Coming across this article on the joys of leaving game development make me think how lucky I've been in my career. The short list that keeps Danc away hasn't applied to me: I've been on projects that had decent project management, where the bulk of the project was spent working forty hour weeks; my projects have often involved interesting new game mechanics; once you count bonuses and options and whatnot my pay has been competitive with other industries, I think; and I've had time to spend with my family, because of the aforementioned forty-hour weeks.
Not only that, but most people in the industry get shuffled from one project in crisis mode to the next: I've never had to do that. I've generally gotten to see projects through from beginning to completion.
My projects have usually been fairly agile (Ken Schwaber even said in one of his Scrum books, something like, if you've been on a succesful project, chances are it was agile whether you meant it to be or not.)
And...as for making the world a better place...games do make the world a better place. I'm grateful that I live in a world that has chess and Magic and Guitar Hero and Spider-Man 2 and Grand Theft Auto and Kohan and Age of Empires and X-Com and Civilization and The Sims and on and on and on. Maybe they don't save lives - although I do sometimes entertain the crackpot idea that the virtual worlds we escape to relieves some of the pressure of the overpopulation in our urban environments and just may be the thing we need to survive the oncoming crisis where the human population gets too big to sustain itself - but they make our lives better in a variety of ways.
Danc says that 95% of the industry is the sucky cesspit he describes, which means I've almost always been rolling 20s.
Here's one thought: maybe I haven't had good luck; maybe Danc had bad luck. So he was on a crappy team and there are a lot of crappy teams out there, but there are also a lot of good teams - sometimes there can even be good teams and bad teams at the same company. The good teams are less vocal then the bad teams but they're out there: Infinity Ward, Neversoft, High Moon...
Here's yet another thought: maybe it's not all luck. There have been times where I was asked to put in overtime and I refused; there have been times when there was peer pressure to put in overtime and I didn't participate; I would never let other people schedule for me; and I would bring good project management practices with me to the team. And somehow I never got fired.
Jason Della Rocca said that improving quality of life has to be an executive-level decision, but it can be an employee level decision, as well: if you're getting ready to leave the industry because you hate the situation at your current employer, there's a couple of steps you can take first. One, you can stop crunching and ask for some changes where you work. Hey, the worst that'll happen is you'll get fired. Probably what will happen is they'll realize they'd rather have your 100% than your 0%: they won't spite you for not giving the 110%. Two, you can look for another job in the industry where things are a little saner.
The workers control the means of production, yo.