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These indie games counteract the crunch at the top of the industry
‘The Shorter Games With Worse Graphics Bundle’ is now live on itch.io, aimed at supporting smaller, independent developers in gaming.
It features 32 games in total, made by 25 different game developers. The bundle involves a wide range of games, including Kaiju Stadium, a sports strategy sim involving dinosaurs and aliens, and Homing, an epistolary game played from the perspective of a carrier pigeon.
The bundle is named after the phrase “I want shorter games with worse graphics made by people paid more to work less and I’m not kidding”. This has become a meme in some sections of the gaming community, following repeated stories of crunch and poor working conditions on the industry’s biggest AAA games.
“Crunch” typically refers to mandatory overtime, which can often mean working up to 13 hours a day, seven days a week, leading up to a game’s release. The period can sometimes last for months, especially if a game is delayed.
If a game continues to crunch beyond a delay, this is known as a “death march”. This year, Cyberpunk 2077 was made under death march conditions. The head of CD Projekt Red, Cyberpunk 2077’s developers, then defended crunch, claiming it was “not that bad”. He later apologised.
Similarly, The Last Of Us Part II, the biggest winner at The Game Awards, was also made under crunch. One of the game’s awards was Best Direction, leading some to argue crunched games should be disqualified from the award in future. Hades, beaten by The Last Of Us Part II for Best Direction and Game Of The Year, was made under zero crunch conditions.
The Last Of Us Part II’s director, Neil Druckmann, was recently promoted to the role of studio president at Naughty Dog.
‘The Shorter Games With Worse Graphics Bundle’ is aiming to draw attention to this issue, while also promoting non crunched games by independent developers who lack the money, publicity, or size of the biggest studios.
The bundle has already hit its $2,500 (almost £1,900) goal, and is available for $20 (around £15), although players are free to donate more. The bundle will be on sale until January.