Red Dead Redemption 2 is out right now, but fallout continues after allegations of extreme crunch culture at Rockstar Games. Now, several new reports have come out backing up claims that a portion of Rockstar's workforce is pushed in extreme ways to complete work on its games.
A new report by Eurogamer focusing on employees at Rockstar's Lincoln location, allegedly one of the hardest hit by crunch, details more instances of extreme working conditions at Rockstar. Employees detailed how the overtime at work damaged personal relationships, and even drove some to suicidal depression in some instances.
"I know a number of people signed off work because of depression or anxiety," one person says. Says another: "I worked for a number of years in the Lincoln QA studio on GTA5 and RDR2. I ended up leaving due to personal circumstance and the job itself driving me into a suicidal depression." "I know people that have given up on dating," a third person tells me. "I know people whose relationships have ended because they just can't see partners."
The report details how crunch affected employees on a persona level. Stories about lost relationships with loved ones, social withdrawal, and other damages to personal lives as a result of an overbearing workload that cut into employee's chances of a healthy work-life balance.
"Requests to be exempt from a particular overtime shift can be denied unless it is considered urgent, Rockstar Lincoln employees have told me, and staff are asked to work the time back. If an employee can't work a day's overtime on a particular weekend, they will have to make that time up during the weekend following - which can see people working 13 days back-to-back without rest."
"One quote I've heard from multiple people is from a manager telling staff who did complain: "If you don't like it, fuck off and work down Tesco's."
Rumors of Rockstar's intense work hours pre-dated Red Dead Redemption 2, things came to a head when Rockstar co-founder Dan Houser said that employees worked multiple 100-hour weeks in the past year alone. Houser later clarified that this was only for select senior staff, but that too has been rebuttled and contested by Rockstar employees.
In a separate report by GamesIndustry.biz one ex-Rockstar employee took insult to Houser's clarification "I was really annoyed to see Dan framing the crazy overtime as simply a passion thing. That's rubbish, it's a mandatory part of the culture for everyone from the top down."
The report details how Rockstar's work practices pushed employees in ways where they felt like their jobs were constantly at-risk.
"I lost all passion for video games, and I don't even play them in my spare time anymore. I can't even get excited about games that I used to love. I decided that the long hours, low pay, bullying, and the general toxicity of the environment that I experienced in was not worth the hassle of staying in the industry."
"There was always this idea that if you didn't put in the hours, you'd be fired or laid off after release, your year-end raise or bonus would be affected, and even your career progression would take a hit," a former Rockstar NYC employee said. "The way crunch was pushed made it sound like putting in the hours showed how dedicated you were to the company. You wanted to be seen by Sam or Dan [Houser] working at your desk until late at night, and they wanted to see people in their seats working until late at night. They would walk the floors just to see who was at their desks."
While Rockstar clarified that crunch was never mandatory at the company, others told Gamesbeat that job security often pushed employees to work beyond their comfort in order to keep working at Rockstar.
You go from contract to contract," one former dev explained. "That's either six months or a year. And at any one of those intervals, you can be let go. If you don't do the overtime, you will be let go. If you don't work enough overtime, you will be let go."
In light of the revelation that Rockstar had a negative impact on even just some of its employees have led to broader questions about the games industry and what it means to support some of the largest and most popular developers in the industry. Questions we will continue to ask in the following weeks.