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Nintendo Game Director Masahiro Sakurai Continues Working While Sick, Hooks Up to IV Drip

posted on by Lynzee Loveridge

Super Smash Bros. game director and Kirby creator Masahiro Sakurai revealed the extremes he goes to while working on a video game title, even putting his own health at risk, in an interview with Nintendo Dream on February 17.

Nintendo Dream asked Sakurai how he took care of his health while working on Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. The game director said that he left the office by 10 p.m. "no matter what" but still grappled with stomach problems. He told of an account where he believed he contracted food poisoning but instead of going to the hospital, he hooked up to an IV drip and continued to work.

Sakurai went on to say he took three days of vacation near the the winter holidays last year but felt he couldn't take too much time off because his work load would fall on to the rest of his team.

"We're still developing our DLC, so my staff would have to handle my share of the work. We're releasing Joker soon, and they wouldn't be able to consult with me on him," Sakurai said.

Sakurai has put his health on the line while developing games before. In 2013, during the development of new Smash Bros. titles, Sakurai was afflicted with a Repetitive Strain Injury in his right arm. At the time, Sakurai said he was trading in the keyboard and mouse, which were exacerbating the condition, for a trackball. He also said he started verbally dictating his e-mails to cut down on his keyboard usage. However, his arm's condition has worsened. Sakurai was already battling calcific tendonitis but despite both injuries and recommendations from his physician to keep his arm rested, he attempted to debug and play test the games with a joystick when possible.

The Smash Bros. director was hospitalized during the development of Brawl after working for 13 months straight in 40 hour intervals, only resting for four hours before going back to work.

The Japanese work environment in the gaming and anime industry is well documented and the karoshi phenomenon (literally working to death) is sometimes even used as a plot device in isekai stories, as are "black companies", corporate entities known for unhealthy work environments.

The term "video game crunch" has come to the forefront as consumers got a glimpse at the "mandatory overtime" demanded by some developers as a game's release date draws near. Rockstar Games co-founder Dan Houser offhandedly mentioned that the team behind Red Dead Redemption 2 worked 100-hour weeks to push the game out and was met with online backlash.

Waypoint asked developers about their work schedule standards at last year's E3 conference, including former president and CEO at Nintendo of America Reggie Fils-Aimé. Fils-Aimé could only answer from the perspective of Nintendo of America and stated, "...we're not asking people to go for a couple days without sleep. We're not asking people to ignore their family and friends and their social life. We're not asking people to do things that are unhealthy. That is not our approach."

It appears that while Nintendo of America's approach is to bring in contract staff to fill in for the needed extra manpower when approaching deadline, that may not be the case across the Pacific, as Sakurai's account illustrated.

Source: Nintendo Dream, Nintendo Everything (Brian) via Event Hubs (Justin Gordon)

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