Naughty Dog Employees Discuss Crunch and Working Conditions at the Studio

Both current and former Naughty Dog employees have opened up about what it's like to work at the company.

By David Gill

July 25, 2019

In an extensive report from COGconnected, over a dozen Naughty Dog employees have come forward to discuss working conditions at the studio and the number of hours they have to work. For those that don’t know, crunch is when overtime on a project is required to reach deadlines. Over the past few years, crunch and working conditions at video game studios have been put into question.

“During the last three to six months of a project [my hours] would slowly creep up towards 60 or 70 hours depending on how much was on fire,” said one source. “Some people would do way more than that, which I thought was unhealthy.”

“So my take on crunch at Naughty Dog: The truth is more gray than black and white,” explained another source. “There is no official mandate for crunch. There can be a significant amount of peer pressure, though. And that can include peer pressure from the people who are effectively your managers. Peer pressure comes from having a team of brilliant, talented, dedicated people working hard on a project together.”

Another source explains that Naughty Dog doesn’t have a specific management structure. While there are lead people in each department, they’re doing the same work as everyone else, despite running the department and having input in performance reviews. Additionally, the source mentions that the leads partake in the peer pressure sometimes.

While the hours can be grueling, another source points out that Naughty Dog takes care of its employees by offering catering, food trucks, and paid meals.

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“The truth [is] they don’t tell you to work X amount of hours,” said another source. “But you have to get your work done. And the amount of work is just impossible for any person. It is just way too much. And if you don’t hit the goals you will be fired. So I guess you don’t have much of a choice.”

One developer mentions a time where they called Sony’s HR department about their hours and the HR rep said that the developer just had to get used to the way Naughty Dog does things.

“Many of us felt like we weren’t really part of the company,” another source said. “We worked our asses off only to be treated as if we don’t belong. It sucked. That coupled with the amount of OT/crunch we worked really wore us down. I lived at home during my time at [Naughty Dog] and I could go a week without seeing my parents.”

The developers on games such as Uncharted 4 and The Last of Us aren’t the only ones affected by the long hours. People that do quality assurance also face long hours in order to make deadlines.

According to one QA tester, the normal workweek goes from 10AM-10PM, but that can go up to midnight or 1 AM. Additionally, some people worked 24-hour shifts towards the final seven weeks of Uncharted 4‘s development, which lead to no life for the testers outside of work.

Another developer concludes with this statement on life after crunch/overtime:

“After crunch ended, it took some time for me to readjust to normal life but I was grateful for the experience, although unsure if I would ever want to go through another crunch.”

The studio’s current game, The Last of Us Part II, is set to arrive at a yet to be determined date on PS4.

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