Rockstar North Employees Speak Openly About Work Culture and “100 Hour” Crunch Ahead of Red Dead Redemption 2

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One story that has been dominating the narrative of Red Dead Redemption 2 in the last two weeks is the reported workplace culture over at Rockstar North. Backlash was quick to follow an interview with Rockstar Co-Founder Dan Houser where he noted “100-hour weeks” were had a few times in 2018 to help get Red Dead Redemption 2 where it needs to be at for launch.

Since the original reporting, news has come out on both sides of the equation. On one hand, Dan clarified the specific quote in an interview with Kotaku:

[W]e 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. Lots of other senior people work in an entirely different way and are just as productive – I’m just not one of them! No one, senior or junior, is ever forced to work hard. I believe we go to great lengths to run a business that cares about its people, and to make the company a great place for them to work.

Meanwhile, previous employees have taken to social media platforms to hurl similar complaints about Rockstar’s labor practices when they were tenured.

However, in a very rare move for the generally secretive Rockstar North, the company seems to have lifted Non-Disclosure requirements on employees. With this out of the way, many have been hitting Twitter this morning to openly discuss the workplace culture of Rockstar.

The collection of Tweets can be found below, but it does definitely paint an interesting picture. Comments from the staff seem to showcase Rockstar North as fairly standard workplace with supportive management–albeit one with various crunch times. No one speaking out currently has ever been asked to put in a hundred hours (like the original report suggested), however they were no stranger to overtime. Phil Beveridge (programmer at Rockstar North) emphatically stated that he has “never worked a 100 hour week” and that it is a “frankly ridiculous number.” Instead, he mentioned that he tends to average about 40-45 hours per week, with it sometimes stretching as high as 60 hours. But when doing that it was out of his “own accord… part of [him] being a perfectionist with the work [he does].”

Vivanne Langdon, a tools programmer,  reiterates a similar tone. Within her role,  she has “never worked more than maybe 50 hours a week (and that’s a rare occurrence), but [she] generally work about 2-6 hours of paid overtime per week.” Vivianne also makes a note that she is non-exempt, meaning she is paid extra for taking part in that.

Senior Graphic Designer Bean, J, goes as far to say that “tales of enforced 100hr weeks are completeley untrue” in his experience.

On the other side of things, not everyone is entirely happy with the pressure. A script writer at Rockstar  notes:

Normal crunch for me nowadays is more like 50-55 hours, and I’ve not personally had it as bad as other colleagues I know. I have several friends who have recently worked until the early hours of the morning many times.

While there tends to be small quips about crunch time when it comes to Rockstar employees, the ones who have come public seem to underscore the same message: Rockstar never forced them to work 100 hour work weeks, overtime is generally expected and compensated, that “crunch” has severely improved from past projects, and that it remains a problem in the industry worth addressing.

However, based on the public accounts of current employees, it would seem that much of the narrative — including Rockstar forcing people to work more than two times the average work hours — was largely drummed up because it remains a big industry problem. With Rockstar employees taking a moment to help unmuddy the waters, maybe we can get back to being hyped about Red Dead Redemption 2 and look to change the industry for the better across the board.

Red Dead Redemption 2 will be available for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 on October 26th. For those who want to pick the game up, Red Dead Redemption 2 icurrently available for pre-order on Amazon.

You can check out a selection of the employee Tweets below:

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