to decide and some customers are worth it (without them I wouldn't have a job, neither would my team).

    2. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      Re: How do people with children do it?

      I was once asked why I didn't go and work elsewhere as I'd earn a shed load more money. I pointed out that earning lots of money is no good if you're too tired (or dead!) to enjoy it.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How do people with children do it?

      Agreed. It's tough to work and have kids. Especially if your overlords don't have kids themselves.

      To those of you thinking "well why bother having kids then?".

      You folks haven't experienced holding your baby for the first time, watching them grow, experiencing the world through the eyes of a completely new human...there's nothing like it.

      Sure it's knackering, expensive and a colossal time sponge...but it's the best value investment of time and money you'll ever make.

    4. Wilseus

      Re: How do people with children do it?

      "we don't. We moved to other jobs, where the pay is shittier, but the (office) hours shorter."

      Really? When I got out of games (which was the best thing I ever did) I got a pay increase.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Game Workers Unite has spent almost all of its existence whining about issues that are nothing to do with game developers, software development or working conditions. It is a sham that has arguably done more to damage the idea of devs unionising than any amount of yellow journalism could manage.

  6. smudge Silver badge
    Holmes

    see icon

    The majority of video games devs do long stretches of unpaid overtime, and bullying and harassment is rife within the sector...

    Games workers from across the UK described the sector's notorious "crunch working" – clocking up to 80 hours per week for six-week periods, with regular demands to work 12-16 hour days and through weekends prior to the release of games.

    So it's just like any other development project, then.

  7. Robert D Bank

    the irony

    Would it be a pretty safe bet that these same dev's are the one's who'd line up somewhere to buy the latest version of one of these games?

    1. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: the irony

      Well, they might if they had time to play any games.

      1. BuckeyeB

        Re: the irony

        Alpha Testing

  8. RyokuMas Silver badge
    Devil

    Dream vs reality...

    A friend of mine was on a college course for video game development - he told me that on day one, one of the lecturers made the following comment:

    "There's over 100 of you in this room, and I can tell you right now that only one of you will get a job in the video game industry when you graduate from here."

    ... which says it all really. For every employee that burns out under the stress of crunch, there are tens - if not hundreds - waiting to take their place, not realising (or willing to accept) that the same fate awaits them.

    Jeff Minter had it right in the readme file for his game Llamatron - the men in suits have taken a progressively bigger and bigger cut, and shaped the games industry to line their pockets. Even the so-called "indie" scene is now rapidly heading in the same direction. But all the while that the kids who play these games labour under the utterly false belief that it is going to be them being the creator of the the next multi-million pound hit and that game development is fun and easy, these conditions are going to persist.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've just had three weeks of falling out of bed at 6am, driving for two hours to work, driving two hours back home, getting back at 7:30-8:00pm too shattered to do anything else but find something to eat and collapse into bed. But, if I refused to do it, somebody else would, and by refusing to do it I would automatically disqualify myself for dole, and the basic facts of life is that being alive costs money.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Whilst a 4 hour commute isn't that unusual, actually driving for that amount of time is dangerous, to you and everyone else on the road around you.

      I'm not judging, but your health is more important and there are other ways of making money if you're prepared to work (which it looks like you are).

    2. Sqirrel99

      Your commute is killing you, not your working hours.

    3. jmch Silver badge

      "falling out of bed at 6am, driving for two hours to work, driving two hours back home, getting back at 7:30-8:00pm"

      So you are away from home around 6.30, back at 7.30 or 8. so 13-13.5 hours away from home, 4-hour commute, 1/2 hour - 1-hour lunch break, you work... 8-9 hours? As another mentioned, it's the commute killing you not the work...

      Although I do accept that it's possible that shitty circumstances mean that you can only find work 2 hours from home and you can't relocate closer.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      2 hour commute? Are you mad?

      Never worry about there being other people to take your job. One hundred years ago, there were people willing to work themselves to death, one hundred years from now there will be people willing to work themselves to death.

      There will always be other people.

      More importantly, replacing you will always be more expensive than retaining you.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        But if I don't work myself to death, I will not-work myself to death. Food Costs Money. If the only job anybody is prepapred to pay me to do is two hour's drive away from a population centre of half a million, then I can't afford to not do it.

        And I can't afford to sell up and move two hour's down the motorway for four weeks' work, and then do the same again when some work pops up somewhere else, and then again when some works pops up somewhere else.

        Also, the Job Centre will sanction you if you refuse to apply for work within 90 minutes travel, so two hours is only slightly beyond that.

        I consider myself lucky, three years ago I had three months work which stretched from Coventry to Newcastle.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          can't afford to sell up and move ... then do the same again

          Have you considered trading up to a small overnighter vehicle - or adapting your current vehicle, and only driving home for weekends? It could save you 20 hours per week, plus fuel costs.

          Even people who work at Google do this. Google it. There are online communities dedicated to "VanLife". It can be inpractical in cold weather but otherwise could save you time and money.

          https://www.theverge.com/2014/9/9/6126305/tech-employee-lives-in-parking-lot

          1. Orv Silver badge

            I don't know what it's like there, but in the US a lot of cities are cracking down on this. Ostensibly it's for sanitation reasons, but in reality it's because people sleeping in their vehicles isn't a good look, and it's easier to sweep the housing problem under the rug.

  10. sorry, what?
    Holmes

    Do the numbers add up?

    An estimated workforce of 50000 and a value of £3bn sets the "sector value" as £60k per worker...

    They must pay a lot of their devs a lot less than this. Or there are a lot of part time staff in that 50000 head count.

    Or someone's got silvered glass and particulate clouds in spades.

    Unpaid overtime, in my experience, is common across all software development and services work. Sure, rarely more than doubling weekly contracted hours for more than a few weeks, but still common.

  11. Binraider666

    Consider the source

    Many of the developers of the 80's that now run this kind of business were well known for bedroom programming 80hrs+ a week at the time. It's not difficult to see how that kind of mentality is expected of the industry that's sprung up from it.

    Overtime per-hour; or pay-per-line-of code aren't the answer here. Sorting out the bonus arrangements to reflect quality product delivered to deadline is the way forward surely? (After all, those bedroom coders, if they didn't get product out on time, their biz had no income).

    Personally I'm of the view that in this industry especially, if you don't like your corporate overseers practises then ditch them. Plenty of opportunity to do indie dev work off your own back.

  12. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    Government can act

    There were complaints about this sort of thing here. So the local government passed the "high tech workers exemption" aka the "EA law" it gave this vital industry special workers rights = no limits on unpaid overtime, no stat holidays, no minimum wage, exempt from almost all health and safety and working condition laws.

    1. jmch Silver badge

      Re: Government can act

      "So the local government passed the "high tech workers exemption" aka the "EA law" "

      Out of curiosity, what state / country is that?

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Government can act

        Vancouver

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's not just the games industry. Visual effects work for movies is as bad, if not worse.

    Not allowed not to opt out of working time directive - "It's necessary for the irregular hours you may have to work". May have to work? Expected to work more like. I had a dual role in support and VFX. I wasn't allowed flex time because they needed me there on site in the day, and I couldn't do routine maintenance during the day because people were working. So I had to wait behind and do it afterwards. Oh, and that very, very slow film camera that we're printing all the effects shots on after working hours? Just take the film to the lab at midnight so we can see it in the morning, no-one else can be trusted to do it properly. Oh, and being complained at for having to take my partner back to hospital for an appointment after his foot was mangled in a road accident, "I'm giving you special privileges for that". It was between Xmas and New Year and nothing was happening. If I'd had my name on a couple of decent films it might have been worth it, but they were all crap. I was out of there as quick as I coud massage my CV adequately.

  14. Huw D Silver badge

    Mrs D works for a games studio. It's not just the devs. If the devs are working stupid hours, they expect the IT support to be there for them as well.

    I've also seen this in Architecture/Design and in Law firms.

  15. Erik4872

    It's like new lawyers or investment bankers

    The video game industry is horrible towards unsuspecting starry-eyed new grads who don't understand that they're being taken advantage of. Lots of IT and dev jobs are similar, but video games is the only one where you have a constant backlog of 500 sacks of fresh meat outside the factory gates will will gladly replace you if you don't want to work another month of 90-hour weeks. I don't care if game dev is the most exciting industry sector out there...working people to death in knowledge work positions is NOT normal.

    I live near NYC so our comparatively-tame workplace gets a lot of refugees from investment banks and law firms. Associates there have a similar problem according to the IT bods we've hired. Exclusively Ivy League finance/MBA grads and the top 10% students of the top 14 law schools in the country are hired on annually to associate banker and associate lawyer positions. It's kind of like a graduation present for spending the money and making it into the Ivy League schools. At one end of the pipe is school, at the other is a life of luxury where you never have to worry about money again once you make partner/managing director. It's a once-in-a-lifetime shot at Easy Street, but inside that pipe is a miserable existence of years of toil. They work bankers and new lawyers to death. At least there's a reward at the end...I'd love to have my only worry to be whether to take the Bentley or the Rolls to the club. Game developers just get abused until they give up, then a new one takes their place.

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: It's like new lawyers or investment bankers

      So not that different than doctors then, who go through a similar hell of overwork during residency, knowing it will all be worth it when they come out the other end. I dated a girl during most of her pediatric cardiology residency and fellowship where she averaged 80-90 hours a week for about 48 weeks a year for four years. The stress of it all is what ultimately broke us up.

      I've heard rumblings that the AMA wants to change things, but hospitals are resistant because they'd need to cover all the hours they are getting for free, and argue that they'd have to extend residencies for several years for residents to gain the same experience. If that was the choice I'm sure a lot of residents would prefer the current system where they can get it over with in fewer years. Not sure whether experience in the 41st hour of the week and the 81st hour of the week really stick in your memory to the same extent though, but that's what they seem to be claiming.

      1. Orv Silver badge

        Re: It's like new lawyers or investment bankers

        The main difference is when an MD finishes their residency they can expect to settle into a six-figure job with reasonable hours. For game developers (and many others in software development) it never really ends, and the pay isn't even that good.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's like new lawyers or investment bankers

      I’ll let you into a secret: MDs at investment banks don’t have it easy either, they’re just used to it. Then they die of heart attacks and ulcers and nervous breakdowns. That’s the joke see: there is no reward at the end, just more work.

  16. 0laf Silver badge

    There are many professional industries like this. Friend of mine is a partner in an accounts firm he reckons his job is actually killing him with stress and that the younger employees are actually getting it even worse then he ever did. The structure of the company mean that effectively those at the top suck the blood of those below them to get their 'due' despite never having had it much easier themselves. The excessive hours and pressure are very similar to the story above for the games industry.

    This is apparently the same in the legal services. Young employess are just meat to the machine. If you survive you might get to be in the position to exploit the new blood below.

    However my mate has said that is is gettign to the point now wheree the wheels are starting to fall off. The new blood is looking at the culture in these sorts of firms and turning away and it's getting increasingly harder to recruit. Which mean those at the top turn the screw even harder on these they have already. He think many will leave but they've locked to the firm by becoming partners. When he's decribed it to me it sounded very much like a pyramid or Ponzi scheme.

    I'm sure the games industry being new and desirable has a few years to go before the shines comes off like accountants but it'll happen.

    Saying that my 9yr old want to be a 'games designer' when he grows us [sigh].

    1. Erik4872

      "He think many will leave but they've locked to the firm by becoming partners."

      Not even that...the more traditional law, accountancy and consulting partnerships just don't take "defectors." They want new hires fresh out of school for two reasons...they're easy to push around, easy to mold in their image, and they feel that experienced hires will have work habits from rival firms they would have to unteach before they're the kind of person that firm wants to make a partner. The bigger firms basically have a new-hire indoctrination where they teach newbies exactly how they want them to behave in front of clients...dressing, traveling, hosting dinners, giving presentations, how to speak, etc.

      "I'm sure the games industry being new and desirable has a few years to go before the shines comes off like accountants but it'll happen."

      The problem is that people who love to play video games think writing them is the coolest job ever. This has been a problem for ages...EA is famous for just using up new grads who would give appendages to work in the industry. I've seen things from the late 90s/early 2000s about big video game publishers just burning through people.

    2. Nunyabiznes

      It all kind of sounds like a pyramid scheme (multi-level marketing for the PC literate).

      Who remembers the rule of thumb for pay that the Japanese used in the 80s? IIRC it was that the CEO shouldn't make more than 10 times what the lowest paid full time employee makes. There were a lot of perks that weren't figured into that number, but it was still much more equitable than the current ratios that are common.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Does any software dev actually get paid overtime anymore?

    I remember this being a thing early in my career (and getting paid to travel if it was on your own time) but that is like 10 years ago.

    Anonymous because employment.

  18. steviebuk Silver badge

    Is that it...

    "We urge employers to take action if they want to sustain their economic success as productivity, employee morale and retention can only occur when you treat your workers fairly."

    Yeah we'll listen and totally ignore you. I suspect the likes of EA and Rockstar will continue.

    Just like Rockstar sticking in the casino in GTA. I've not played that add-on yet, I'm sure it will be good but its worrying when you hear your nephew say he plays it (hard to stop control that, they'll find ways of playing that 18 rated game) and won big so when he's older he's gonna go to a casino. He'll have it drummed into it to him that he'll then lose all his money but you'll have some out there who won't listen and will piss it all away.

    And 100% a market is going to open, if not already, to turn in the cash from the casino to real money. Chinese farm shops will be used.

  19. Cynic_999 Silver badge

    But how often?

    The article is not clear on whether the high number of hours is something that the games sector demands of its employees all the time, or whether it is only at peak times just prior to release. In my job there are times I have worked over 80 hours in a week (without overtime pay) when something is very urgent, but after that I can make it up by working much lower than usual hours, or even taking a week or so off without it being subtracted from my holiday entitlement. After a particularly gruelling fortnight ensuring that everything was "right on the night," my employer said, "Thanks" by paying for a 2 week holiday at an exotic location - which included a business class air ticket.

    So despite the fact that the work schedule during the hectic time was outrageous if viewed in isolation, I was and am still perfectly happy and do not feel at all exploited or abused.

    1. Pascal

      Re: But how often?

      "Crunch mode" for games tends to be anything from 6 to 12 weeks before release, since release dates are dictated by marketing / holidays and not actual progress.

      In classic games of the past, crunch time ended there (note: often in a lay-off!).

      But that's not the reality anymore for all the microtransaction-based games as there are now ongoing weekly or monthly deadlines to provide patches/updates/new loot, so on some cases crunch never really ends as long as the game remains profitable.

    2. Colabroad

      Re: But how often?

      Usually months before release, often as much as 6 months.

      The industry also makes heavy use of contractors, your reward was some time off and a nice trip, most contractors get turfed out onto the street once the game ships.

    3. Orv Silver badge

      Re: But how often?

      The way it works in the game industry is you crunch for months on end, then after the game ships they lay you off. There aren't a lot of stable positions.

  20. casinowilhelm
    Joke

    I worked in games in the late 90s and the crunch on the last game I worked on went on for nearly a year, so tbh it sounds like things have massively improved! /s

  21. Stuart Halliday
    Holmes

    "extremely profitable sector" - There was the first clue....

  22. Twilight

    Nothing new here. This has been common practice in the gaming industry for at least 25 years. It's a large part of the reason I never worked for a games company.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why not work for a large healthcare software provider where you can get abuse, unrealistic demands, bullying and sexual harrassment from Frank all year round?

    1. Orv Silver badge

      At least in gaming no one will ever tell you that a person died because you screwed up. At least, gaming as it exists now.

  24. ahjgta

    TP contribution

    Mr. Pratchett had an inspiring story about Commander Vimes making it back by 6 to read to young progeny Sam. Not to strong on the details but maybe in Thud and "Is this my Cow?"

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