We’ve all heard the phrase “let’s smash it out” but this latest story from notoriously hard-working game director Masahiro Sakurai takes things to a whole new level. According to Sakurai, when he became unwell during the development of Super Smash Bros Ultimate, he would go to work with an IV drip instead of taking a day off.
The concerning admission came from Sakurai during an interview with Nintendo Dream (that was translated by Nintendo Everything) during which the director was asked about a variety of topics, including how he took care of himself during development. Many of Sakurai’s answers have raised eyebrows, even in spite of his reputation as being one of the hardest working people in the video game industry.
Sakurai stated that when he got particularly ill, such as food poisoning, he would insist on attending work still but with an IV drip hooked up. The shocking answer was followed up with something of a dry laugh and an admission that his work schedule is largely dictated by his own choices so his hard-working nature often takes over. Sakurai went on to explain that he gladly takes a few days off over the Christmas break but largely considers his place to be at the office where he often stays till 10 PM.
Given Sakurai’s stature in games development, it is reassuring to see a high-level director willing to work as hard, if not harder, than this team. However, while comments like Sakurai’s make for amusing anecdotes they speak to a growing culture of overworked developers and the environments that lead to burnout. Last year, just days before the release of the masterful Red Dead Redemption 2, Kotaku reported on the working conditions at Rockstar Games and the “crunch” needed to complete the game in a timely manner without sacrificing quality.
As the industry becomes more and more aware of issues affecting workers such as crunch, lack of unions and general workplace grievances, the choices of leaders such as Sakurai may unintentionally set an unrealistic and harmful precedent which workers can not follow. Still, given the overwhelmingly positive reception to Super Smash Bros Ultimate, hope Sakurai can start taking it easy.