Double Fine founder Tim Schafer believes studios must do more to dispel the entrenched view that crunch is an unavoidable part of game development.
Speaking to The Washington Post about creating Double Fine's long-awaited sequel, Psychonauts 2, the veteran designer admitted the Microsoft-owned studio has been guilty of crunching in the past, but said that's precisely why it's important to push back when those familiar (and decidedly unhealthy) habits start to rematerialize.
"We tried to find different ways to not have crunch and we’ve gotten better, but a couple of projects have been in trouble and needed to have a lot of extra work," Schafer concedes. "This last year has been interesting for everybody. Everyone’s at home [and] you’re trying to monitor to make sure no one’s overworking, but everyone’s life is so hidden from you during quarantine that it’s been more difficult."
For Schafer, cultivating a healthy work-life balance hinges (at least, in part) on recognizing those early warning signs and acting decisively. Slipping back into a dangerous cycle is all too easy, especially when it's been the norm for so long.
"The important thing is to try to change the mentality that it’s just part of the system. Some people are like, ‘Well, it’s just part of making games,’ but it’s only part of making games if you choose to not make it a priority," continues Schafer. "You’ve got to actually see the quality of life of the team as something that you can’t lower just to make a deadline."
You can hear more from Schafer by checking out the full interview over on The Washington Post.