As a professional communicator and PR representative for your company, communication goes in many different directions. I believe that it is just as important for you to be an ambassador of the stakeholders in your organization as much as you are a representative of your organization to stakeholders. Please re-read that sentence again if you need to. With that in mind, I wanted to take my platform and use it to bring up a discussion that needs to be addressed relating to the gaming industry. I’m talking about the issue of game developer crunch.
I first wanted to bring up some prominent examples of crunch and mistreatment of game developers that have plagued the gaming industry in recent history. Then I will dive into a discussion on how the gaming PR pro can step in and help correct this culture of crunch. Beginning with crunch, though, we should first define the problem…
Game Crunch: It’s a Serious Problem
For someone who genuinely loves games and is in awe of how much we are spoiled with the current era of gaming, it was very disheartening to hear about the grim circumstances that some of my favorite recent titles were made under. Developers working on games like Fortnite, Red Dead Redemption II and Anthem have had to face serious crunch to get updates out the door and it has led to the deterioration of the developers’ mental health. To learn more about crunch, check out this Variety article. Crunch is a serious and unique problem, but I believe gaming PR pros can help alleviate the problem. Here’s what can be done…
Communicators in the Gaming Industry: Help Change the Narrative
As a communications professional, it is your job to help foster the relationship between your organization and the various stakeholders that affect its interests. This means not only communicating on behalf of your organization outwards but also communicating on behalf of your stakeholders inwards. With that in mind, here are some tangible steps to help alleviate game crunch and allow the narrative surrounding crunch to change:
Communicate with Management on behalf of developers
If I were a PR professional working for Rockstar Games, Bioware, or Epic Games (all of whom were called out for workplace crunch), I would first be bringing these reports straight to studio leadership and explaining that this is unacceptable workplace practice. Extra work should be recognized and praised, sure, but it should in no way be the norm for a company. Workers need time for self-care and need to find a work-life balance if they want to continue doing what they want in the long run. These points need to be stressed to management.
Change the expectation for new game release timeframes
Expectations for game releases simply need to change. A rushed development cycle leads to crunch and an unfinished game full of bugs and glitches (Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 and the most recent Fallout title are great examples). Instead of promising fans a new game every year or a new feature update every other week, set launch dates further back. This may cause you as the communicator to face backlash from fans, the publisher of the game and investors but as a communicator, you should be an ambassador for the game developers first (Without them, there is no game!).
These are just a few first steps that can be taken to better satisfy the needs of game creators, which will in turn lead to better quality games but more importantly, more complete and healthy individuals at game companies. Hard work should be celebrated but this workaholic culture that has crept into the gaming industry should not be embraced. Here’s to hoping for a better future for game developers and a friendly reminder for everyone to remember to take some well-deserved time off. We all know the old saying, “work hard play hard,” and it definitely should reign true.
Zach Ferenchak is a current sophomore studying Emerging Media at Capital University in Columbus, Ohio. He serves as Chapter president for Capital University PRSSA. His dream is to one day use his communications skills to support creators in the Gaming or Technology industries. Feel free to follow his Twitter, or connect with him on LinkedIn.