60-hour work weeks as a norm? Wow.
I've been trying to catch up on some Internet reading over the weekend and I stumbled across a blog entry from Greg Costikyan, EIC at Play This Thing and CEO at Manifesto Games. Costik (or caustic depending on his rant) has never been shy about talking about games, be it development, the industry as a whole or the indie game scene. While I have not always agreed with his points, he always makes for interesting reading because he is passionate and researches his topics.
So it was with interest that I read his rant about Mike Capps and International Game Developers Association and the comments Capps made as part of a panel discussion in late 2008 about 60 hours being a standard work week at Epic Games, where Capps is the CEO. Capps, at the time an IGDA board member, said that 60-hour weeks were expected at Epic and developers were hired based on whether it was anticipated that they would work those hours. What also set Costik off was IGDA not taking a stand on the issue, since the game developer association has a Quality of Life committee designed to study such things as work weeks. The issue has raised a massive forum discussion on the IGDA boards that has lasted more than two months.
There have been some interesting arguments on both sides of the issue, but there was one commentor that seemed to echo my sentiments. Miami attorney (and IGDA board member) Tom Buscaglia offered this in the forums:
Having been in a few gaming journalism jobs, I have always put in more than 40 hours a week because I love what I do. As a manager, I've always worked whatever hours are needed to get the job done, which also makes sense in the development arena. But, expecting 60-hour weeks as a matter of course from the rank and file just leaves too much room for abuse, especially with a lazy management team who pushes most of the work downhill. People should be expected to have lives with friends and family, as well as time to recharge their emotional batteries after a harrowing work week (or month if a team is in crunch mode). It's an interesting debate, one even more relevant after disclosures in 2004 that Electronic Arts and other companies were forcing staff to work more than 80-hour weeks.
We all want good games. What do you expect from the team developing the game? Do you want a good game no matter what the human cost? Do you want more realistic release dates from publishers? In an ideal world, what would your guidelines be?