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Passion Cannot Defeat Science

Work, rest, and play. It’s more than just a maxim for selling Mars Bars, it’s a core tenet to a happy life. Balancing the daily grind with adequate time for rest and relaxation is vital to our health: insufficient sleep increases the risk of stroke, obesity, and diabetes. Similarly, working long hours heightens stress and reduces physical wellbeing, leading to a greater risk of heart disease.

These dangers don’t seem to matter to Alex St. John, the founder of games service WildTangent Inc. In a deluded article admonishing game developers for calling out unfair working conditions, St. John suggests that anyone who considers “pushing a mouse around” for 80 hours a week strenuous is simply “sheltered”, and should “practice more until [they’re] better at it.” To him, exhaustion is an excuse used by the unworthy.


St. John’s inane claims have already been brilliantly broken down by developer Rami Ismail, so I want to focus on the science of “crunching” and the serious damage it can cause.

Full infographic available at Virgin Pulse Institute

Our bodies have limits. No amount of ‘passion’ can remove our need to rest and recover. Sure, we can push through exhaustion, but only at a steep cost to health and productivity. Fatigue contributes to approximately 20% of all car accidents, dulling our senses as severely as a night at the pub. Whether you’re laying bricks or driving a truck doesn’t matter; exhaustion affects all professions indiscriminately.

To top it off, working longer does not actually increase productivity. In fact, greater overtime often leads to worse performance, in terms of average output. By wearing yourself out, your productivity rate drops, and so you work more hours to make up for it. The situation snowballs until you end up like St. John himself, stumbling into meetings at Microsoft with keyboard marks imprinted on his face.


And that’s what makes St. John’s article so ridiculous. It’s mired in hypocrisy: overworking is what destroyed his marriage and got him fired from Microsoft. He even admits that he “walked out of Microsoft feeling 100 lbs lighter.”

This notion of “crunch” being normal or expected needs to die. There is nothing normal about working yourself sick, especially when you’re sacrificing your health for a false sense of productivity. Passion is a powerful asset, but it cannot defy the laws of nature.


Matt Sayer is 50% gamer, 50% writer, 50% programmer, and 100% terrible at maths. You can read more of his articles over at Unwinnable as well as right here, friend him on Steam here or tweet him cat photos at @sezonguitar

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