IGDA: Crunch Analysed

23 06 2008


Today, the IGDA have posted a very good article about crunch by Evan Robinson. His fundamental assertion is that crunch can quickly create negative value and actually decrease productivity, and he has plenty of citations from other industries to back this up.

Here are some highlights that give the gist of the article, but it’s well worth reading if you want to understand the issue in more detail.

More than a century of studies show that long-term useful worker output is maximized near a five-day, 40-hour workweek. Productivity drops immediately upon starting overtime and continues to drop until, at approximately eight 60-hour weeks, the total work done is the same as what would have been done in eight 40-hour weeks.

I’ve spent 20 years developing and managing software projects. Every year that passed — and every project I worked on — fueled my growing conviction that Crunch Mode is grossly, destructively, expensively inefficient. It’s common sense that the more hours people work, the less productive they become. But, over time, I noticed that the productivity losses that result from working too many extra hours start taking a bigger toll faster than most software managers realize. As I dug around, I was stunned to discover that I was hardly the first one to figure this out: my observations have been common knowledge among industrial engineers for almost a century.

Astute readers will note that there is a point, b , where working more hours doesn’t create more value. In fact, after b , each additional hour worked produces negative value. How can this be?

Chapman’s diagram of the work curve assumes that a working day of a given length is maintained over a considerable period of time. Thus it incorporates both simple and accumulated fatigue into its model. At first the declines in output per hour simply reflect the effects of fatigue on both quantity and quality of work performed toward the end of a given day. But eventually daily fatigue is compounded by cumulative fatigue. That is, any additional output produced during extended hours today will be more than offset by a decline in hourly productivity tomorrow and subsequent days.

This is a good instance of game development being able to benefit from knowledge gained in other fields, hopefully studios will take heed. I’m sure the ones that do will feel the benefits swiftly.

(CC image of Cap’n Crunch bumper sticker via JasonLiebig)



2 responses

24 06 2008
Captain Yesterday

This article is over 3 years old. Welcome back. I hope you had a good nap 🙂

24 06 2008

Wherever it was first time round, I didn’t see it, but it showed up as new in my RSS reader yesterday 🙂

%d bloggers like this: