I was going to write a rambling, insightful, and dreadfully handsome post about the nature of crunch in the games industry (and others), and why I have no issues with it, but I think everyone who cares has already taken a seat on one side of the argument or the other. In short, I crunch because I love the game I am working on and I want to make sure it is the best it can be.
It basically revolves around the custody arrangement I have for Cami. It’s called a 2-2-5-5 schedule, and it’s one of the standard arrangements these days. Essentially: every Monday and Tuesday night Cami is with her mother; every Wednesday and Thursday night she is with me; and we alternate Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
This meant that every Wednesday and Thursday, and every other Friday, during the development of The Last of Us, I had to leave work at 5pm on the dot to pick up Cam from school. It also meant on those days I would be at work somewhat earlier than normal, and I would take a shorter lunch, eating a sandwich at my desk. The other days I would work longer hours, and during crunch I’d be able to work really late if necessary. In anticipation of crunch, I actually started doing longer hours and even some weekend days well in advance of most of my coworkers. I knew they would be working hard long hours five days a week when we neared the end of the project, and so I “preloaded” my crunch if you will. (*)
The crazy thing is, after something like nine months of doing this I didn’t feel the need to stop. After each previous crunch period that I’ve experienced, four in total, I’ve been dead to the world for a week or two. Exhausted, unhealthy, mentally weary, and in great need of a holiday. At the end of development for The Last of Us I felt great. I had been spending quality time with my daughter, I’d been cooking home cooked meals two or three days a week, I had been having playdates with her friends and even getting a babysitter once a month or so to hang out with friends or go to a movie. It was almost as if I was a productive and healthy member of society.
I also think it’s a sign of how fantastic Naughty Dog is how well they understood and accepted this schedule of mine. I would be in deep discussion with Bruce, Evan or any of my other coworkers, I could look at my watch and tell them I needed to leave immediately to pick up Cami, and they would bid me adieu and we’d continue in the morning.
I always felt a slight pang of guilt for not being there supporting my friends every hour, but ultimately this was the healthiest work life balance I’ve attained. I even had time to shave, keeping me handsome as previously promised.
So honestly, if you find yourself needing to work long hours for a project, I implore that you try your own version of the 2-2-5-5 schedule, or whatever fits your needs. Take time for yourself, make it known to your coworkers what your schedule will be, and stick to your guns. And stay handsome.
(*) Please remember this was self-imposed. I work long hours because I love the project I am working on, not because I am pressured into doing so.