Game programming and crunch. Name a more iconic duo.
This time, the conversation started from one of the latest CD Projekt Red controversies: management-enforced crunch. The mostly progressive games media reacted: CDPR broke its promise to steer away from crunch, instead enforcing it on the last mile of Cyberpunk 2077. This. Is. Bad. Therefore, CDPR is evil.
My first instinct was to defend CDPR. A lot of people I follow did so as well, but their views aren’t represented in games journals, except to be depicted as those of „toxic gamers”. Meanwhile, the discussion quickly became political, but that’s nothing new for the synchronized monologues that social media “dialogue” has become lately. We’ll get there, but first, let’s talk about crunch.
What is crunch?
When it comes to software, crunch is an extra effort made to complete a project - that might mean extra hours worked in a day (we’re talking about working for 10-12-14-16 hours a day, resulting in 70-80 hours/week), and/or working six or seven days a week. When teams are behind schedule, or need to complete something fast, one of the most common ways to solve the issues standing in the way of deadlines is to make a concentrated effort. Crunch is usually associated with either hyper-competitive planning driven by external factors, or with bad planning.
We’ll have a look at the gaming industry, because crunch is rarely needed in other types of software; this particular industry is the one most associated with unhealthy work schedules. Let’s talk a bit about why.
The gaming industry is a branch of the entertainment industry; in fact, it’s probably the most competitive branch of entertainment, which in itself is very competitive. Think about it: most people play games created in the past year or so, and don’t usually go back to games released 10 years ago. Newer is better, older is yucky. When it comes to games consumption, we’re as ageist as people can be. So it’s normal to want to ship the new thing; the old thing doesn’t sell anymore. Everyone wants the 12th iteration of the game, feeling like they can’t play the 11th for more than a few months.
There’s also the issue of bad planning. When it comes to „civilian” software, bad planning can be a crunch driver. Naturally, game projects can also suffer from bad planning, but there’s more to it than that. Being a branch of the entertainment industry, game development is an artistic endeavor as much as an engineering one. And art is never finished. It’s always imperfect, always incomplete. With more people contributing to a product, more parallel ideas will develop naturally, growing in the same product, each with its own implementation life cycle. Wrapping up is hard.
To these, I would add another „stress” factor. Passion. People with a fiery passion for the product they are building, giving their best to make it come to life, taking pride in the end result, because that gives them meaning.
So, how does crunch happen? There are two ways crunch time comes into effect. The most obvious one is when the management asks for more hours from developers. This happens less often than people think, especially in software development of any kind, because people hired in this field usually don’t have a problem complaining loudly about unjust management measures, especially when the company is big enough. Explicit crunch is not the norm (and cannot be the norm), since there are worker-protection laws in effect - even in the United States. You can’t impose large stretches of overwork because the law will not permit it; you’re not a cigar-holding plutocrat with an army of children sweeping chimneys for you.
That’s not the only sort of explicit crunch, in my book. The really thorny kind is the one where your manager tells you that you need to finish something by tomorrow - or by Monday. You can’t complain about this one, because your manager might suggest that you haven’t done your job. You didn’t work enough, and you slacked during normal work time. You agreed on estimations, but now there are a number of bugs that need fixing. There will be no overtime; you’re held responsible for your perceived failing and forced to work extra hours without anyone telling you that you have to put in extra hours. This is abusive, true, but for the one being forced to do them, it might be a case of failing to organize their own time. If you come to work, spend half your day on social media, and the other half on cigarette breaks and coffee, you have very few things to say in your defense.
Therefore, it’s obvious that extra hours alone don’t make the crunch. Instead, the crunch is an extended period of working hard when your normal hours are also as productive as they can be. If a slacker does extra hours every other weekend because they are too busy fighting the good fight on Facebook all day, it’s not crunch, it’s just catching up with their work. In the slacker’s case, the issue is one of personal time management. However, if a manager asks you for more when you’re already giving your best, that’s a different beast. Maybe it reflects mismanagement of requirements, of resources, or of output quality. Maybe there’s miscommunication with the testing team.
To sum it all up, working overtime is a management issue. The only thing that differs is what resource is being mismanaged.
Then, there’s also what I would call „implicit crunch” - it’s when nobody asks you for the extra time and extra work, but everyone around you crunches. It’s when your boss always comes to work before you, and leaves after you. It’s when your colleagues do the same. You feel obligated to participate in a similar way in order to get a promotion or a raise. You crunch to achieve the extra performance you need so that you can advance your career. It happens when everyone around you is competitive or too dedicated, and you need to fit in. It’s when the whole team does it without question, and without imposing the long hours explicitly.
This is the worst kind, since anyone can tell you that you’re in the wrong; nobody asked you for overtime, you didn’t need to be there, but others do it because they are passionate. The implied subtext here is that you’re not passionate enough to leave your personal life on hold for a few years while you work on AssMan 2: The Assassin Returns.
All artistic industries have this issue. We never asked how many hours Shakira took to perfect the shaking of her bum to make it look perfect in the Superbowl show. We enjoy the end product, we don’t care how exploited the artists are. It’s hypocritical to claim we do. So why do we care how many hours developers spend making a game? We’ll see. Until then, let’s look at the cruncher.
The heroic game developer
Games are incredibly complex pieces of software. They are the most sophisticated toys ever created; more effort is put into games than into most software out there. The field created its own challenges, its own engineering practices, its own culture. In short, games are huge. AAA games (the most sophisticated of the lot) require 1000+ people to coordinate and create together, on budgets worth hundreds of millions of dollars. On the other hand, indie companies try to make quality games with a fraction of the budget and the people the big guys use.
It’s a field where both creativity and engineering skills are constantly put to the test. If you’re working in a small team, there are very few things you can do to actually be able to deliver a game on schedule. And the schedule is always tight, because you probably have few savings, which are vanishing with each passing day.
The past offers great inspiration. The history of the field boasts heroic game developers doing the impossible on laughably underpowered machines. They made history with their work, their efforts. They created the field. People like Jordan Mechner, John Carmack, John Romero were always on the edge, always pulling that last bit of performance from the machines available to them, always pulling the last bit of energy from themselves. They were dedicated and passionate.
John Carmack (the legendary programmer who created Wolf3D, Doom and Quake, and who virtually made the PC the game station it is now) is, perhaps, one of the most vocal people about this topic. Last year it was his turn to start the outrage mill by suggesting that maybe crunch isn’t such a bad thing and it’s necessary for the games industry. Before reading the article, however, I recommend that you listen to what he actually says in Joe Rogan’s podcast. I empathize with his points, but I am also aware that most people are not as motivated as he is, and perhaps his advice or his ideas are not a perfect fit for everyone.
For a lone developer or for a small team, crunching is the only way. There’s no external help; resources are always scarce, and they must give their best to even manage. Nobody rewards them for simply trying; the reward comes in only if they’re successful. For a lone developer, it’s a fight for survival.
It’s a beautiful place to look at from the outside. It feels heroic. It’s motivating. Reading about Carmack and Romero writing Doom, or reading how a retired game developer telling the story of how he approached implementing an arcade game on a 64kb machine is fascinating. It makes you want to do similar things; it makes you want to be creative and heroic, and to self-sacrifice for a higher purpose. To invest in something higher than you, perhaps with complete disregard for your personal life.
This is the culture that game development is built on. It holds true for the successful indie, the failed indie, and the hobbyist working 5 hours daily after work on their pet project. And it’s important to understand that this is not something you can evaluate in absolutes: it’s not bad or evil, but neither is it ideal or desirable. The reality the gaming industry was built on is both ugly and awe-inspiring. And the results touch the lives of millions, maybe billions.
Crunch in big companies
But if you don’t dare bet that your game will be successful, or if you fail, there’s another way to work in the industry. You join a big company, and work on a big game. You get a job on the AAAs. You become an employee of the Electronic Arts and the Ubisofts of the world. It can be a step up from crunching in your own living room.
As I’ve said, these projects are huge, engaging over 1000 people, and have budgets of hundreds of millions of dollars. Coordinating such high numbers of individuals is an incredibly complex task. It’s like walking a tightrope blindfolded, with just a few seconds at your disposal to cross between two huge buildings. But what do you do if you want to release such a behemoth on a yearly schedule?
„Overtime crunch at Red Dead Redemption II developer Rockstar Games is mandatory”. CD Projekt Red lost a lot of people due to crunch in the development of Witcher 3. You can read the EA Spouse story, or you can read what a Ubisoft executive has to say about crunch. Big companies seem to love crunch, even if they theoretically fight it. But the end product is worth it - and while a handful of people will complain, most end users won’t object to receiving their game on time. Neither will the management, investors, or stock holders. The rare complaints about game developers’ working conditions are usually there just to keep a few dying gaming news outlets afloat; but in all honesty, nobody cares about the topic enough to actually do something about it.
Gaming companies are usually multinational - they span multiple continents, and work around the clock on their products. They offer average pay (e.g.: EA salaries in Romania, although there are many sources of information about this), but they manage to collect some of the most passionate people around. Obviously, their target is the heroic game developer I mentioned earlier, who’s ready for self-sacrifice, and who won’t need to be asked twice to work overtime on a product they more or less wanted to be a part of their entire life.
But what happens when you’re less motivated to work 70 hours a week? Let’s imagine an overworked middle manager’s response to your request for a normal workload: „You see this here?” he says, pointing towards a huge stack of papers. „These are the CVs of young people who would love to have your job. They’re already working 16 hours a day trying to make their dream game at home, and they would love to be paid for work like that.” As an ambitious employee who wants to work on a franchise selling tens of millions of copies, but also wants a normal work schedule and would love to see real sunlight every now and then, you don’t even need to be told this. In your heart, you already kow it, because you work with people who are there, in your office, for 16 hours straight. They’re your colleagues, your peers. If you try to have a normal life, your colleagues will be the ones who’ll take on twice your workload. How are you ever going to gain visibility when you’re the last to come to the office every day, and the first to leave? And if you leave early on the last stretches of the release, you’ll be seen as a traitor to the cause. So the company doesn’t have to tell you - you already know that you have to put in extra work.
In short, nobody has to tell you that you should be staying longer hours. You have to do it because you love what you do. Or because you want that raise or promotion. Health is not an issue (at least not one you consider immediately). And people keep doing overtime in this industry.
Crunch and productivity
Before I write about my personal experience, I want to mention the theory that working too much doesn’t work - and why gamedev companies don’t really sanction it. The theory, as presented in every human resources management course, goes like this: for very short stretches of time, working more than 8 hours a day will boost your productivity, but after some time (and here courses tend to give different durations) productivity drops so much that you produce a lot less than if you worked 40 hours/week.
This theory is true on average, but false at an individual level, because each individual has a different productivity curve, and that productivity depends on personal dedication, passion, and aspirations. This is why you see people like John Carmack saying that they are productive for 13 hours a day - any more than that, and they, too, start producing garbage. But what happens when they work less? What if someone like Carmack is forced to abide by a shorter schedule? Frustration. Frustration, because they know they can do more, but they’re not allowed to. A stupid rule tells them they have to stick to 40 hours a week, and they want to do more.
So I actually expect that people like Carmack would see a huge productivity drop if they were to continually stop themselves from working more on their projects, and that burnouts would trigger faster, because they’re correlated less with the number of hours you work, and more with the frustration felt when working.
40 is not a magic number of hours per week that perfectly balances personal life and productivity. Working 40 hours can be as damaging as working 70; we think that 40 hours/week is better, but I’ve heard overwhelming reports that 32 or 30 hours per week can lead to a huge improvement when it comes to work/life balance. We might see, in the near future, a shift towards working less and less. Will game developers still work 60-70 hours per week? Most likely, yes, for indies. For big companies? If they hire from the same talent pool that has these overworking indies - yes, definitely. I expect that the only factor that might change is the Universal Basic Income, but that topic is outside the scope of this post.
A personal story
I’m a software developer, working in Romania. I’ve never worked professionally on games, but I did have several passion projects that I, sadly, abandoned. However, I want to talk about my experience with crunch, because, after all, what makes game developers different is their passionate for what they do.
For a number of years in the early 2000s, I worked on a digital media center project. I loved the project, and I loved the team. We were breaking new ground with our product, and we made software like Microsoft’s Windows Media Center look like a toy. I took pride in my work, and I remember long stretches of time when I arrived at the office at 7 AM and left at 8 or 9 PM, even on weekends. Nobody explicitly asked me to do it: a part of the team just did it. For weeks. Months. Years.
I can’t really remember how long that period was, but my foggy memory tells me it must have been around two-three years. I don’t really know when it started, but probably on the first day I went to work there - I had internet at the office, which, at the time, I didn’t have at home. Later, I had friends at work, who, at the time, I didn’t have elsewhere. So I became more involved in my work, because the office doubled as my social hub, and soon became my whole life.
After a while, I began spending 11-13-15 hours/day at work. I wasn’t alone in this; our team consisted of 8-10 people, but at least three of us spent countless hours on the project. We weren’t overly judgmental of those who left earlier, but it was clear that we were the heart of the team, and we were willing to walk the extra mile. We didn’t do it to get promoted, nor for a raise; we did it because we loved the project, we wanted to prove to ourselves that we could do it, and we found ourselves unable to say no to requests from our client. We were there, doing the impossible, and delivering it. Here’s the funny thing: it wasn’t enough; it was never enough. And our product eventually died in anonymity.
I’ve had a long time to reflect on that experience, and there are a few interesting things I noticed about it.
First of all, my personal health. Taking breaks during the crunch was profoundly damaging. I felt perfectly fine and happy, and I was in apparent perfect health while I was working, but every time I took time off for a week or two, I tended to spend my holiday being sick. I wasn’t taking time off because I was feeling sick; instead, I got ill almost instantly when I took time off. Luckily, my company forced me to take my time off - they didn’t want to pay for the state-mandated days off, so I had to take four weeks off each year, two in the summer, two in the winter. I remember that, for two years, I got sick every holiday, and only got better as soon as I had to go to work. It was the strangest thing, as if my body was physically protesting against not working.
I didn’t get burnout then. In fact, I didn’t experience burnout until years later, which tells me that burnout and crunch are not as deeply connected as people keep saying they are. I associate burnout with frustration more than with duration of extended work schedule. I think management failures and bad team communication are a greater cause for it that being overworked. I felt burned out when I worked 8 hours/day trying to mediate between my company’s objectives and a hostile development team. I felt the burnout harder when I worked 4 hours/day under a manager who wasn’t communicating properly, and I spent most of my time trying to figure out what to do next. But during the crunch? Tired, maybe - but burned out? No.
Productivity-wise, I didn’t spend enough time on learning how to do things better. Perhaps that was our biggest mistake - we didn’t try to improve things on a systemic level. Instead, we grinded using the tools and skills we’d started the project with. We worked more, but we didn’t work smarter. We improved as code writers, but not as software developers. We had no time to learn to be better, and we could have avoided wasting a lot of time if we’d taken that time instead.
There were certain aspects that gave me wings. A sense of heroic devotion and self-sacrifice. A feeling of camaraderie and dedication to the project, which became my purpose in life. There is a time and place for heroics. Mine was then and there. The experience was incredibly valuable, even if damaging. We have to pay, somehow, for every lesson we learn.
Perhaps the difference from other stories of this sort is that we stopped the crunch on our own terms after, I think, two and a half years. We didn’t feel deeply tired while crunching, but when we stopped, we found our personal lives in disarray. I remember the exact moment when we decided to stop working overtime: one morning, during a discussion I had with my manager, while walking down the streets near the office. I remember the streets, the parked cars, the foliage on the street, but I can’t remember the day, or year, or even the season. My memory is crazy like that.
It was one of those conversations when you don’t remember exactly what was said, but you know what you felt, how the trees looked and what streets you walked on. I remember this one idea: a contract is a contract, and the contract said that we would work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, minus legal holidays, and we’d get 22+ free days a year, as per Romanian law. If extra days were needed, I would compensate with more days off, or a significant increase in payment. It was a thing that I did not compromise on afterwards, and I think neither did the guys on my team. I did do extra work after that, and I worked overnight shifts, but they were always compensated for, mostly with time off. And that’s perfectly fine.
I don’t think there was a visible productivity drop the moment we stopped the crunch. In fact, switching to 8 hours/day made us focus more on the things we wanted to implement. After an initial drop in output, we were again the productive team we used to be with the crunch. Sure, as I’ve said, we needed to make an extra effort every now and again, but we made sure we were compensated for that. As per the terms of the contract.
Years later, while looking for a different job, I attended interviews with multiple game studios. By now, I saw them as my chance to interview the firm, to find out if I wanted to work with them, just like they were interviewing me to see if they wanted to have me as their employee. During our talks, I always brought up the topic of crunch. The answer was always the correct one: we neither require, nor encourage unhealthy practices.
But once you scratch the surface, you hear, „Yes, you do work 8 hours a day, but you take responsibility for that; if you do it, you might be skipped for the next promotion. You will be underappreciated. People cannot appreciate you if they don’t see you.” Or, even better, „Yes, our schedule starts at 9-10 AM, we’re flexible. But we have calls with colleagues from other branches when they wake up. At 9 PM. Or 10 PM. We’re definitely not saying that you should work 12 hours a day. Yes, sometimes, you work weekends, too.” There was a persistent culture of implied crunch in all the game studios I talked to some time ago. I doubt that it’s changed by now. To put it in the words of one of the interviewers: „We can’t choose you when more passionate people are knocking our door every day.” If you think this sounds offensive, know that this happened a bit after I called them slave-herders, so let’s say we were even.
Allow me to summarize before I attack today’s outrage regarding CDPR:
- Crunch is damaging, but you don’t see the damage until afterwards. Your transformation and your degrading health are slow, and that fools you.
- Initial crunch time will help you overcome a lot of obstacles and fix issues. But, after a while, your output decreases in both quality and quantity. Moreover, you’ll be unable to transcend your current limitation by studying different ways of doing things.
- Study and crunching felt incompatible; you need time to reflect and meditate over philosophical issues, and crunching is a time of doing rather than reflecting.
- Crunch is necessary in order to deliver highly polished products. Concentrated extra effort, made over small periods of time, will help you do your best much faster. But this doesn’t work for more than a few weeks, and you can’t do it often. If you’re able to, always compensate with long breaks, and a change of pace when you return from your break.
I learned a lot from my experience. When I led my own teams, my proudest feat was managing to deliver projects without overworking people. I also take pride in helping an overworked team regain its focus through working less and delivering the product that had previously snagged in difficult development stages. I couldn’t have done that without the experience of working 60+ and 70+ hours a week for a long time, and understanding what that means. But I’m also proud of being a part of that team, and of that learning experience. I will never renege on the extraordinary people who fought together for a common purpose. That product is dead, but for a few years we were the best in a business that never became sustainable, and died before hitting 10.000 users.
I learned a lot.
The CDPR controversy
Now, back to the CDPR controversy. It started when Jason Schrier, a journalist advocating against crunch, noted that CD Projekt Red forces people to work extra hours, despite their promise that they wouldn’t. Most of the gaming press picked up on the story, reporting on what looks like an obvious lie on the side of CDPR.
There is no public response from the developers working for CDPR, as they’re probably too busy to care about what Jason Schrier wrote. I tend to agree with Liana Ruppert’s point of view as expressed in the GameInformer podcast. She points out that nobody talked to the developers, no-one asked how they feel about it, and while the raw information seems to point towards an abuse from CDPR, reality is more nuanced than that.
The devil is in the details, and in cultural colonialism
When I saw Jason Schrier tweeting about the abuse, as well as the discussion around it, and the proposed solution of creating a union, I thought that the situation had happened in CDPR’s US-based studios. However, CDPR doesn’t have studios in the US, only in Poland, and it’s interesting and strange to see Jason Schrier complaining about workers being abused in a country such as that one. For a bit of context, I’ll quote Konrad Niemoński’s comment on the youtube video for the GameInformer podcast:
Some context from Poland. By Polish Work Law, all over hours are either paid or taken in additional holidays. All over hours are paid with a bonus depending on time/holiday etc. basically: every normal day the payment is 150% of normal pay, during night hours (normally 21:00-7:00) or holidays (national, church) or Sunday it’s 200% of standard pay. Those over hours can be instead switched for free time. Then the amount of it depends if the employer decides this way, or if the worker asks for it. For the employer it’s 1:1,5 ratio (so 2 days over hours = 3 free day), for the employee it’s 1:1. But common practice is that all over hours are in a 1:1,5 ratio. Additionally, there are restrictions that in the worktime count period (usually 3 months) an average working week cannot exceed 48 h. (so either 6x8h/week or 4x12h/week etc).
Now, a bit more context, this time from Romania. We don’t have the same laws as Poland, but we do have the same cultural background. In fact, what Konrad states in his comment is almost identical to what happens in Romania. So I’ll add more information. Romania has 10+ national holidays yearly, and as a software developer I was entitled to a minimum of 20 free days a year (I think 2 extra for sitting in front of the computer daily). In practice, I had 25 days, due to my seniority and my work experience (I could say I’m moderately old, even if young enough) and I doubt Poland is very different. Compare this to: «Most game-development engineers and artists in the United States are considered salaried employees; as “exempt non-hourly-paid professionals”, they are not subject to state laws governing overtime» (source, via Wikipedia). This means that, in Schrier’s culture, salaried individuals don’t get paid extra for the overtime, which, by law, is impossible in places like Poland or Romania.
So this is a nuance that needs to be understood when we see Jason Schrier’s followers assassinate the character of people like Liana Ruppert, when she defends the likes of CDPR. This point of view is US-centric; they seem unable to conceive that there are countries where things work in a radically different way than in the United States.
This is one of the challenges of a global market. Not everyone lives in the United States, and not everyone feels the same. We don’t have the same experience, the same history, or the same laws. However, the cultural juggernaut of the English-speaking US-centric media ignores cultural differences, projecting its own limitations unto societies and cultures it doesn’t understand. A few examples:
- in the US, slavery is a racial issue. However, in Eastern and Central Europe, slavery had many forms, one of which had a racial component: enslaved gypsies were indeed an issue, but not all gypsies were enslaved. At the same time, Romanian peasants lived under harsh serfdom in Transylvania, in conditions not essentially different from those of slaves. Recently, Romania had issues with human trafficking (whose primary targets were women and adoptive children), with a recent example of gypsies holding slaves which doesn’t fit any US narrative (link in Romanian). Despite all this, race-centered discourse is imported from the US, and examples of systemic racial oppression are desperately sought; sometimes, proof is invented to sustain a false narrative. Here’s a debunked case of this sort.
- the discussion around women’s rights is an important one, but the conversation is quite different in Romania than it is in the Western world. Former communist countries, like Romania or Poland, have a history that isn’t similar to that of the United States. Here, women joined the work force early on and gained virtually the same rights (as well as some natural and mostly justified legal privileges). However, local discourse about women’s oppression is still centered around arguments imported from the West, even if things such as the pay gap arguably don’t exist here. More relevant and important feminist topics would be domestic abuse, overworked women, the prevalence of sex work in the form of video chat and prostitution, or human trafficking (see above). Discourse imported from the Western world ignores the problems of Romanian women; this is why feminist movements and NGOs in Romania tend to be disconnected from Romanian realities.
In these cases, and many others, including the recent topic of police brutality, the internet’s cultural footprint tends to erase local culture; we’re caught in a huge debate over political alignments, such as Marxism and capitalism, when the issues on the ground are quite different. US-centric media thinks in cookie-cutter terms about the rest of the world, projecting its own concepts wherever it sees similarity, and thus strikes wrong; partly, it disregards the realities of ex-communist countries, because our skin is white, and therefore we must be indistinguishable from „white Americans”.
I call this cultural colonialism; but it is a kind that nobody in the US is likely to apologize for any time soon, because these judgments feel justified. The US cultural juggernaut makes decisions and speaks in my name, thinking it knows all about me. It doesn’t. This is just cultural colonialism at its finest.
Back in CDPR, you don’t know how lucky you are
Looking at what CDPR does, I see it’s asking people to work 6 extra days, after obviously not asking them to do so. That doesn’t necessarily mean that people weren’t working overtime already. As we’ve already seen above, game developers will likely crunch, whether they want to or not, and implied crunch needs to be solved on a team-by-team basis. However, let’s focus on the 6 extra days - working full Saturdays for 6 more weeks until release.
It’s not unheard of - it is, in fact, quite common - to make an extra effort right before a release. What a company-wide 6-days-per-week memo tells me about the situation is that this was not the strategy thus far. So here’s my hot take.
I don’t think the need to work extra hours is good. It’s fine to complain about it. I don’t judge the developers who will say that their employer shouldn’t have demanded they do so. However, I think some overtime is ok, and that the way that CDPR acted is acceptable, at least on a surface level. Remember the context: in Poland, developers probably have at least 20 days off, plus national and religious holidays, and they will be repaid either with time off, or with 1.5x or 2x the money they usually get for their time. Additionally, CDPR shares 10% of its profits with its employees. It’s in the workers’ interest to have a successful release, as they will probably sell a lot more if the product is polished before it reaches players.
I think it’s CDPR’s right to make this decision. The law allows it, and it’s not as inhumane as the US-based Jason Schrier, who probably works more than a CDPR employee, says it is. Morally, I think it can be justified; if I were a team leader at CDPR, I’d talk to each of my teammates to make sure they get a say about this. Jason Schrier suggested that this was not the case, that the management just communicated it to team leaders. However, by now I no longer trust Mr. Schrier’s reporting, since it’s missing a lot of context and many details.
In fact, the reason I wrote all this isn’t to discuss CDPR’s actual working conditions; although it’s funny to suggest that unions are the solution in an ex-communist country. In Romania, any company with over 50 employees is forced to allow them to form a union. I doubt that legislation is much different in a country that had Solidarność.
Instead, what I wanted to point out is that the US-centric games media doesn’t respect a culture they feel entitled to write off as „similar to us/US”. Europe is different. The ex-communist block is even more different from what game journalists assume us to be, basing their opinions on their own experience. It’s better if they stick to „Cyberpunk 2077 is not punk enough” and „Cyberpunk 2077 is crumpling our sensibilities”. And if you, as a game journalist, want to have a conversation about crunch, you should start by looking at your own contracts and overtime. Perhaps you’re overworked.
PS: Many thanks to Roxana, whose command of the English language and infinite patience made this post readable. The errors are due entirely to my stubbornness.