A colleague recently asked me a straight forward question that piqued my interest. Right after I revealed my latest iPhone app to him, CrunchTime™, he asked, “Why would I need that ?” The application is designed to help improve the quality of life for anyone who has a job. Is working unpaid overtime so routine in our industry, so much so that my colleague is used to it and just accepts it, causing him to not understand why an app would be created to address the constant grind of working long hours for extended periods of time? While still curious about the reason for the question I responded, “Because it will help improve your work-life balance and give you more time to do the things you love.”
Later I realized what he meant to ask was “What does the app do ?” So I’d like to answer that question and share more information about the functionality of the app along with the reasoning and some the back-story behind creating CrunchTime™ and the many features that can be found within the app.
We are an industry full of intelligent problem solvers, creativity, and talent - why not use some of it to repair one of the most self-destructive practices of our industry? Effective planning & working smarter, not crunching, in-order to complete tasks is a large part of the solution. Crunching is an easy way to quickly burnout your talent, kill morale, and it does not result in an increase in product quality. There are countless studies and reports on the ill-effects of working long hours for an extended period of time, however, there are many companies that still believe crunching is something unavoidable in order to hit tight deadlines. Even with all the crunching taking place in the video game industry I’ve managed to talk to employees on teams working at Blizzard and other companies that claim they haven’t crunched in years, get paid for overtime, and still make high quality games within their schedule. The result is happier employees that stay with the company longer and produce better games. I can only hope more companies adopt such practices but we, as employees, shouldn’t rely solely on the companies to bring about change. We first need to change how we as individuals think and act in regards to participating in crunch.
I started working at EA right when the EA_Spouse blog post and class action lawsuit between EA and, coincidentally, a former school-mate of mine was settled. It was interesting to experience the changes that came from the $15.6 million settlement and watch the company rapidly become a better place to work due to their renewed efforts on improving the work-life balance of their employees. The whole work environment transformed into a healthier and happier place. After a couple of games at EA Redwood Shores, now Visceral, I began work on Dead Space which is the best game development experience I’ve had thus far. Sure it had its share of development challenges but thankfully prolonged crunch was not one of them.
When I talk about the development of Dead Space many people are surprised to hear that I did not crunch at all in three years on the project. It’s quite sad to me knowing that some people read that statement and think that is a bad thing, as if to say that if you’re not crunching then you’re not working hard enough. Those people are the ones holding back change. The absence of Crunch on Dead Space was due to an amazing team, that worked extremely efficiently together, one of the best environment leads I have ever worked with, and in large part, due to a change in how I viewed crunching. I knew that if I wanted to stay in this industry I needed to have a good work-life balance. EA also recognized this and became very conscious of how many work hours teams were requesting of their employees. There were times that I stayed late simply because I loved what I was working on but it was never because someone else wanted me to work late or come in on the weekend. It was after moving on from EA that I found myself crunching more than ever in my nine years as a professional game developer.
I love making games but I began to question how long I would stay in an industry that seems not to care about the health and well being of the same employees that make the industry successful. I wanted to make a change. I wanted to make an app that allowed the user to track and displayed how long you were working overtime in comparison to spending time on other areas in your life, I wanted to make an app that showed the top 10 crunching companies for that month, I wanted and app where you could add your colleagues onto a ‘friends list’ and easily communicate with them so you can send them messages like,”Go home already.” I wanted an app that showed the effect of crunching on your health, sleep, and mood while making all this data transparent with easy to read charts & graphs, I wanted an app that gave you achievement badges for accomplishing work-life balance goals, and most of all I wanted to make an app that made people aware while helping to improve their quality of life and giving them more time to do the things that make them happy. So I made CrunchTime™.
The app is divided into 9 main areas represented by icons. Some icons have sub menus which let you access different functions.
Charts: Shows you information about your work | life balance, vacation, & goals.
Profile: View or edit your profile & view your badges.
Friends: Shows your friend list and their crunch status.
Time Card: Let’s you clock in & out tracking regular work hours,overtime, & vacation.
Stats Shows: you various statistics based on your data.
Export Exports: work data to a .PDF emailed to the address listed in your profile.
Inbox: Shows sent & received mail & lets you send short messages to friends.
FAQ/Resources: A helpful list of links & information for anyone with a job.
Health: Shows you daily weight, mood,& sleep hours.
The Charts section
The charts section displays a pie chart of the data you have entered for both vacation hours and work hours any remaining time is your percentage of ‘life’ hours. You can swipe your finger to switch between the work | life balance chart and vacation chart. The Goals Tab at the bottom of the screen takes you to the goals page where you can set monthly goals for your time.
Here you can schedule how much time a month you would like to spend
on the listed activities. Enter how many hours each day day and how many days each
month you would like to spend for each. After you have input the data please save it. you can display the chart to see how a visual representation of your goals. Achieving these goals will unlock badges for you. Hit the info button for help and turn on and off the enhanced goals picker to switch back to a classic view.
Your Profile page.
Touch edit profile at the bottom of the display to edit your profile. On the editing screen you can add a photo of yourself from the photo library or you can just snap a new photo. Touching inside the Blurb spot will allow you to type a short message that is visible to the public. The email address in your profile will be where the app sends your exported data so make sure it’s accurate.
Displays Status, location, company, and the number of friends on your
friends list. Your status and location can be edited from this screen. The amount of badges you have acquired is displayed to the right of your name.
I love the idea of adding a game layer on top of real world accomplishments. A few years ago I created a series of short films where people would get achievement points for doing things like fitting into a pair of old jeans before a class re-union. Who doesn’t like rewards for their accomplishments? There are currently a total of 7 Badges to be unlocked in the app. When you complete certain goals or tasks you will be rewarded with a gold badge! Try hard to get all 7!
The Share button lets you log into facebook, twitter, or send an email invite to your contacts. Once you are logged into facebook you can post on your wall. If you sign into twitter you can post a tweet about the app and the email button lets you send an email encouraging your friends to try out the CrunchTime app.
Your Friends list.
Change comes about when groups form to strengthen efforts. The more friends you have maintaining a healthy work-life balance, the faster change will occur for the industry as a whole.
Your Friends list is a list of friends you have added using CrunchTime. Touching a name on the list will reveal their public profile. Touching the crunching tab will reveal all your friends who have their status set to crunching.
The time card section will allow you to input and record your regular hours, overtime hours, and Vacation hours. Touch the entry space next to description to type in a description of the work you are doing. Date lets you choose a date, you can’t choose dates that have not arrived yet. Once you have added hours and minutes click add to record them as data. You can select any entry to update it, delete it, or clear all the entries using the buttons in the center of the display.
Touching the vacation tab will allow you to enter your vacation information. Add the total amount of vacation time you have then as you take vacation days change the type of transaction to ‘take’ to subtract your spent days.
The Stats page shows four different entries based on you data in the app. The first is a graph that shows the percentage of time spent working regular hours vs. overtime. Second shows the percentage of various moods you display to date. Third, a list of the top 10 crunching companies for the given month. Fourth, the app displays your average sleep a night and your average daily weight in lbs till date according to the data you entered. Swipe your finger to view all the pages.
Export to email.
Touching the export button will send an email to the email address listed in your profile with
a .pdf file that has a list of all the regular and overtime hours worked for the current project. If you can’t view the pdf file on your phone try opening the file on a computer or use the latest version of adobe acrobat.
Your inbox houses all your received and sent messages from your friends on CrunchTime. Use the compose message icon in the top right hand corner to compose a short message to the friends on you friends list.
Touching the health icon reveals two sub categories sleep hours with mood tracker and the
weight tracker. Select one to enter the data input screen.
Sleep - Select the date using the white arrow then dial in the hours of sleep you got on that day. The red arrow in the center points to the number selected.
swipe your finger left and right to select your mood for that day. The face in the center
circle will be the mood selected for that day. Turn your device horizontal to view a full screen chart displaying your data.
Please use the white arrow at the top to select a date then dial in your weight for that
day. Turn the phone horizontally to view a weight chart. The weight displayed is in lbs.
In this section there is a list of resources to help you achieve a perfect work | Life balance. In this section you can also Delete all the work data in the app by touching “ Delete Entire Log.”
My hopes for the future of CrunchTime™
I hope people use and share the app with each other through their work mailing lists or personal emails, and word of mouth. I would love to see whole development teams using this tool to help improve their work-life balance. CrunchTime is also relevant to other jobs outside the video-game industry so the more people that use it and give feedback the better the app will become so feel free to drop me a line to give constructive feedback or even just say hi. Over time I plan to make the app accessible to everyone. I really hope the app helps people avoid burnout on the job and find the balance they are searching for.
Enjoy your newly found free time!
CrunchTime™ [iTunes Link]
PS. I would love to hear people’s thoughts on the CrunchTime app, send me a message.