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Rockstar Clarifies “100-Hour Work Week” Statement, Allows Staff To Talk About Their Workplace In Social Media
The upcoming release of Red Dead Redemption II has been celebrated with positive hype, until we learned about the human cost to make such a huge open world experience. In an interview with Vulture, Rockstar’s Dan Houser was quoted that 100-hour work weeks was done several times this year. For context, a regular work week is 40 hours long and there are 168 hours in a week.
What entails is a blowback where crunch culture and the need for the games industry to unionise are discussed among industry peers and the media alike. Note that the news of Telltale Games laying off all its employees and has a culture of overworking its staff also happened recently.
To assuage the situation, Rockstar has addressed and clarified the 100-hour work week quote. The statement is by Houser, speaking to Kotaku:
“There seems to be some confusion arising from my interview with Harold Goldberg. The point I was trying to make in the article was related to how the narrative and dialogue in the game was crafted, which was mostly what we talked about, not about the different processes of the wider team. After working on the game for seven years, the senior writing team, which consists of four people, Mike Unsworth, Rupert Humphries, Lazlow and myself, had, as we always do, three weeks of intense work when we wrapped everything up. Three weeks, not years. We have all worked together for at least 12 years now, and feel we need this to get everything finished. After so many years of getting things organized and ready on this project, we needed this to check and finalize everything.
“More importantly, we obviously don’t expect anyone else to work this way. Across the whole company, we have some senior people who work very hard purely because they’re passionate about a project, or their particular work, and we believe that passion shows in the games we release. But that additional effort is a choice, and we don’t ask or expect anyone to work anything like this. Lots of other senior people work in an entirely different way and are just as productive – I’m just not one of them! No one, senior or junior, is ever forced to work hard. I believe we go to great lengths to run a business that cares about its people, and to make the company a great place for them to work.”
The short of it: only senior staff did the long hours of work and only doing so recently and not throughout the years of development.
Also, Rockstar has allowed its staff members to speak about its workplace conditions on social media. And now tweets from several employees have shared their experience.
A series of tweets by Vivianne Langdon, for instance, paint the studio in a more positive light. Overtime hours are paid and only occasionally worked in the weekends.
I'm a Tools Programmer at Rockstar Games in San Diego and I've been working at R* for 3.5 years. I don't generally talk about work but I wanted to provide a brief personal perspective on the recent articles which have presumed that R* forces its employees to work 100-hour weeks.
— Vivianne Langdon 🏳️🌈 (@viiviicat) October 18, 2018
Wesley Mackinder meanwhile mentioned that during development of Red Dead Redemption, there were instances where he worked a 50-hour week, but it is usually just regular 40 hours.
Just to add a concrete example of what I'm talking about. During the dev. of RDR I sometimes worked 50 hours during the week. This was on and off for a few months. And by on and off I really do mean off. Some weeks I just worked a flat 40 and there was zero issues with this.
— Wesley Mackinder (@WesleyMackinder) October 18, 2018
Same goes to Timea Tabori, who also claims to have worked 50-hour work weeks occasionally but that is not the norm.
In over 5 years, never have I been asked or pressured to work anywhere near 100 hours. I have occasionally worked maybe 50 hours a week at most and nobody demanded or even expected that.
— Timea Tabori (@TimeaTabori) October 18, 2018
In addition, VG 24/7 also received an anonymous employee from Rockstar who is frustrated with how their workplace being portrayed as a “hellish place to work” and development of Red Dead Redemption II had them enter “minor crunch” once and overtime was compensated.
Expect to see more of this developers share their side of their story, good or not, in the future. Former developers that previously worked at Rockstar years ago may not share the same tone as the ones we highlighted here.
Having these developers speak of themselves is obviously Rockstar attempting to clear things up (or damage control, depending how you look at it). On a more positive note, it’s good that the game industry are talking about the welfare of its employees again. Hopefully it will inspire change it desperately need.