Over the past few days there has been a discussion online regarding Rockstar Games’ Red Dead Redemption 2, and the weekly work hours of their employees, and specifically what is known as crunch time. Crunch time refers to the time before a deadline is due, when it becomes clear that there is no way it will be completed on time at this pace, so everyone works overtime to meet the goal.
In an article released on October 14th in Vulture magazine, Dan Houser Co-founder and head writer at Rockstar Games stated “We were working 100-hour weeks.” This sparked an internet firestorm with many speaking out against the perceived work practices at Rockstar.
It is unsurprising that people were quick to jump on Rockstar Games for their treatment of workers. This is not the first time they have been involved in a scandal surrounding work hours. In 2010 they experienced a similar scandal surrounding crunch time leading up to the release of the original Red Dead Redemption, and similar issues have been reported in relation to other Rockstar games. Such as Job J. Stauffer amidst the recent controversy, reflecting on his time working on GTA IV, “it was like working with a gun to your head 7 days a week.”
In the wake of this internet backlash Rockstar Games provided a statement to Kotaku, purportedly from Dan Houser, clarifying his statement about work hours saying, “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.” Which is a vastly different story from what was perceived at the time, and would have been much better if stated in the original interview, and not after social media got a hold of it.
Still facing the backlash, to clear things even further, Rockstar on the night of the 17th lifted their ban policy on employees talking about work on social media. Some who work there have pushed back on social media against the description of their work environment with their own stories.
Senior Code Content Developer at Rockstar North Phil Beveridge had this to say, “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 than 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...) I personally wanted to help deliver the best game that I could during that time, and it was tough for a few weeks, but it was my choice.”
While no worker should be forced to work 100 hour weeks, that does not seem to be the case here based on what is known at this time. It seems to be merely another example of internet drama being brewed up over hasty comments. With this seemingly over, we can now get back to being excited about Red Dead 2.