Widescale reporting of terrible working conditions at video game studios is a relatively recent thing, but crunch has always been with us, and as we can see in this rare story about the practice from the 1990s, when it’s bad it can be life-threatening.
Sega historian John Harrison has shared a translated version of a story from an old Japanese Mega Drive magazine (Beep!MegaDrive) from 1994, in which Treasure’s Hiroshi Iuchi, best known for his work on Ikaruga, Radiant Silvergun and Gunstar Heroes, talks about crunch, a “hopeless situation” and how it nearly killed him.
The story, titled “The Game Industry’s Negative Side”, reads:
My neglect for my own health finally caught up with me. It began at the end of last year when I collapsed in the train station. After that, in Las Vegas, I experienced a bad spell of dizziness, and then I collapsed at the office. Finally, the other day, it became so bad that I had to be taken to the hospital by ambulance. I was one step away from moving on to the next life.
These past few years, l’ve heard more and more people say that they want to work in the video game industry. Compared with when I entered the industry, it’s true that the environment at game companies has gotten better, and even in the midst of an economic recession, it’s possible within limits to create a game that sells decently. It can be a good industry when you think of it that way.
However, when you take a closer look, the magnificent (?) constraints and horrific overtime create an environment that absolutely cannot be called healthy for either the body or mind. Your physical strength and your motivation will wither to nothing after just three or four years. I can’t say that this will be the case for everyone, but I want those of you who are about to enter this industry to be aware that such situations do exist.
And, for those of you who consider yourselves artists or skilled craftsmen, please be especially careful. It’s possible that your high level of motivation can lead you into a hopeless situation. Sorry for being so depressing this time.
-Hiroshi luchi (Treasure designer)
Beep! Mega Drive, July 1994
Imagine this being “better” than it was. Iuchi left Treasure in 1995, not long after this was published, though he would return in 1997 to direct Radiant Silvergun.