The Creative Assembly director looks at the issue of crunch, and why the effects are not the same for everyone

Simpson: There’s good overtime and bad overtime

Developers can experience good overtime and bad overtime in game development, says The Creative Assembly’s creative director.

Writing in his latest Develop blog, Simpson likened taking overtime in game development to cholesterol, and that developers can experience both good and bad kinds, some of which may not be healthy for them if they do too much of it.

He explained that good overtime could improve game quality, exercise a creative’s skills, help struggling colleagues and would inevitably help win awards.

He also argued that when developers are aiming to create original content, it only took the loss of a few key developers to throw the best laid plans into disarray, with the pressure to work extra hours “impossible to completely escape”.

"With good overtime, the extra hours are not the thing that benefits the project," said Simpson.

"They’re a side effect; a symptom of people fully engaged in work they think is fascinating and worthwhile, and they stay later because it’s more fun than whatever else they would be doing."

Simpson said bad overtime however is not completely voluntary, enforced to meet an arbitrary deadline or cut costs and is there to fix problems that are not of the team’s making.

Ultimately he said that the effects of overtime were not the same for everyone.

“But does overtime work? There’s plenty of research that shows that extra hours worked don’t directly equate to more stuff getting done, and that there’s a point where working more is counterproductive,” said Simpson.

“But it’s not the same for everyone. And it seems like the more creative and talented you are, the higher the limit. At award ceremonies, the developer receiving the award always, always thanks the team for the exceptional effort they put in to making the game.

“This isn’t because overtime effort is necessary to win awards; it’s because award-winning developers are driven, and driven developers spend their time doing what they love.”

You can read Mike Simpson’s full opinion piece here.

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