(…continued from part 1)
First off, this implication that number of hours you work has absolutely zero relation to the level of talent you possess. I’ve worked with talentless hacks that “worked” 60-80 hour weeks and still achieved less than everyone else. I’ve worked with amazing people who worked bang on 9-5 Monday to Friday and were some of the most able and committed developers. Of course there are extreme cases – talented folks who love their job so much and are willing and eager to work extra hours, just as there are people who are so apathetic about their work that they don’t even want to do their contracted hours, and coast at every opportunity. Talent and the number of hours worked are independent variables. To try to connect them is not only foolish, it’s selling your employees short.
The coasters need to be sacked, plain and simple. Those who work extra hours but aren’t very good should be given the chance and help to improve, but if they can’t they need to go too. Those who work the 40 hour week and produce are the core of your business, and need to be treated like the stars they are: not only are they good at producing, they are sensible enough to do it in a sustainable way. Those who are great and want to work all hours can be gems, but only if they are managed properly. Try to keep them to a sensible working week, and they’ll stay gems for longer; if you don’t they’ll last a while, and then burn out.
We’ve all seen it, many times. Constrain their hours and they’ll find other ways to excel; they’ll cram the same amount of work into the time they have, or they’ll go away and enjoy their evenings, eager to come back in the morning, brimming over with good ideas that they’ve been thinking up while they were away from work. But most importantly they’ll have had a life outside of the work, and that will make them happier with their lives and happier with their jobs. If you let them work those crazy hours, you are both taking advantage of their generosity, and setting an unreasonable precedent that other individuals on the team should be doing the same. No matter how much you tell your employees that 9 to 5 is fine, they’ll look at the long hours those few are putting in, and feel that by not doing those hours they aren’t pulling their weight.
Most of all I detest the idea that making games is special, and that somehow by getting to make games we forfeit some of our rights because we get to do work that we enjoy. Screw that. I make games for a living because I love it. I’ve already sacrificed the higher salary I could get in the regular software world. I’ve sacrificed the stability you get outside the games industry. Now you’re trying to tell me I should sacrifice my quality of life as well? And to top it all off, I should be thankful to those who pay my salary for the priviledge of doing my job? No thank you.
When I’m making games, I’m doing a job. I deserve to be paid for the job I do. You want me to sacrifice quality of life, you pay me for the priviledge. My love for what I do comes out in the quality of the products I make, and that’s the only outlet there should be for it. Making games needs passion because the games themselves need love to make them good. By asking for ridiculous working hours or low wages, you are asking me to be less passionate about my job because to do it I need to accept being screwed on pay and conditions.
I’m not some idealistic student, I know that it’s not as simple as just clicking your fingers and suddenly we’re all working standard hours for good wages. The business needs are always going to come first. Sometimes the deadline will loom, or things will go wrong, and we’ll have to work long hours to put it right. We are dedicated people, and exceptional circumstances require exceptional measures. But right now, the individuals working in games development are being regularly asked to subsidise their employer’s costs by means of their own time and effort. Worse than that, many of those employers think this is fine and right and just the way things are. Wrong. The sooner we accept that abusing our staff is unprofitable in the long term the better off we will be as businesses. The sooner we accept that the 40 hour working week is the norm, and everything we do should be trying to get us closer to that norm, the better off we will be.