The Crunch Article on Polygon

Polygon has published an excerpt from a book by Walt Williams, their headline: “Why I worship crunch”:

When I worship at the unholy altar of Crunch, everything outside of the work fades away. By design, my world is reduced to where I sleep and where I work. Every day must be fast, focused, and above all else, homogenized. Give myself too much downtime, too much room to think, and I start asking questions, like “Why am I doing this to myself?” So, I lose myself in the routine. When every day is a rehash of what has been, and a preview of what will be, they blend into one another. This creates an out-of-body effect, not unlike highway hypnosis. Soon, who I am becomes an abstract concept—a loose collection of character flaws and neurotic tendencies. Only then can my body become the vessel through which an impossible amount of work will be accomplished in a short amount of time.

I love it, except for when I hate it, but I can’t hate it if I never stop. Even when I’m not crunching, I work too much. I’ve edited scripts in ICU rooms, responded to emails while begging lovers not to walk out the door, sent brainstorming lists during the birth of my child. I held my grandfather’s hand while he passed away, then went into his office and wrote text for mission descriptions. None of this was expected of me, and no one would have dared to ask. I did all these things for me. Work brings order to my world. When things get tough, I slide down into my job and disappear. I let my health, relationships, and responsibilities fall to the wayside. When I finally come up for air, there’s a smoking crater where my life used to be. Instead of picking up the pieces to start again, I slip back down into the thick of it. This is how I cope.

That isn’t how anyone should live. Although the author says that it wasn’t expected of them, many of the situations they have described here are the terrible reality of what people working on games do in response to a spoken or unspoken expectation from management.

There are solutions for the majority of people who work (in games, or elsewhere) and are exploited. Unionization would let employees collectively bargain and achieve better work schedules or better compensation when they must work overtime.

Many of these businesses would almost instantly start managing games projects more efficiently with less overtime if employees were compensated properly for this kind of work and had collective bargaining instead of attempting to individually negotiate their contracts.

Walt Williams might love crunch, but any company that forces it on their employees as a regular matter should be punished for destroying the lives of the workers and their families.

Here’s a great take from Cameron Kunzelman at Waypoint:

At the end of the day, no matter how much an individual loves it, crunch is not about individuals themselves. Crunch is a systemic, top-down solution to the problem of extracting the most labor from game developers; it is a strategy that is implemented on workers, and it is performed widely in most sectors of the industry. One developer’s complicated relationship with crunch is a blip on the constantly-screaming radar of worker exploitation that the practice enables as part of the normal operation of the game industry. It is not an exception in one person’s life, it is the norm.

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds: Solo Squad

I’m still playing so much Battlegrounds, more than anything else it draws me back with it’s subtleties in strategy. Deciding if you want to get more combat experience and seek out fights and other players or find some gear and camp in the second floor of a house.

Lately I’ve been trying something different, playing on four-player servers as a lone wolf. It’s the most extreme challenge I’ve found in PUBG, and Cameron Kunzelman has an article expounding the virtues of solo squad up on Waypoint:

The game plays differently in Solo Squad mode. There is no running and gunning. You can’t win any encounters by rushing your enemies and yelling. You can take one player when they’re off guard, but sneaking up on four people is next to impossible. Taking a long-range, tactical encounter is usually your best bet if you’re trying to fight at all, although a shotgun can make much quicker work of a team than you might think if you’re waiting around the right corner.

Cameron’s strategy of fighting instead of hiding in order to better learn PUBG’s combat systems is also recommend. I’d add one more tip: play in first-person. You lose the ability to cheat around corners and will have to keep in mind that other players are able to do so, but I’ve gotten way closer to a chicken dinner by playing in first-person.

“I’m upset that you changed the password to the PSN account I stole from you”

Seriously crazy stuff going on with PSN account resellers in this article from Patrick Klepek:

A few weeks ago, Mic Fok got a weird email. The person writing it claimed they’d been playing Overwatch on a PlayStation Network account for more than six months, but the password had changed recently. But why would Fok know anything about this random dude’s account? As it turns out, they’d “purchased” Fok’s account through a website called PSN Games, one of many businesses trafficking in the selling of cheap games by sketchy means.

The individual who bought Fok’s account was an Overwatch fan named Bennett Eglinton.

“Hello I purchased overwatch from psngames.org and this email was used as the account info,” reads an email from Eglinton, sent in early March. “However the password I was given for the PlayStation Network sign in no longer works. Did you happen to change it? Can I get the new info.”

As Patrick mentions in the article, this is a great reason to use unique passwords everywhere with a password manager. I use and recommend 1Password despite them switching from standalone purchases to a subscription. You should also use the free Have I been pwned? service to check all of your email addresses for public account credential leaks.

Homefront: The Developing Revolution


Patrick Klepek interviewed the developers of Homefront: The Revolution who are surprisingly still updating the game almost a year after it was released. This comes as a shock because it was received poorly by both the critics, and while it found some audience, most of the gaming public as well.

I’m mostly interested in the game because it’s set in Philadelphia. Not many games are set there, usually choosing more recognizable cities like New York or San Francisco which was the setting for the first Homefront game.

Watching Austin Walker’s quick look of Homefront: The Revolution when he was still at Giant Bomb was heartbreaking. It seemed to lack any flavor of Philadelphia, no genericized Philly Frenetic, and it was just an unfinished mess of gameplay ideas borrowed from better games.

Hearing that the game is still being updated is a bit of solace, maybe there is something in there worth playing the next time it goes on sale.

The Scarlet VAC Ban

How does Valve handle cheating?

When Valve’s anti-cheat system, VAC, detects a user has cheated in a multiplayer game they’re marked for seven years on their Steam profile page and blocked from VAC protected servers.

Patrick Klepek interviewed cheaters who were branded:

“When you have big red letters on your profile announcing everyone you have a ban, the experience is never going to be good,” said Oliveira. “If you don’t suck at a game, they will right away point a finger at you and accuse you of cheating. You get told so many times that ‘Once a cheater, always a cheater.’ I knew I did it, I knew I would never do it again, and I wanted to prove that that was not me. But how do you do that? How will they believe you? Yeah, no. It’s the biggest badge of shame a person can have in an online world.”

Oliveira found himself taunted when playing games, years after his initial offense. He couldn’t shake the stink, and Valve offered no recourse. He was, for at least seven years, a cheater.

Bizarre to me is that everyone interviewed agreed the policy was generally acceptable.

This program lacks nuance. Policies against cheating are good, but without more granularity in enforcement it’s kind of ridiculous. Someone who cheats at Counter-Strike for ten minutes shouldn’t necessarily be punished the same as another person who cheats for a month.

A few years ago I asked at a Valve GDC booth for job-seekers if they ever had room for online community managers. It’s not surprising the Valve employee thought the idea of them hiring an online community manager was ridiculous after reading this article from Patrick. The one-size-fits-all kind of anti-cheat enforcement has the stink of developers making community decisions all over it.