Earlier today, video game publication Polygon released an article that highlighted a specific section from author Walt Williams’ book Significant Zero. In this piece, Williams discusses the topic of the video game “crunch” and why he’s not against it. For those that don’t know, the “Crunch” is when a development team has an approaching deadline and needs to work overtime to finish the game. However, this isn’t always the case and in some instances, as highlighted in this piece by Kotaku, the crunch can happen across the entire development of a title.
Many bring up the health and social issues that the crunch can have, as it’s largely seen as a negative within the industry. Working that much for an egregious amount of hours can cause a lot of damage, especially if it’s a small indie team. The crunch is largely viewed as a destructive problem that needs to be fixed or alleviated in some way. So it came as a surprise when Willaims’ writing went up that discusses why he finds this cycle so appealing. In one section he equates the crunch to be a high for him stating:
Crunch is my chase, and it leads me to a high that’s like Vegas, Amsterdam and Bangkok rolled into one. See, there are few things I love more than being in a fight. It fills my need for power, pain, and righteous indignation. If I win, I’m a god. If I lose, I’m a martyr. Both feel fucking stellar. No sir, there’s nothing bad about a fight. And Crunch is a fight from start to finish. It’s the entire development process condensed into a never-ending string of dustups, like in Game of Death, starring Bruce Lee. Except instead of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, you’re fighting tech, memory, art, design, publishers, players, reviewers, budgets, schedules, weekends, egos, studio closures, unpaid royalties, cultural relevance — the list goes on and on.
However, it’s important to note that later on Willaim’s clarifies his stance on the crunch, remarking:
This isn’t an endorsement, by the way. It’s the confession of an addict. Some people will say it shouldn’t be like this, that making games shouldn’t come with so high a price. And, in a perfect world, maybe they’d be right. It’s clear what kind of world we wish for; its design has repeatedly appeared in our games for decades.
Two hours after this feature went live, Willaims took to Twitter and stated that he does view the crunch as destructive. He explains that this piece is specifically focused on his perception of this problem and how it affects him. Williams elaborates how this section was from “…a moment in my life when I was at my lowest & giving in to my most self-destructive tendencies”
There has been a rather noticeable outcry from the public regardless, as many accused Willaims of glorifying the crunch. Many readers took to Twitter and Polygon’s comment section to explain their issues with the excerpt.
This is not the first time the crunch as been brought up as various outlets such as Kotaku, Venture Beat, The Guardian, and Waypoint have brought up this issue. Popular Youtuber Jim Sterling dedicated an entire video to showcasing the problems of the crunch. It is important to remember once more that this piece by Willaims is meant to be from his perspective alone. If you want to read his full thoughts on the crunch then you can check out his article here. We will update this piece if any more information comes forward.