Extended overtime (“crunch”) is a deeply controversial topic in our industry. Countless studios have undertaken crunch, sometimes extending to mandatory 80-100 hour work weeks for years at a time. If you ask anyone in the industry about crunch, you’re likely to hear opinions stated very strongly and matter-of-factly based on that person’s individual experience.
And yet such opinions are almost invariably put forth with zero reference to any actual data.
If we truly want to analyze the impact of extended overtime in any scientific and objective way, we should start by recognizing that any individual game project must be considered meaningless by itself – it is a single data point, or anecdotal evidence. We can learn absolutely nothing from whether a single successful or unsuccessful game involved crunch or not, because we cannot know how the project might have turned out if the opposite path had been chosen – that is, if a project that crunched had not done so, or if a project that did not employ crunch had decided to use it.