The real tragedy is that it doesn't need to be that way. As was pointed out in multiple interviews with ex-staff you have huge waste. You don't have to run a 24/7 crunch for 8 years. That's just poor management excusing their incompetence. I've seen it before many times. The leadership treats the people as dispensable. The people quit. They fall behind. They treat the next people like shit. They quit. They fall further behind. If they had paced themselves at the beginning and been honest that they couldn't match their deadlines then ultimately they would be more productive and finish sooner. But they also have the publisher breathing down their neck and they know that admitting to needing a 100% larger budget will end the project. Asking for 10 10% extensions to not "let the work done so far go to waste so far" keeps their death spiral alive.
People leaving / burning out is the big problem, you just can't drive people to do any kind of non-mechanical work for those kinds of hours over an extended period of time. When they do leave, they take most of the knowledge they've gained about the project with them (regardless of the documentation procedures you have in place), which puts the development even further behind, driving management to crack out the whip and feed the cycle some more.
The absolute worst thing you can have is staff turnover in software projects, if you had 30% more workforce and your turnover was low, you'd gain more than those wages back in compression of delivery schedule and hence less wage duration (i.e., maybe it wouldn't have taken them 7 years to finish the game). That's without even thinking about if the 80th hour of a programmers work week is as productive as the 40th (it's not).
The problem is that game dev managers; see a willing workforce out there that they can abuse because of the industry, have stupidly optimistic deadlines and budgets set to even get the project approved and a general distain for project management as a task (it's all about getting people to tap keys as long and as quickly as possible).
We reward the wrong competitive that in the end really wastes our limited resources. Its not his fault that society liked his songs, but rather shouldn't we realized that in the end we shouldn't just be sheeple ingoring our own plight.
Will a pop star be able to save us in the event of a meteor impact? What about global warming, tsunami, outbreak of a virus, nuclear proliferation, global famine, and what about the samll things?
Society needs a balance, entertainment and the arts in all it's forms (music, movies, sports etc.) is an important of people's lives, it's an important part of society it's self. Those people doing research and working hard on fixing various problems that afflict our society like everyone else take a break by cranking up some music or yelling at the TV whilst watching whatever sporting team they support.
Life can't be just about "serious" things. I agree that we don't necessarily fund or acknowledge those things which make a major impact towards advances for the human race, but I can tell you that my life would a far worse place without music, sports and books to read, and that the producers of those have enriched my life also.
It's easy for these sort of things to get to the "but the goverment should fund schools, police and hospitals more, aren't they more imporant than " argument. The truth is that you can't fund somethings to the complete exclusion of others, even though those things are more "important", you end up with a very unbalanced world.
If I'd known computer science was going to be like this, I'd never have given up being a rock 'n' roll star. -- G. Hirst