It seems like we're in a "Me Too" type of era as far as crunch complaints in the gaming industry go, with former Mortal Kombat devs having also come out with accusations over less-than-ideal working environments.
Last week, Polygon published a report featuring quotes from current and former Epic Games employees who claimed that they are sometimes made to work 100 hours a week to keep Fortnite running smoothly. However, they did make it clear that it wasn't forced, despite not having that much of a choice.
Since then, former NetherRealm developers have also come out to reveal that they were also victims of the crunch during the development of Mortal Kombat 9, X, and the Injustice games.
Allegations have surfaced on Twitter, with former software engineer James Longstreet stating that the long hours were mandatory. PC Gamer also interviewed four former members of NetherRealm's QA team, who have claimed just about the same, noting that the wages hardly matched the effort in spite of the crunch being forced on contract workers during their time with the company.
"On [Mortal Kombat 9] crunch officially began after New Year's day 2011. Of course, we did a bit of pre-crunch before that, just to make sure we were in a good spot for crunch. This was on schedule documents. this was not a wink-wink-nudge-nudge 'passionate hardworking' thing, this was mandate," Longstreet wrote in a Twitter thread.
"I took one day off between Jan 1  and the day 1 patch was approved. It was my birthday, and it was on a Sunday, so it was ok if I was just on call. I was allowed to go to a friends' wedding (on-call of course) on a Saturday night, after working an 8-hour shift first. Those were the only two days I didn't work from at least 10 am to at least midnight. We were all doing this. I mean, except the bosses, of course, who would leave after dinner."
PC Gamer had a chat via email with former QA tester, Isaac Torres, who worked with NetherRealm from 2012 to 2014.
"I crunched for about 4 months straight… I was regularly doing 90-100 hour weeks and worked every single day," he claimed.
"I was tired all the time. It took me about 30-45 mins to get home since I had to take a bus. But I know someone who stayed on the couch in the office to not risk falling asleep while driving. I literally had no life for several months. There just wasn’t time. I would get to work at 9 or 10 am. I would leave at 2-3 am. And then that process would mostly repeat itself. Honestly, I have no clue how I did it. I’m pretty sure I aged 20 years in the span of three months."
Another former employee revealed that harassment and secret names for female employees were basically commonplace. It is claimed that NetherRealm "lawyered up" after one employee filed a formal complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, leaving others were scared to get involved for fear of being blacklisted and possibly punished by the company.
It appears that the demand for quality has been having adverse effects on the people who actually get the work done in bringing us the games we enjoy. Maybe the emergence of the recent reports will bring about some change, but unionization within the gaming industry definitely seems like the best way to move forward.