Rockstar Devs Tweet Positive and Negative Testimonials in the Face of Crunch Controversy

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Oct 18
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For the most part, the lead up to the launch of Red Dead Redemption 2 has been a masterclass in marketing, but the hype train hit a bit of a hitch last week when Rockstar co-founder Dan Houser let slip that he and others have been working 100-hour weeks to get the game out the door. Houser would later walk back his comments, saying only the senior writing team was working those kind of hours, but it still ignited a debate about video game industry crunch culture that threatened to derail some of the positivity surrounding Red Dead Redemption 2.

In an effort to get things back on track, Rockstar has relaxed their usually stringent social media policy, and allowed employees to talk freely about their experiences on Twitter. A majority of the tweets have been positive – while most of the employees acknowledge some overtime is a reality, they insist 100-hour weeks don’t happen, and that they’re fairly compensated for their extra hours. Here are Rockstar San Diego programmer Vivianne Langdon’s experiences:

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Here’s what Rockstar North tools programmer Zoë Sams had to say:

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And here’s Rockstar North senior coder Phil Beveridge:

Of course, the question has been asked – are these Rockstar employees really free to speak their minds? Rockstar North employee Wesley Mackinder says they weren’t asked to sugarcoat anything.

Not all the reports were positive. Rockstar North worker Tom Fautley has never worked a 100-hour week, but he’s seen friends get close to that number:

Here’s another report from an ex Rockstar employee who worked on GTA V:

So, where’s the truth lie? Perhaps we need an unbiased source – Kotaku’s Jason Schreier has weighed in, basically saying “it’s complicated,” and that both sides are probably telling the truth.

The issue of crunch in video game development is indeed a complicated one. On the one hand, video games are an industry, a product, and those who make them deserve fair treatment. On the other hand, video games are also an artistic medium, and sometimes creativity doesn’t happen on a strict Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 schedule. It’s a tough balance to strike, and based on some of the testimonials above, it seems Rockstar (like most studios) has some room to improve.

Read Dead Redemption 2 launches on Xbox One and PS4 on October 26.

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