Connect with us


Rockstar Games controversy, explained: Why people are accusing the maker of ‘Grand Theft Auto’ of overworking employees



Red Dead Redemption 2
A scene from “Red Dead Redemption


  • Rockstar Games came under fire earlier this week after
    cofounder Dan Houser claimed employees were working 100-hour
    weeks to finish the company’s upcoming game, “Red Dead Redemption
  • While the game has received positive early buzz, Rockstar has
    been accused of taking part in “crunch culture,” or pushing staff
    to work overtime. 
  • Overworking staff is an ongoing problem for video game
    studios, and the tech industry at large.
  • Houser has since said Rockstar doesn’t force anyone to work
    extra-long hours. 
  • Now, Rockstar employees have taken to social media to express
    their feelings about the studio’s work environment.

The most anticipated video game of 2018, “Red Dead Redemption 2,”
will be released next week, marking the culmination of seven
years of work from developer Rockstar Games.

And while the game has received positive early buzz, Rockstar
itself has faced controversy in recent days. 

In an interview with New York
Magazine’s Vulture
last week, Rockstar’s cofounder Dan Houser
praised staff members for working multiple 100-hour weeks to
finish the game, invoking a fierce backlash
from fellow game developers, who accused the company of abusing
its employees.

“Red Dead Redemption 2” is expected to be one of the most
expansive video games of all-time, with a main campaign that
could last more than 60 hours and a script surpassing 2,000
pages. With seven years to work on the game and a huge budget
funded by the success of “Grand Theft Auto,” critics have
questioned why the studio still has workers putting in so much

In an effort to quell the most recent criticism of the studio,
Houser released a follow-up statement to attempt to
clarify. Houser told Kotaku he was only
referring to the senior writing team of “Red Dead Redemption 2,”
which consists of four people, including himself.

While “Red Dead Redemption 2” has been in production for seven
years, Houser said the team spent three intensive weeks trying to
finish the process. He said that other members of the game’s
development team also chose to commit extra time, but that no one
was forced to work long hours.

Part of Houser’s statement to Kotaku reads, “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.”

The culture of ‘crunch’

Overworking staff, sometimes called “crunch culture,” is an
ongoing problem for video game studios and the tech industry at
large. Rockstar is best known for the massively successful “Grand
Theft Auto” series, and the company has come under fire for
similar tactics in the past.

In 2010, just months after the release of the original “Red Dead
Redemption,” a group of Rockstar employees’ spouses published an open letter
calling attention to abusive work practices at Rockstar San
Diego. The group accused management of withholding bonuses and
pushing employees to the brink.

Workers throughout the video game industry have been vocal about
crunch culture and predatory studio practices in recent weeks.
Developers have shared horror stories about studios taking
advantage of their personal passion for an upcoming game to
justify reckless work schedules:

The issue goes beyond video games — the tech industry as a whole
has long been critiqued for pushing employees to the
. Tech firms like Apple, Lyft, and Uber have all
at some point espoused the virtues of being a workaholic, and
founders like Tesla CEO Elon Musk have been lauded
for sleeping at work overnight.

‘I haven’t worked a 100 hour work week in my life’

Now, in an effort to change the narrative about Rockstar’s work
environment, the company is letting employees discuss their jobs
on social media. Rockstar has told employees to be honest without
fear of repercussions. 

So far, those who have made public statements have defended
Rockstar’s overall work environment, while acknowledging that
overtime isn’t unusual:

Rockstar has also provided The Guardian with
self-reported statistics from company employees.

Based on employees’ self-reported hours across all studios from
January 8th to the end of September 2018, the average working
week was between 42.4 and 45.8 hours. During the studio’s busiest
week, employees averaged 50.1 hours and 20% of employees reported
working 60 hours or more. 

Continue Reading
Advertisement Find your dream job