Fri. Jun 9th, 2023

In game development, there are scant few words as universally reviled as ‘crunch.’ While there are some who view it as a necessary evil of the industry, there are others who view it how it is: workplace abuse.

Let’s be clear right now about one thing regarding crunch: no, crunch is far from necessary to make good games.

I can’t believe that such a sizzling hot take had to be given out that killing yourself to make video games is not good for the industry, but I just need to spell that out here. Some amazing games have been made under no crunch whatsoever. “Hades,” a great game, was made by a studio that makes a point of not crunching its workforce to death. Telling their employees to take vacations or just making sure that the people they are hiring are not losing years of their life make entertainment.

However, to my disbelief and hopefully to yours, people disagree.

Brendan McNamara, director behind the “L.A. Noire” franchise, has made numerous statements about crunch and how it is practically a mandatory part of the creation of video games. A little background regarding this man as well as how the game suffered under his leadership.

After this game, Rockstar, the publisher of “L.A. Noire,” decided to no longer associate anything with the studio McNamara had made for the game. His misdirection and abuse of his employees is almost legendary with one employee calling him, “The angriest person he’s ever met” and stated plainly, “It’s one thing for him to be angry behind closed doors, but it was incredibly common for him to scream at whoever was pissing him off in the middle of the office.” 

A man like that should never have employees under him. Ever. To verbally abuse people so openly is to be an absolute animal of a person. 

But why should I simply say that he’s a monster when he can basically confirm that for us? I won’t put everything down here, but here’s a taste of this madman’s take on crunch. Keep in mind, these are things he actually said in an interview with IGN:

“Am I passionate about making the game? Absolutely. Do you think that I’m going to voice my opinion? Absolutely. But I don’t think that’s verbal abuse. We all work the same hours. People don’t work any longer hours than I do. I don’t turn up at 9 a.m. and go home at 5 p.m., and go to the beach. I’m here at the same hours as everybody else is. We’re making stuff that’s never been made before. If you wanted to do a nine-to-five job, you’d be in another business.”

And here’s the crown jewel. In this part of the interview, the IGN reporter asked, “Looking back, what would you have done differently?”

McNamara responded, “I think we’d think twice about Sydney (to clarify, this is where his studio was located)… there’s not that much government assistance, compared to Canada or the U.S. The expectation is slightly weird here, that you can do this stuff without killing yourself; well, you can’t.

Crunch is not a byproduct of game development but a product of poor management. Oftentimes, crunch is used as a crutch as the deadline for the game inches ever closer, managers believe that they have no other choice but to push everyone to their limits. This miasma of misconstruing crunch as a mandatory part of game development is literally all over the industry and across the world.

“Bioware” was infamous for framing crunch, an abuse and detrimental part of the gaming industry as “Bioware Magic.” They viewed those final, stressful and painful months of development as the period of time where all of their games finally come together to be worth the suffering the crunch has caused. Anthem, the game whose production finally broke “Bioware’s” back, revealed how aimless and lost the project seemed until the final few months where they were, you know, developing the game with no interuptions. They believed that crunch would save their title and make it better. They thought that they were on the cusp of greatness. What they were actually on the cusp of was a cliff whose edge meant the end of “Bioware.”

There is no better time than to talk about how crunch as many different projects now have experienced these very same problems all the way back to the beginning are starting to rear their ugly heads. Many games are getting delayed instead of killing their workforce and that is a great thing. Games should be given the proper amount of time and effort.

The way games are made needs to change or something else is going to force change upon it, and I think all publishers and developers should know exactly what they would prefer.

Edward Park is a fourth-year Secondary Education (English) major.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *