Tencent Introduces Work Policies to Reduce Game Developer Burnout

Video game studios have built a reputation for stress and burnout. Studios rushing to push games out on time frequently require employees to work long, often unpaid, hours. Chinese gaming giant Tencent Games is now trying to end game developer burnout.

Tencent owns significant portions of other studios like Epic Games and League of Legends developer Riot. In a recently leaked internal memo, the studio laid out some new policies aimed at creating a less stressful work environment. As the company expands into the U.S., these policies could help reduce burnout.

Tencent’s Stress-Free Work Environment

Tencent’s new policies require employees to leave every day by 9 p.m., except on Wednesdays, when they leave at 6. If employees must work overtime, they have to submit a request ahead of time. These workers will also schedule some extra time off later to make up for it.

Similarly, the document said that Tencent would ban working on weekends and legal holidays. The company is also urging employees to use their vacation time, taking time away from work to relax and be with their families. Tencent said it hopes these policies will improve workplace efficiency as well as protect employees’ mental health.

This seems like a direct response to the infamous “crunch time,” where game devs work long, often unpaid overtime hours. Seeing as 36% of game developers say they were in crunch time more than twice in the past two years, these changes are significant. Requiring normal working hours could do a lot to minimize game developer burnout.

Critics point out that these policies don’t necessarily stop overtime work, just overtime spent in the office. Tencent could still require employees to work from home. If that’s the case, these policies wouldn’t do much to reduce crunch time. How these changes play out and affect burnout in the long run is still uncertain. 

More Studios Moving Away from Crunch

As the crunch crisis has grown, more studios are trying to move away from it. Consumers today notice how companies treat their employees, especially after the pandemic. If nothing else, reducing game developer burnout helps studios maintain a good public image.

While crunch time is still a prevalent problem, especially among major developers, it’s starting to decline. Indie developers have led the way in this movement. In an interview with Kotaku, Supergiant Games director Amir Rao said they require employees to take 20 days off a year.

Supergiant’s games like Hades and Bastion have also earned almost universal acclaim. Their success stands as an example of how crunch time isn’t necessary to put out a high-quality product. There are also growing movements to establish game developer unions, so crunch culture could be on its way out.

Game Studio Culture Is Shifting

Today’s gamers are paying more attention to the studios that make their favorite games. With more scrutiny from their customers, gaming companies will likely start moving away from unfair work policies.

The crunch crisis remains a persistent problem in gaming. Still, a company as big as Tencent trying to move away from it is a promising sign. If these trends continue, game development could become a far less stressful job.