Earlier this week, a now infamous piece by Harold Goldberg went up on Vulutre.com. In it, Dan Houser is being quoted as saying, "We were working 100-hour weeks." Unsurprisingly this has led to a flew of feedback from critics, fans, and even devs in the gaming industry. It's undoubtedly the not-so-secrete-secrete that game developers for major companies often put in long and strenuous amounts of overtime to deliver games at deadlines without receiving much praise for it. Names like The Houser Brothers, Kojima-san, Shaeffer, and Miyamoto are huge in the video game world. Almost everyone who games knows at least one of those names and the projects they've worked on. But how many countless developers out there, the ones tasked with putting in extreme overtime to make a horse's balls swing correctly, are well known? Today's blockbuster games takes hundreds or even thousands of developers to put together. Of course, the same is true for many other mediums not just video games. Film and TV crews put in countless hours of work only to receive a small acknowledgement in the credits. Even still, there doesn't seem to be the outcry from people who work in these mediums.
I’ve worked in the film & games industries. Speaking only for myself; there have been times where I worked 100 hours in a week happily & proudly.— Aaron Stewart-Ahn (@somebadideas) October 15, 2018
Rockstar, I quit after only a few months. https://t.co/qmSzN8Zm2k
Given the extreme outcry that has come from this, it's not surprising to see Houser working damage control already. In a response posted to Kotaku.com Houser attempts to elaborate on his initial quote claiming that he was mostly talking about his writing staff of himself and 4 others over a 3 week process. But even so, he still implies the rest of the staff was working long weeks to get the game out, "More importantly, we obviously don’t expect anyone else to work this way. Across the whole company, we have some senior people who work very hard purely because they’re passionate about a project, or their particular work, and we believe that passion shows in the games we release. But that additional effort is a choice, and we don’t ask or expect anyone to work anything like this."
In an ideal world, this wouldn't be a choice for developers to have to make. It's pretty obvious to me that video game culture has in a sense created the narrative that this is okay. That unhealthy work hours is an okay thing to do simply because you love what you do. In an ideal world, bosses like Dan Houser would be telling their employees to head home for the night instead of working through it. Simply by allowing these practices to be okay puts a large expectation on other developers who are not willing to over work themselves to cave-in. Houser likes to claim that only the senior staff are putting in long hours out of a source of passion for what they do. But how can he honestly say that some of those on staff are doing it because they feel a peer-pressure to do so? To keep their job? To keep their families livelihood in tact?
I honestly wish I was a strong enough person to just not buy this game at all as a "vote with your dollers" so to speak protest that 100 hour work weeks are not okay. But I am not. In truth, I just love Rockstar games. They make exactly the type of games I want to play and there is truly no other developer like them in my opinion. You can say this makes my whole argument moot or hypocritical and you would probably be right. So how will this recent controversy effect you with RDR2? Are you still going to buy it? Will you cancel your pre-order? For me, with a game I expected to lose myself in just likes it predecessor, I'll probably be asking myself: Was that worth it? Was that scene worth someone missing an important event? Or even just taking time to relax and unwind? Still, until the game comes out it will be hard for me to gauge how this news fully effects the game play experience for me.
Update: Jason Schreier at Kotaku has posted another article where current employees had their social media bans lifted so they could talk about life at Rockstar games. Interestingly enough, nobody had a lot of bad things to say about their current employer...Obviously its nice to hear employees from Rockstar coming out speaking favorably of their jobs. But it is still a bit one sided in that they are current employees so how can they truly speak their feelings in a format where anyone in the world can see it. Jason has also stated that he has been working on a piece involving Rockstar and their employees before all of this blew up and is continuing to do so. We'll probably have to wait for this article to come before we get anything close to the bigger picture of whats going on at Rockstar. Even then, I don't think it will be wrapped very neatly.
Update 2: ANOTHER article by Stephen Totilo on Kotaku.com Apparently Rockstar felt the need to address their QA studio after many of their staff felt that overtime was mandatory and not optional.
Final Update: Jason Schreier at Kotaku.com has posted a fairly lengthy article that he's been working on about the culture behind Rockstar Games even before this whole thing started. He appears to have talked to a lot of sources within the company some named and most anonymous. The reception to their work culture also seems to be mixed with some claiming the experience to be satisfying while others say the game development cost them friendships and affected their family lives. Most importantly, out of the 77 people interviewed (current and past employees) 0 people have claimed to have worked 100 hour weeks. Instead they claimed to be working somewhere between 55-60 hour weeks. However, many of them claimed they felt compelled to work nights and weekends and only a small portion were contract employees who received overtime pay. The regular salaried employees receive no overtime while working with Rockstar.