After several years in the making, with multiple Rockstar studios collaborating, Red Dead Redemption 2 is releasing on October 26th, 2018. Ahead of its release however, some comments by Dan Houser, Co-Founder of Rockstar Games, have set social media ablaze. In an interview with Vulture, Dan said that “We were working 100-hour weeks” several times in 2018. That comment quickly set off concerns that employees at Rockstar Games were being overworked, being forced or highly encouraged to participate in crunch sessions.
As a result, Rockstar Games has lifted its ban on social media commentary for its developers and so we are seeing several Rockstar Games employees speak about work culture and their experiences with the company.
Miriam Bellard, Lead Interior Previz Designer at Rockstar North, said that “For me this has been the nicest place I have ever worked with the nicest people. The recent commentary vilifying us has been heartbreaking.”
Alex Menasche, Recruitment Manager at Rockstar North, cited an excellent history with the company, saying “I’ve been at Rockstar for about 7 years. To me, this company is more than just my job. I love it here and could not be more proud of the people I work with, the support we’re given and what we’re able to accomplish together.”
Quite a few expressed shock and disappointment at the statements being made, with Wesley Mackinder, a developer at Rockstar North, saying “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.” He added that “It’s been surreal to see people share their crunch stories with the conclusion being, ‘Rockstar needs to change’. When I’ve just been reading them thinking, ‘I’m so glad I work at Rockstar and haven’t done anything they have’.”
Timea Torbori, Engine Programmer at Rockstar North and Lead Ambassador of Women in Games in Scotland, also had quite a bit to say. “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.”
Since his interview with Vulture was published, Dan Houser has offered an altered statement, claiming his original comments were misunderstood. Speaking with IGN, he gave the following statement:
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.
It’s good to get some statements from developers currently at Rockstar Games wrapping up work on Red Dead Redemption 2. It’s also at least encouraging to see Dan clarify his comments. Gathering everything together, we’ll have to wait and see if anything comes about regarding this situation.