Former Employees of The Last of Us Developer Naughty Dog Describe Toxic Crunch Culture

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Former Employees of <i>The Last of Us</i> Developer Naughty Dog Describe Toxic Crunch Culture

Add another developer to the list of those accused of cultivating toxic work conditions—this time, lauded developer of The Last of Us and the Uncharted franchises, Naughty Dog.

A report from COGconnected detailed statements from more than a dozen sources who have worked at the AAA studio, and many of whom described a back-breaking crunch culture that negatively impacted the lives of several Naughty Dog employees.

A major through-line through the source’s statements is an “implied choice” in which ND employees were told that while they weren’t required to work late hours and overtime (including weekends), they still needed to finish their work—what Naughty Dog management allegedly didn’t address was that most of their work timelines were unachievable without working those overtime hours, hence the “implied choice.”

“The truth [is] they don’t tell you that you have to work X amount of hours. But you have to get your work done,” one anonymous source explained to COGconnected. “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.”

Some of the outlet’s sources said that this policy created a large amount of peer pressure among Naughty Dog staffers, guilting each other into working late nights and weekends, with instances of 24-hour shifts.

QA staff at Naughty Dog reported even more concerning conditions—in addition to extensive overtime hours, sources said that they were being paid “barely above minimum wage,” which is a consistent issue within the game development industry.

The uncovering of these details from Naughty Dog isn’t necessarily surprising—their tough crunch culture has been rumored and talked about for quite some time now. But with the conversation about game dev working conditions growing in scale every time a report like this comes to light, it may be high time the studio reexamine their practices.

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