During a recent interview with Vulture, a Rockstar games employee casually stated that himself and some employees were pulling almost 100-hour work weeks to get everything done in time for the release of Red Dead Redemption 2. And while this comment may not have intended to stir any kind of buzz, it certainly did: Following the declaration, a storm of individuals in the gaming industry – both other companies, reviewers, and fans – arose to condemn the statement, ‘fighting back’ for the Rockstar employees and calling out the work environment of AAA publishers as a heartless ‘sweatshop’ of games development. These individuals also condemned the practice of ‘crunch time’, or the usual rush period experienced just before the release of a major project, as a whole, stating that these periods can often call for absurd amounts of overtime by employees, and also stating that many times the places of employment can fail to compensate employees for the number of extra hours they work during these periods.
However, other Rockstar employees have begun to speak out against the 100-hour work week that others have been assuming as a standard for the company. In a tweet, Rockstar programming engineer Timea Tabori stated that the studio has never required such long work weeks from her or anyone she’s known. She also stated that she once worked a 50 hour week, but that was not something that she felt was anywhere near required of her by her employer and that amount of work was strictly her own decision.
Timea also called out members of other games publishers or other employees who were trying to organize a boycott on Rockstar games for what they deemed “horrible employer practices”.
“When you call us a horrible place to work based on false information and without having ever worked here or you call for our games to be boycotted (?!) you’re not part of constructive dialogue. Mostly what you are achieving is hurting and diminishing the work of your peers.”
Wesley Mackinder, another Rockstar employee, has also issued a series of tweets, addressing the claims as demonstrably untrue: “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.”
Mackinder also says he’s been reading the horror stories of ‘crunch time’ that have been emerging from other employees working for other publishers due to the rise of this ‘scandal’ against Rockstar, and is glad that he’s never had to deal with issues like these.
Rockstar has also issued several official statements to ensure employees that overtime is not mandatory. These statements have been issued to both the public and to Rockstar employees.
However, while these work hours may not be technically mandatory, that was never the claim made by the employee who spoke of a 100 hour work week – That claim was that employees worked that much because they felt it was what was expected of them.
The air and environment at a place of work can be very stressful, and an environment of workaholism can often influence employees to continue to push themselves far past their normal limits. Even if the studio does not require large amounts of overtime, it is still possible that the work environment makes employees feel as if it is required of them, and thus are being pushed to work longer and longer hours.
Red Dead Redemption 2, the latest Single-Player title from Rockstar games, releases this Friday for PS4 and Xbox One.