University of Oulu

A systematic mapping study of crunch time in video game development

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Author: Niemelä, Jonne1
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Faculty of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering, Department of Information Processing Science, Information Processing Science
Format: ebook
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1 MB)
Pages: 45
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: Oulu : J. Niemelä, 2021
Publish Date: 2021-06-21
Thesis type: Master's thesis
Tutor: Halonen, Raija
Reviewer: Rajanen, Mikko
Halonen, Raija


Crunch time means heavy overtime work, which usually happens before deadlines when development is behind schedule. It is common in game development and causes stress and social harm to developers. The purpose of this thesis was to study how crunch time is discussed in scientific literature by finding the trends and gaps using a systematic mapping study research method.

The main research question was: How is crunch time in video game development discussed in scientific literature? Three assisting research questions were used to help with answering the main research question: How are the causes for crunch time in video game development discussed in the literature? How are the effects for crunch time in video game development discussed in the literature? How are the solutions for crunch time in video game development discussed in the literature?

A search string was defined along with inclusion and exclusion criteria in a way that the resulting papers could best be used to answer the research questions. A total of 36 relevant, primary studies were included for this study after conducting the search on Google Scholar and applying the inclusion and exclusion criteria. The papers were categorised based on their contributions to the causes, effects and solutions related to crunch time. These papers were used as the source material for this research.

It was found that the number of studies is increasing and the most common contribution of these studies is presenting the causes of crunch time. The most common causes presented were cultural, planning and process, and structural causes. Health and social effects were the most common effects. Process changes and no-crunch policies were the most common types of solutions to crunch time.

The main contribution of this study was presenting an overview of how crunch time is discussed in scientific literature. It can be used by researchers to determine what kind of research might be necessary. The study could also be useful for game developers and managers in deciding what actions to take to avoid crunch time.

This study found that there are gaps in the literature regarding solutions to crunch time, but often the causes seem to imply solutions. This study suggested that more research into feature creep and structural changes to the game development companies could be useful for learning how to reduce crunch time.

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Copyright information: © Jonne Niemelä, 2021. This publication is copyrighted. You may download, display and print it for your own personal use. Commercial use is prohibited.