“Crunch culture” has become a rampant part of the work environment in the gaming industry. With incredibly long hours, few days off, zero break time, and little pity for employees that fail to sustain this intense speed, the health and wellness of the talented professionals developing video games has taken a backseat to the multi-billion dollar revenue stream the timely release of these games generates.
In this two-part article, a Tampa wage and hour attorney will discuss crunch culture and the wage and hour infractions that employers often commit when they promote this type of over-demanding work environment.
What is Crunch Culture?
Crunch culture mostly impacts “creatives.” Whether it’s tech savvy professionals like developers, coders, and engineers or imaginative professionals like graphic designers or writers, the concept is that these artistically-gifted employees are expected to work long hours and continue working until they reach their deadline. Crunch culture endorses that employees feel “the struggle” as part of their creative process. In other words, the belief system is that employees’ passion to produce results should outweigh everything else including stress, fatigue, and mental health.
The Wage and Hour Violations Committed
Developing and releasing video games is a booming industry that produces billions in revenue every year for the production companies that produce these ambitious games for consoles, smartphones, tablets, desktops, and other platforms. Crunch culture features many questionable labor practices including:
- Intense Hours: Some game developers average over 80 hours per week. When deadlines near, these hours increase. In fact, a Rockstar Games executive recently praised his staff for working over 100 hours weekly to reach their looming deadline.
- No Overtime: In lieu of traditional time-and-a-half overtime pay, many companies instead offer their “crunch team” other forms of benefits including deferred time off and free meals. One video game company even proudly tweeted that they had served their developers over 11,000 meals over the course of the game’s development.
- No Minimum Wage: Because of the demand to get into the industry, many talented professionals are willing to earn a daily fee that is significantly less than the standard hourly rate for their position. When working an 80 hour work week, their hourly pay may be less than the state’s minimum wage requirement.
- Contracting Work: Many professionals are actually hired as independent contractors, but treated as a salaried employee with unpaid overtime. Other professionals are offered a “rolling contract” with limited or zero benefits.
- Restrictive Waivers: In some cases, the video game company will make the employees sign a restrictive contract citing that the employee agrees to work over 40 hours per week without additional compensation.
For more information on crunch culture, please read the second section.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.