With crunch culture being so big in the game industry and going through a hard college game development program, it is difficult to find a work life balance but incredibly important to do so. Having time for your actual life like hobbies, friends and family, and self care actually makes you more productive and produce better work. Creating a healthy cycle is hard, especially during school but it is an invaluable skill. While I’m not anywhere close to having a perfect balance, my team has helped a lot.
Champlain College Work Culture
People have always told me you need to work hard and get good grades to be successful. All throughout my schooling, this has instilled a feeling that you need to work 24/7. Between a full day at school, playing sports, all of my homework, a part-time job, and preparing for college, I had lost all of my hobbies. Being at Champlain College has not been different. The Game Studio has a rigorous curriculum which requires a lot of time in general but through trying to impress the professors and a friendly competition with peers has created a crunch culture where if you’re not working, you feel like you are going to fail. For me, this culture definitely hit a peak in my sophomore year but has since gotten better though it is still difficult to balance my classes, two jobs, and taking care of myself.
Despite the constant feeling that I need to be working, I have really focused on doing other things instead. It’s been a long process but I’ve finally started to find hobbies I like doing and I’ve kept up with them every day of the semester. I’ve been teaching myself to dance, draw, and study architecture. On days when I’m really pressed for time, I dedicate only 20 minutes to each thing, making just one hour out a whole day for focusing on myself through these hobbies. I’ve been sure to do this everyday and I’ve found myself much happier in general and these hobbies have helped my work in tremendous ways. Luckily for me, these three activities are great skills for level design. They help me approach the problem of a level in different perspectives, give me the ability and vocabulary to better communicate my designs, and keep me energized to be able to focus a bit better. Besides the fact that they help me in my work--which is good but not the reason you should be doing a hobby--they have made me genuinely happy especially when I look back and see my progress in each skill over the span of the semester.
Finding hobbies to do can be hard and frustrating. Sometimes it’s just trying things out and seeing how you like it which was how I approached dancing; other times, it’s a childhood hobby that you always wanted to get better at like me with drawing, and finally, sometimes, it could just be sparked from something that you had an interest in and was always curious to know more about like how I was with architecture. The biggest thing to know is that hobbies can be hard work--hard to find, hard to maintain, and hard to improve in (if that’s your goal)--but I am beginning to learn that they can be so rewarding and improve your life in so many ways making all of the hard aspects pay off.
One of the biggest things that has helped me with my hobbies this semester has been my team. We’ve all been in this stressful work culture for years but have been doing a good job at coming together and trying to combat it.
First, we start with sprint planning. Andy, the product owner and design lead has spent a tremendous amount of time documenting everything that we need for the game and carefully planning how and by who everything should be completed. Michael-Paul and Bryan, the producers/team managers work hard to keep meetings on-time and succinct and create a detailed project timeline based on Andy’s work to make sure that everything will be completed in a timeline manner and is in scope for the project. We also do our best to make sure that there is a reasonable amount of tasks each sprint for each person to not go over the required hour count of 12.5 hours for our production class and try to give accurate time estimations to further plan properly. There’s always unforeseen issues though like the repo breaking, Unity just not working, a task taking a surprisingly long time to complete, or even things like family emergencies. When things like this happen, my teammates really do support each other. From taking over each other’s tasks to being another pair of hands working on it, we make sure that no one feels overwhelmed and can still take time for other things in their life even if it is just work for another class.
Next, we address the issue head on. While we are proud of the work we put in and it is shown through the time we dedicate to it. We try to encourage people to not feel like they have to go over the required amount of hours. We ask people how they are keeping up, if they feel like they have too much work, and try to adjust accordingly. We tell each other to take breaks especially during long work sessions and tell people to stop working at a certain amount of time. We only encourage high working hours if they are enjoying the work and it isn’t impeding their everyday life.
Finally, we get together outside of work and meetings and encourage each other in their hobbies and other activities. Sometimes we will go downtown after a meeting and get pizza, not only secretly making sure everyone is eating well, but also just hanging out and having fun together, a large group of us go to the gym or for a run/walk together frequently, we’ll watch each other’s Destiny montages, go skiing and sledding on a snow day instead of going to the computer labs to do more work, and just compliment each other’s progress in their hobbies. Things like this are integral to a team culture because they bring the team closer, help people to work better and better together, and help to create a healthy balance between work and life.