Over the years, game development companies have found all sorts of euphemisms for unpaid overtime, but Nintendo’s might be the best. If legendary designer Shigeru Miyamoto ever comes up and tells you it’s “Mario time”, you’re in for a long night.
In a fantastic new interview over at Gamasutra by some dude named Chris Kohler, former Nintendo planner Motoi Okamoto opens up about his time at the venerable company, where he worked from 1999 to 2008 before leaving to found Entersphere. There are a lot of great nuggets in there, but the most shocking one might be this anecdote from the Super Mario 64 DS days:
In those days, Miyamoto would come to us at 11 PM, after he finished all of his board-member work, and say, “It’s Mario time.” At that point, we’d start a planning meeting that would run until 2 AM. At that point, Miyamoto would go home, leaving us with the words, “You should return home soon, for your health.” Over the next two or three hours, we’d write the game design documents and summarise the instructions for our artists and programmers.
It was the craziest crunch time that I’ve ever experienced in my development career. But if the God of Games was working so much, could we give up? Miyamoto had incredible stamina.
Crunch — extended overtime — is a ubiquitous practice in gaming, and it’s always been a nuanced issue. Many argue that unpaid overtime is toxic and counterproductive; others point out that collaborative creative projects would be impossible without it. And some simply say hey guys, it’s Mario time.
Check out the rest of Kohler’s interview here.