Lewis Gordon writes in The Verge about video game companies that have moved to 4-day weeks. This is especially significant because the industry is one that traditionally has featured terrible work-life balance and near-sweatshop conditions at some places:
For years, stories about labor and workplace culture have made headlines in the video game industry for all the wrong reasons. Erin Hoffman lifted the lid on EA’s grim working hours in the early noughties, and since then, crunch has remained endemic within the industry, despite evidence of overwork’s harmful impacts on health and work quality. According to the latest IGDA developer satisfaction survey, crunch has only intensified since the pandemic began. [But] Crows Crows Crows, alongside a growing number of independent studios — Die Gute Fabrik, Young Horses, Kitfox Games, Armor Games, Ko_Op Mode — plus, most eye-catchingly, Guardians of the Galaxy maker Eidos-Montreal and its subsidiary Eidos-Sherbrooke are pushing back against such ingrained approaches to work.
One reason this is notable is that it marks a strategic shift in how these companies— and in the industry generally— think about talent and passion, and how leaders and companies should tap into them. Overwork is common, studio head William Pugh explains,
when you have a passionate workforce who has had formative experiences with the games such capitalist organizations produce. “If your dream is to make games, then why wouldn’t you want to sacrifice to do that?” he says. “But so often, it’s just people sacrificing to make nicer rock textures or optimizing particle effects.”
For most companies, using that passion to get more hours per week out of people just makes sense (especially if you’re an industry in which deadlines are brutal but managerial practices are often not really tight, and executives have the power to declare that some new cool feature has to be part of the next release or else), but these companies are taking the position that actually, you want to use it more judiciously— not waste it on needless sacrifice, but save it for work that really matters, and show people how to be passionate about their work in ways that are sustainable, not self-destructive.