Staff at Rockstar Games have recently been allowed to take to social media and reveal what working conditions at the studio are really like, following controversial comments made co-founder Dan Houser earlier in the week.
During an interview with Vulture, Houser perhaps chose his words poorly when he suggested staff at Rockstar had been working “100 hour weeks” in order to cope with the “immense” Red Dead Redemption 2 scripts.
Given that the game’s industry is actually kind of notorious for treating its employees like dirt, these comments were met with condemnation across the board.
Members of the gaming press and developers alike took to Twitter to slam Rockstar for Houser’s comments, and the situation only grew more dire as current Rockstar staff were unable to share their side of the story, thanks to company rules preventing them from discussing work on social media.
It certainly didn’t help matters that many of the people taking to Twitter to slam the gaming industry’s habit of working employees to the bone, were actually ex-Rockstar staff.
It’s been nearly a decade since I parted from Rockstar, but I can assure you that during the GTA IV era, it was like working with a gun to your head 7 days a week. “Be here Saturday & Sunday too, just in case Sam or Dan come in, they want to see everyone working as hard as them.” https://t.co/TaQS5LnaAa
— Job J Stauffer (@jobjstauffer) October 16, 2018
For his part, Houser tried his best to put out the PR fire he’d inadvertently created, explaining that it was around three weeks of intense work from the writing team, not the whole studio, and that he’d never expect his staff to work such insane hours unless they wanted to.
Naturally, it all boiled over to the point that Rockstar decided to relax its social media rules and allow its staff to come out and defend Houser, letting us all know what it’s like to currently work at the studio.
Vivianne Langdon – a Tools Programmer working on Red Dead Redemption 2 – explained via Twitter:
R* has granted permission for us to speak frankly about this issue on social media. I want to stress that this is is my uncurated personal opinion, I am not being compensated for this post in any way and am making it voluntarily. I’m only going to speak to my personal experience. I have never worked more than maybe 50 hours a week (and that’s a rare occurrence), but I generally work about 2-6 hours of paid overtime per week.
Other staff quickly echoed Langdon’s sentiments, suggesting that if Rockstar had been a less than ideal place to work years ago, that was certainly not the case now.
Take a look at a couple of the Tweets below:
This week my Twitter timeline has been full of guff. I’ve been at R* for 6 years and I have never worked, or been asked to work, anywhere remotely close to 100 hours in a week.
— Wesley Mackinder (@WesleyMackinder) October 18, 2018
I have been at Rockstar for two years, and worked on RDR2. I have never worked anywhere close to 100 hrs a week. There was some crunch sure but nothing ridiculous. We worked hard on the game but we weren’t being abused. I think the most I did on RDR2 was 60 for one week.
— Danny Bannister (@BeardyDan3D) October 18, 2018
As a Rockstar employee of 8 years I’d like to join those in defence of the studio I love. Never felt pressured or forced to work anything close to 100 hrs per week throughout the production of #gtav #rdr2 #reddeadredemption2. Always felt valued and appreciated. #rockstargames.
— Christian Simcock (@BlackShuck72) October 18, 2018
Even staff who have been with Rockstar for well over a decade backed up Houser and their fellow colleagues.
Rich Rosado, for example, claimed that in his 18+ years with the studio, he’s never been forced to work anything close to a 100 hour week, and that overtime was “always at his discretion”.
Crunch and abusive practices in the video game industry are certainly ongoing problems that need to be addressed, so if nothing else it’s good that this whole Rockstar fiasco has opened up the conversation in a massive way.
Ewan Moore is a journalist at UNILAD Gaming who still quite hasn’t gotten out of his mid 00’s emo phase. After graduating from the University of Portsmouth in 2015 with a BA in Journalism & Media Studies (thanks for asking), he went on to do some freelance words for various places, including Kotaku, Den of Geek, and TheSixthAxis, before landing a full time gig at UNILAD in 2016.