“The games industry is basically structured like Hollywood, minus the unions. Everyone involved in actually building the game is there because it's our artistic medium (even programmers and testers see their jobs as a creative outlet) and we all have extreme creative investment in finishing the product even if it causes health issues.
The funding side of the industry (publishers, producers and upper management) understands that we'll go to extreme lengths when necessary and actively tries to make it necessary in order to increase their margins. Our bosses will use early press releases and unrealistic trailers to turn our projects into time bombs so that we’ll be forced to work unpaid overtime to get it off our plate before it explodes.
When you apply for a job they'll say "no mandatory overtime." I didn’t learn that my last job was classified as overtime-exempt until I had already quit my other job and was signing contracts on my first day. It was advertised as 9-6 but after starting I found out that was just the minimum hours.
Sometimes the hours totally get out of hand. When a project is nearing 50% complete, sometimes they'll announce to our fans that it's being released in two-thirds the time it would normally take. This means that we can either “voluntarily” work 60 hour weeks at no extra pay until completion or risk having our fans turn against us. One time I came in on a Saturday morning and a few people were still there from the night before. They stayed until around noon so that would have been like a 27 hour shift.
Then after we all work the untracked extra hours to get it in on time, that makes the bookkeeping look like our managers came in under budget — because we’ve worked fewer weeks than projected so it’s cost the company less money even though it was tons of hours. So they're given bonuses. Lately there's also a lot of studios doing "games as a service" where one game will keep receiving monthly content for years after its initial release, and once shipped those projects will announce 6 weeks worth of content every single month to keep the workers in constant panic mode for years at a time.
Creative fields need regulations to save us from ourselves. Given the opportunity our artistic drive will drive us to make the absolutely worst life choices imaginable and there's a lot of predators out there looking to exploit that.
— Anonymous game industry worker, Seattle