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Rockstar devs comment on work culture after 100-hours backlash

Rockstar devs comment on work culture after 100-hours backlash

October 18, 2018 | By Chris Kerr

Rockstar has given its employees permission to speak frankly about working conditions at the studio on social media, and it's resulted in some interesting tales from behind the scenes. 

The move comes after studio co-founder Dan Houser landed the company in hot water by suggesting some staffers had worked 100-hour weeks polishing off Red Dead Redemption 2

Houser later claimed he was only referring to himself and other senior writers, but his comments managed to spark an industry-wide debate about the normalization and debilitating effects of crunch -- with many directing their frustrations straight towards Rockstar. 

Now though, with the company's social media ban lifted, a good chunk of staffers have leapt to the defense of their employer by sharing largely positive stories about their time at the studio. 

"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," said tools programmer Vivianne Langdon

"I do not feel personally that I am overworked or being mistreated. That said, I do not want this to diminish any others' stories should they arise, and I don't wish to imply that this industry is perfect. My goal is only to share my personal experience at R*."

Rockstar North's resident music developer Keith Thorburn echoed Langdon, and claimed that Red Dead Redemption 2 (RDR2) is one of the "most rewarding and least stressful projects" he's worked on.

"I know what epic crunch feels like but this was managed in such a way that I felt happy and healthy. I can only speak of my own experience but I know in recent chats with the rest of my team we all remarked upon how we'd found a very healthy work/life balance on RDR2," wrote Thorburn.

Others didn't deny that crunch happened, but dismissed the notion that employees were being coerced into putting in 100-hour weeks. 

"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," commented Rockstar North vehicle artist, Danny Bannister

Rockstar North senior code content developer Phil Beverage seems to be of the same mind as Bannister, and while he concedes that Rockstar isn't perfect, he ultimately believes the company has been given a bad rap of late. 

"In the time that I've been at the studio, work practices have definitely improved. Crunch on Red Dead Redemption 2 has definitely been a lot better that it was on GTA V, where I was pulling a month of 70+ hour weeks (while being told by my boss at the time to go home)," added Beverage.

"Crunch is a terrible thing, and should not be glorified by anyone. I'll admit that Rockstar isn't perfect. While feeling disheartened about some of the opinions online over the past few days, I'm hoping this discussion continues so we can fix issues across the whole industry."

While the general consensus seems to be that Rockstar -- while imperfect -- has changed for the better, other less than savory tales from current staffers suggest there's still plenty of room for improvement. 

"I should probably add my voice to the conversation going on around crunch. We do crunch. I've not seen anybody forced to work 100 hour weeks, but I've definitely seen friends get closer to that figure than is healthy," said Rockstar North dev Tom Fautley.

"A typical week during crunch for me would be somewhere around 45-50 hours. I have colleagues that definitely have worked a lot more though. As someone with health issues linked to stress and anxiety, it's not always great."

"Hey, just going to add my piece as a Rockstar employee. Not every studio gets paid overtime. We certainly don't. Other departments may not feel forced, but I doubt you'll see many tweets from Design or QA. The average from all departments makes overtime not loot too bad, but I've done 50+ hour weeks as standard since I started," one anonymous employee told VG247.

"Even if there is no work, we are told to come in every weekend anyway. I believe the people are being honest when they tweet, but they can only speak for themselves. Just needed that off my chest."

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