Lucien’s Unpopular Opinion: Gaming Culture Needs to Change, for the Devs’ Sake

I’m sure you all read the stories that came out about how Rockstar has been working their staff to verifiably insane degrees.  100 hour work weeks is ridiculous.  A 60 hour work week is already bananas, but now add another full work week to that.  No rational person can handle that.  But the worst part is that this is nothing new.  Horror stories coming out of EA are old news by this point.  Same with Ubisoft.  In fact, it is a known fact within the gaming industry that there are very few companies that don’t engage in this sort of behavior.  It’s a tragedy, really.  And it’s because of this that I think there needs to be some changes

It bugs me when I see in the comments on these articles that devs shouldn’t complain.  After all, they make big money, right?  So what if they are a little inconvenienced?  The rationale of people who have never had that level of crunch before.  I used to work retail.  At Target.  The management there was shit, so at the end of EVERY SINGLE DAY, we were out late.  Why?  Because we would have to work overtime in order to get all the shit that needed to be finished done.  All because management didn’t know how to handle people.  It sucked the life out of us when each and every night we are getting out almost an hour late.  It’s long about midnight when we are heading home.  Now I imagine that feeling, seven days a week, where you work 16 hour days.  No sane person can live that way.

But why does gaming culture need to change?  What did we do?  I mean, isn’t this a thing where the people involved need to unionize or the government needs to have stricter regulations?  Sure, those things do need to happen.  However, there is a deeper cause that people aren’t seeming to see.  It is a problem that goes beyond the gamers who are part of it.  There is a corporate problem.  So don’t think I’m pointing the fingers at gamers specifically.  The entire industry needs a shift, and soon.

This problem comes from the hype cycle.  The yearly release cycle.  Gamers get so rabid for new released.  I’m guilty of this as well.  I have been hanging on every piece of news that comes out about Cyberpunk 2077.  I am one of the people who believes the theory going around that the game is going to be released in 2019.  Especially since the devs say they have worked overtime to optimize the game to current consoles.  They have made very clear that as amazing as that gameplay trailer looked, it did so on tech that current consoles can handle.  It was a huge news story where they said they aren’t shooting for a next-gen release.  That and some of the bits about leaked info, I am reasonably certain.

That being said, if Cyberpunk 2077 did come out in 2020, as much as that would be a bit of a bummer for me, I’d be okay with it.  If it means that the devs could have a working life that doesn’t push them to these extremes, I would be perfectly fine with it.  In fact, when I get news that a game I want is being pushed back, that generally makes me happy, because it means the devs are doing their best to make sure everything is done well and it is the best it can be.

A sentiment that cannot be seen among the rest of gaming culture.  For example, if Rockstar had come out and said that Red Dead Redemption II had to be delayed for months or even longer in order to not have to crunch like this, what do you think the reaction would be?  It would be outrage.  Fan rage would be everywhere.  Shit-posts left and right.  People saying that the devs shouldn’t complain so much.  You know I’m right.

When I started this, I said that gamers aren’t the only ones to blame for this, and I wasn’t lying.  The truth is that the publishers are too.  Not only do huge corporations set hard deadlines that push people, but they also make the hype culture go out of control.  A lot of people blame Bioware for the end of Mass Effect 3 being as bad as it is, but the reality is that that had less to do with them and more to do with EA setting a hard deadline to when the game had to be released.  So they just cut corners and used the first draft of the ending written by some rando dude.  This story isn’t new.

There is something to be said for how Bethesda does thing. Typically, they don’t even announce games until they are almost ready, and when they are reasonably certain that this is when they will be ready.  It’s a good strategy.  Instead of dragging the hype cycle out, they can concentrate it into something that is damn-near orgasmic.  It’s impressive, to say the least.  Even if I don’t like all their game, their strategy of giving devs time to work without taxing them, waiting until they know it’s gonna be ready in time, that’s the right approach.

But these companies also like to get the hype train rolling too. They want to get gamers salivating and putting in those pre-orders.  That’s how the money gets made.  It works.  It really does.  I have been guilty of buying into it myself.  I like to think that I’m more stable about this stuff now, but like I said, I hang on all the news that comes out about Cyberpunk 2077.  It’s addicting.  Especially when I know that the developer has a pedigree for quality that I can tell they aren’t shying away from now.

All of this being said, there does need to be a change.  Gaming culture is becoming unsustainable.  We need to start treating these developers like human beings and having human expectations for them.  I guarantee, it would see the industry be better for it, even if games took longer to make.  We can afford for them to take the time.

Until next time, a quote,

“Got the chrome in the bloodstream
Got a hot red metal soul,
I’m out looking for action,
Guess I’m on a roll.” – Johnny Silverhand, Cyberpunk 2077

Peace out,

Maverick

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