Crunch is bad. Boasting about crunch is bad. You’d imagine everyone knows that now, wouldn’t you? Yet, and I’m not a qualified reputation manager, I still think I have a beneficial suggestion that could greatly aid many within the games development industry: Stop saying you think crunch is great. If only Striking Distance CEO Glen Schofield had taken on my services before the weekend.
Schofield was one of the founders of Call Of Duty developer Sledgehammer Games, and is now the boss of Striking Distance, the new studio developing The Callisto Protocol. In a since-deleted tweet from Saturday (thankfully captured by up-n-coming games journalist Jason Schreier), Schofield thought it’d be a great idea to boast just how hard they’re working on their debut project by detailing the ridiculous number of hours and stress in which he’s having his team work. In some troubling txtspk he said,
We r working 6-7 days a week, nobody’s forcing us. Exhaustion, tired, Covid but we’re working. Bugs, glitches, perf fixes. 1 last pass thru audio. 12-15 hr days. This is gaming. Hard work. Lunch, dinner working. U do it cause ya luv it.
Oh Glen. No. First of all, working seven days a week, for 15 hours a day, is not only a grotesque waste of the gift of human life, but will also make absolutely anyone very broken. You can have no idea if your employees are doing it “cause they luv it,” or whether it’s because it’s been made clear that their boss might expect it. It’s a boss’s job to prevent people from working like this. And perhaps most of all, no, this is not “gaming.” It’s in fact a deeply harmful way of life.
After an awful lot of, well, passionate reactions to the tweet, Schofield deleted it, then twelve hours later the same day, launched into damage-limitation with an attempt to walk back the comments.
Anyone who knows me knows how passionate I am about the people I work with. Earlier I tweeted how proud I was of the effort and hours the team was putting in. That was wrong. We value passion and creativity, not long hours. I’m sorry to the team for coming across like this.
— Glen A. Schofield (@GlenSchofield) September 3, 2022
While it’s great to see the apology to his team, who are of course the people in such circumstances most likely to be affected by bosses who extol the virtues of working themselves far too hard, there are a lot of omissions in this follow-up. Given that Jason’s tweet including the original has seen over 25,000 likes, it’s perhaps naive to believe deleting the first tweet would do the trick and make the bad bits go away. So to gloss over the bit where he said how his staff were working those back-breaking hours through “exhaustion” and “Covid” is perhaps not a brilliant look.
The ol’ “Anyone who knows me,” gambit is never a great start, not least when it in no way suggests anything to the contrary of his previous remarks. But to summarise a tweet in which he proselytizes working through exhaustion, not stopping for meals, and doing it all with the expectation that anyone working for him would put up with it because of “luv,” as saying how “proud I was of the effort and hours” is just bonkers. Nope, that isn’t at all what he said.
Hopefully this will be a watershed moment for employees at Striking Distance, and such brutal hours will be made unacceptable. But it exemplifies an all-too-common issue in games development, where a boss’s attitude toward over-working employees creates a workplace where such efforts become tacitly expected. One where staff naturally assume that if they aren’t seen putting in as much work as the person next to them, then they will be deemed less “passionate,” and thus lose out on opportunities.
We’ve reached out to Striking Distance to ask if there will now be any new policies put in place to protect staff from such extreme work hours, and we will let you know if they get back to us.