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Crunch can put devs at odds with their own mental health, warns Blizzard dev

"We have to take care of our mental health because we put a lot of a pressure on ourselves,"​ cautioned Blizzard's Thiago Klafke.
"We have to take care of our mental health because we put a lot of a pressure on ourselves.”

- Overwatch senior environment artist Thiago Klafke warns fellow devs to beware crunch-induced burnout.

The continued struggle the game development industry has with crunch, both mandated and self-imposed, came up during a panel at the Digital Dragons conference this year, prompting developers from Bungie, Naughty Dog, Sony Santa Monica and Blizzard to share their own opinions and experience with the controversial practice.

As highlighted in a Eurogamer story on the event, the four senior developers speaking at the panel held varied opinions on crunch ranging from Bungie’s zero-crunch policy to the arguably problematic idea that crunch comes as a byproduct of passionate development.

Blizzard’s Thiago Klafke, however, sought to remind developers that crunch can hasten burnout and have a severe impact on the mental health, even when that crunch is self-imposed.

"Sometimes I have some mini-burnouts when I'm working on a thing for too long. I look at the same thing for two months and I'm like, 'I hate it, I can't look at it anymore,’” recalled Klafke “That's the time I go for a walk on the weekends and forget I work on games, and do random stuff that doesn't have anything to do with games. I do meditation.”

Klafke explained that game developers tend to place a lot of pressure on themselves and their own work, driving themselves to create and excel at a rapid pace and unfortunately putting their own mental health at risk. 

“We want to make better stuff, we want to get better faster, and that's something that burns you out. You've got to be careful with that,” said Klafke. “You've got to learn to enjoy the process, and when you're working try not to be over-thinking, 'Oh I'm slow and I can't do this...' It's hard but if you can do that, you burn out much more rarely."

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