Liz Prince discusses what studios can do at the beginning of the development process to help ease any crunch later down the line

Liz Prince heads up Amiqus, one of the leading recruitment agencies in the games industry. She has also pioneered the G Into Gaming initiative.

Recent revelations of 100-hour working weeks for staff at development studios have once again lit the blue touch paper on the debate surrounding crunch within the video games industry and how best to deal with it, once and for all.

Historically, the long working hours associated with bringing a game to market were treated almost as a given for developers. But it’s now much easier for staff to share horror stories of consistent overworking practices and aggressive behaviour by bosses. And rightly so.

There’s a growing school of thought among game development professionals that the only way to stop this kind of exploitation is through unionisation, which is causing enough ripples through the industry at a high level that positive action seems almost certain.

First and foremost, the practice of regularly working long hours is supremely bad for an individual’s health. It’s also unsustainable in the long-term and catastrophic for business. Ultimately, to say those extra few hours aren’t doing anyone any good at all would be an understatement. We need to find another way to get stuff done and the answers lie in planning and people management.

What can we do at the beginning of the development process to help ease any crunch later down the line? It would seem studios need to have a thorough and honest understanding of their own abilities in order to plan and complete projects on time and on budget. Appreciating the challenges of hiring into the team, knowing which skills are going to take longer to bring on board, will help to manage to realistic timeframes. If a problem arises, it needs to be dealt with there and then. Senior members of the team can also help by leading by example, making their own work-life balance a priority, keeping staff motivated and offering support.

Playing a video game is a fun thing to do – creating games should be a fun experience, too. And this is an important message for us to send out to potential employees, because attracting and retaining staff is crucial to all companies, and the industry at large.

Thankfully there are very, very few businesses which can be described as the ‘toxic workplaces’ that have been discussed of late. However, there are some practical ways which can help all businesses attract and retain staff and work-life balance is right up there on people’s priority lists. We are passionate about encouraging more women into the industry through our G Into Gaming initiative and for women there are often different things to consider, especially if they are a primary caregiver. Stories of industry crunch don’t make for an attractive working environment when other industries bend over backwards to offer flexibility to working parents.

We need to move on swiftly from the recent revelations, learn from them, alter working practices and show those outside of the industry that this is a great place to work! Let’s continue to work together to improve industry working practices, celebrate the good and strive for the ideal.

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