Rockstar Games co-founder and VP Dan Hauser unleashed a storm of controversy when he casually stated in an interview with Vulture that “We were working 100-hour weeks” putting the finishing touches on Red Dead Redemption 2. Reaction was swift with ...and more »
Does Rockstar hold a metaphorical gun to their employees heads with regards to overtime?Credit: Rockstar Games
Rockstar Games co-founder and VP Dan Hauser unleashed a storm of controversy when he casually stated in an interview with Vulture that “We were working 100-hour weeks” putting the finishing touches on Red Dead Redemption 2. Reaction was swift with many condemning the ubiquitous practice of crunch time in the video game industry in general and Rockstar’s history of imposing harsh demands on its employees in particular.
Kotaku asked Hauser to elaborate on his 100-hours statement. Hauser responded that he was talking about a senior writing team of four people working over a three-week period. This kind of intense short-term engagement was common for the team which had been working together for 12 years. Hauser went on to say that Rockstar doesn’t “ask or expect anyone to work anything like this”. Employees are given the option of working excessive overtime but doing so is a “choice” not a requirement.
A Rockstar employee speaks out.Credit: Rockstar Games
A QA tester at Rockstar’s Lincoln studio in the UK has taken to Reddit to answer questions and clarify misconceptions about overtime at Rockstar that have arisen in the wake of Hauser’s comments. He prefaces his statements about overtime with several important qualifications. The public rarely hears about working conditions at Rockstar because employees sign “multiple NDAs” (non-disclosure agreements) that prevent them from speaking out. The (verified) Reddit poster is speaking out now because Rockstar gave permission for employees to talk publicly about “the hours issue” yesterday. He also is careful to note that he can only talk about conditions at Rockstar Lincoln. He has no knowledge of working conditions at other Rockstar studios.
The first thing the poster points out is that he and other QA testers (with the possible exception of salaried staff) are paid for their overtime work. He then writes
The other big thing is that this overtime is NOT optional, it is expected of us. If we are not able to work overtime on a certain day without a good reason, you have to make it up on another day. This usually means that if you want a full weekend off that you will have to work a double weekend to make up for it.
A work day without overtime at Rockstar Lincoln is 7.5 paid hours with an additional unpaid one-hour meal break for a total of what the poster calls 8.5 hours actual. Employees are not expected to work during their meal break. Overtime days are 10 hours paid and 11.5 hours actual.
"Do as you're goddamned told"Credit: Rockstar Games
The poster's description of how overtime works is worth quoting in full.
We have to opt into a certain number of overtime weekday shifts per week depending on the current rules as well as a certain number of weekend shifts per month. During our 'standard' crunch hours we work 3/5 weekday overtime shifts and 2 weekend overtime shifts per month but during our 'true' crunch hours we work 5/5 weekday overtime shifts and at least 4 weekend overtime shifts per month. We have been in crunch since October 9th 2017 which is before I started working here.
To give readers insight into how Rockstar’s overtime policy works out in practice, the poster breaks down his hours over the 47 weeks he’s spent working at Rockstar Lincoln.
1 x Week - 5/5 Weekday overtime, 2/2 Weekend overtime (8:30 finishes) = 70 hours paid, 81.5 hours actual
8 x Week - 5/5 Weekday overtime, 1/2 Weekend overtime (5:30 finish) = 57.5 hours paid, 65 hours actual
38 x Week - 3/5 Weekday overtime, 0.5/2 Weekend overtime (5:30 finish) = 48.75 hours paid, 56 hours actual
Clearly, Hauser’s 100-hour week is not the norm if the poster’s experience in QA testing at Rockstar Lincoln is typical for most of the company’s employees. However, a requirement to opt into weekly overtime shifts and more than a year of required crunch time ranging from 56 to 81.5 hours spent at work each week is a far, far cry from Hauser’s claim that overtime is a “choice” offered to Rockstar’s employees.
The good news is that Rockstar has changed its overtime policies in response to the negative press engendered by Hauser’s 100-hours comment. Beginning next week “all overtime going forward will be entirely optional, so if we want to work the extra hours and earn the extra money (As well as make yourself look better for progression) then we can do, but there is no longer a rule making us do it.”
Labor and managementCredit: Rockstar Games
I lived through bitter and often violent confrontations between labor and management growing up in a blue-collar family where workers were fighting for union representation and better working conditions. As a result, I expect my views are biased on these issues. Nevertheless, I think the notion that crunch time is the norm in the video game industry is unconscionable and untenable. No one, in any line of work, should be expected to sacrifice their family for their job. If people want to devote their life to their job, they should be able to do so but those who would rather work a standard work-week should also be able to do so without suffering adverse job-related consequences. The world isn’t going to end for investors or game players if release dates are pushed back as many weeks as needed so that employees can continue to produce outstanding games without having to suffer through crunch.
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