If you commit Crunch, you shouldn’t win Game of the Year.

Kratos in Santa Monica Studios God of War. Picture by TrustedReviews.

The Game Awards 2022 awarded Elden Ring with Game of the Year, but what exactly makes something Game of the Year? And should we be looking deeper into our games, with consideration towards the developers who worked on them. 

As the year drew on, gamers came to realise that the Game of the Year award would come down to two possible contenders, FromSoftwares Elden Ring, and Santa Monica Studios God of War: Ragnarok. Not to discount the rest of the years strong entries, however it was clear from the start that these two games would stand out as titans, due to the prior success of the Dark Souls series, and the God of War revival in 2018. 

When it came down to it, Elden Ring won the title, with God of War essentially walking away with the majority of awards from other categories, including best narrative, best performance for Christopher Judge’s portrayal of Kratos, and Best Action/Adventure game. But is it not time to look at our games, and those we award, through a lens beyond just “which did we enjoy most?” And begin looking at how are games are created, and how the developers behind them are treated. 

Crunch time is a systemic problem within many digital led industries, among which being videogame development. For those who don’t know, crunch often involves staff members working tirelessly as deadlines approach, frequently working long overtime hours which quite often ends up being unpaid work, even to an extent in which employees end up sleeping under desks for short periods before starting work again. 

FromSoftware recently came under fire when developers working for the company revealed that it partakes in “some level of crunch time”, speaking to GamesIndustry.biz. Also stating that the salary earned does not reflect the workload placed upon them, and the overtime hours dropping to half rate, counter to a majority of business in Japan in which hourly rate increases during late hours. Santa Monica Studios has had accusations of crunch in the past but has been making active efforts to reduce them to zero when possible. With God of War senior sound designer Daniel Birczynski saying, “the mood of upper-management changing beginning to the effect it has on people’s lives.,” adding “I see progress for the environment I work in.” 

Is Santa Monica Studios completely free from crunch? I imagine not, I imagine it will survive in some sense or another. But the people working on these games need to be compensated for their work, and the grim reality of crunch needs to be known and stemmed. Gamers are happy for their games to take longer to release, if the end product is finished, fun and the people working on haven’t had to live under a desk for 6 months for the privilege.

Writing: Kiefer Jones|Subbing: Mathumithah Kandiah  

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