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Red Dead Redemption 2

Rockstar accounts speak of culture of crunch and fear

Big exposé at Kotaku points to 80 hour weeks, "culture of fear", and long periods of crunch.

Crunch is a thing the video game industry has been struggling with for a long time. Many studios see it as a "necessary evil" to complete and polish ambitious games, while many developers see it as a direct result of poor management at the executive level.

In Kotaku's very well worked through article 34 current and 43 former Rockstar developers contributed their opinions and thoughts. These work and worked at a number of the different studios Rockstar houses, and naturally, their experience varied. Some were quite happy, others speak of mandatory overtime and sometimes as much as 80 hour weeks. Most alarmingly was perhaps the fact that none of the employees, current or former, wanted their names in the article and many of the most damning accounts were omitted for fear it might reveal the identity of the source.

Rockstar was forthcoming in the sense that they offered answers and supplied Kotaku with an opportunity to speak to 12 employees, and even though they've lifted the NDA for employees to speak with the press, there was still fear of getting treated poorly, regardless of whether the employee in question had something positive or negative to say. This also ties in with the fact that a good number of interviewees mentioned the term "culture of fear", which is to say, they would fear repercussions for not working the same hours as everyone else in the office. The fact that people on the payroll receive no compensation for overtime, and instead cling on until a game is released to qualify for what could be a substantial bonus, is another unhealthy situation. Particularly for a company who hasn't released a new game in five years.

While many accounts speak of regular 55-60 hour weeks, Rockstar's own internal stats show far lower averages (45.8 hours most recently), but that is for the entirety of the Rockstar staff including receptionists, folks working on less crunch-intensive projects (GTA Online), Human Resources, Legal, and whatever else a massive organisation like Rockstar needs. Some departments at Rockstar have been crunching on Red Dead Redemption 2 since 2016 with others joining this the most intense phase of development in the autumn of 2017, but even prior to that some employees speak of "mandatory 80 hour weeks". Clearly, different parts of Rockstar has suffered more than others, with the QA department being pushed very hard throughout.

Crunch in the video games industry is a phenomenon that is unlikely to go away anytime soon, but hopefully, those who work 80 hours a week to make great games for us will be compensated properly...

What are your thoughts on crunch and developer working conditions?

Red Dead Redemption 2

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