Glen Schofield, the co-creator of dead space now directs production of its spiritual sequel The Callisto Protocolreturned to comments he made over the weekend that seemed to value excessive working hours at his company, Striking Distance Studios.
As reported by Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier, Schofield said his Striking Distance team worked 12 to 15 hours a day, six to seven days a week, to complete the game. (The Callisto ProtocolThe release date is Dec. 2.) He said no one was “forcing” the team to crunch that way, but admitted they were suffering from “burnout.”
“We work 6 to 7 days a week, no one forces us to. Exhaustion, fatigue, Covid but we are working. Bugs, issues, performance fixes. 1 last audio pass. 12-15h days. That’s the game. Hard work. Lunch, dinner, work. You do it because you love it,” Schofield tweeted on Saturday.
Later the same day, Schofield deleted the tweet and offered a retraction and an apology to the staff at Striking Distance, saying, “We value passion and creativity, not long hours.”
“Anyone who knows me knows how passionate I am about the people I work with,” he said. “Earlier I tweeted how proud I was of the effort and hours the team put in. This was untrue. We value passion and creativity, not long hours. I’m sorry for the team to have fallen like that.
There’s no reason to think Schofield isn’t sincere in his apology. But, as Schreier pointed out, his quirky tweet is a classic example of how unhealthy work practices and crunch culture persist in the video game industry.
Schofield is a charismatic and creative figure, highly regarded in the industry. With a background in art, he has been creating games for over 30 years. He was a key player at Crystal Dynamics and later at EA Studio Visceral Games, where he co-created dead space with Michel Condrey. The duo then formed Sledgehammer Games, which was quickly acquired by Activision. After a decade working on Call of Duty, Schofield left to form Striking Distance and return to the sci-fi horror setting that had made his name.
He is both a well-known creator and studio head. He is clearly passionate about The Callisto Protocol, a game that deliberately recalls his most famous work. It is understandable that this is personal to him. (Schofield may also feel strong pressure to beat his former company’s remake of the original. dead space market.) But he’s also an employer who sets an example and manages the careers of the Striking Distance development team. And he brings to both of these roles attitudes that have been formed over three decades of game development, in which the crunch of time has been the norm.
“No one is forcing us,” he says, without questioning the example his own overwork sets for his staff, or the pressure he puts on them to comply. Working through meals, overcoming exhaustion and illness, that’s just what it is and always has been: “It’s play.” The passion for games is both the motivation and the reward for all the extra effort: “You do it because you love it.”
It almost sounds like a mantra. That’s how deeply ingrained these attitudes are among developers of Schofield’s generation. The speed and clarity of his retraction shows that he understands, on some level, how important it is for these attitudes to change. But the proud glorification of overwork in the original tweet shows how instinctive the crunch value system is for Schofield. That’s all he knows. These are the values that he himself has learned and it is difficult to change.
Schofield shows he understands that changes need to be made. But the real proof will be in the working hours of the Striking Distance team over the next three months leading up to The Callisto Protocolthe exit.
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