Modern Wolf, a new indie video game publisher, are committed to the mental health of their game dev employees; to that end, they’ve taken a “zero tolerance” policy against crunch. For the past several years, the subject of crunch has been a hot-button issue in the game industry. Video games have gotten undeniably bigger, arguably better, and considerably more taxing on the game developers who oftentimes work arduous hours to meet deadlines for demanding publishers.
Crunch is nothing new, and games like Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption and L.A. Noire came under fire for their unjust treatment of workers who toiled for far more than a typical 40-hour work week. Unfortunately, despite highly publicized cases such as those from BioWare and Treyarch, the crunch persists. Most recently, the games-as-service juggernaut Epic Games has come under fire for pushing its developers past their limits providing continual updates to their hit battle royale title, Fortnite, all while the publisher brings in billions of dollars in revenue.
A new indie publisher, Modern Wolf, aims to sell its games with a clean conscience. The burgeoning new company is starting off with a slate of five indie developers and their varied projects, all linked with a common theme of compassion for their workers. In their first press release to the media, Modern Wolf announced their presence as an ethical publisher, promising a “zero tolerance on crunch,” as well as stating their concern for the mental well-being of the developers under their umbrella.
In today’s world of profits over people, it’s refreshing to see a publisher come out and state their intention to treat their employees with a compassion and respect. It’s also a deeply sad memorandum on the current state of the video game industry that publishers treating their workers with a degree of human decency is seen as a strong PR move and exception to the rule, rather than the gold standard. Time and again, we’ve seen giant publishers like EA, Activision, and Take-Two put profit above people, working employees to the bone with little to no regard for their mental or physical health, all while their executives make ungodly sums of money for themselves. It reeks of greed, and it’s this level of behavior that gives capitalism a bad name and paves the way for regulation within the world of video game development. If the big publishers aren’t going to give the workers their fair due, then the workers may feel emboldened to go on strike, to unionize, and to righteously take what’s rightfully theirs.
It’s commonly said that corporations exist to make money, but that doesn’t excuse them from inhumane practices like the unrelenting crunch that’s become pervasive in the modern big-budget video game landscape. Companies like EA should pay their employees what they deserve, because doing the right thing grants a satisfying sense of pride and accomplishment, to paraphrase one of the most infamous Reddit threads of all time.
More: Rockstar is Starting To Fix Its Work Culture Problem