Rockstar Games' "crunch culture" is reflective of a scary industry standard
Earlier this morning, Kotaku’s Jason Schreier released a scary and incredibly in-depth look at Rockstar Games’ “crunch culture” — the term being used to describe this culture of cramming and crunching work in before deadlines. “Crunch culture” is usually a term associated with college students, final exams, and degrees, but we are now hearing reports all across the gaming industry about this sort of culture existing within developer studios preceding the release of big AAA titles. So, what is this all about?
This whole situation first arose a few weeks back when a GamesIndustry article released highlighting Rockstar Games co-founder Dan Houser’s comments on the amount of work being put into their upcoming game, Red Dead Redemption 2, by the development studio. Houser proudly boasted that Rockstar had been “working 100-hour weeks,” a statement which he clarified and retracted days later, stating that only four high-up employees at Rockstar were working those sort of hours. But it was too late for Houser and Rockstar — the floodgates had been opened, and a scary and harrowing industry standard, not just at Rockstar but in many AAA developer studios, had been exposed.
Just days ago, Rockstar Games lifted its social media ban on its employees, allowing them to speak their mind publicly. Kotaku was given exclusive access to interview many Rockstar employees, most of which stayed annoymous, and the accounts about being overworked and being pressured into working nights and weekends began. Many employees said they were working upwards of 60 hours a week, which would equate to six 10-hour days, a lot of time being taken away from their personal lives. Many stated that friendships and relationships had been tarnished and ruined by Red Dead Redemption 2, and as horrible as that is, Rockstar Games isn’t the only studio with this issue.
Just a few weeks back, Telltale Games, the studio behind hits such as The Walking Dead and Batman completely shut their doors and laid off a large majority of their workers — largely because of poor management, similar to Rockstar. Reports of Telltale Games overworking their staff had been surfacing for months, and The Verge interviewed former Telltale employees who gave their horror stories similar to Rockstar workers.
All over the industry, you hear these dreaded tales of overworking, relationships and friendships being tarnished, and poor management at a corporate level. And for what? Video Games? For many outside of the games industry, it always seems impossible for video games to have such a poor and stressful environment, but for those that work at major studios, this news is not breaking.
Developers and producers across the entire games industry are suffer, primarily because of a lack of labor unions that back video game workers. Just months ago at the Game Developers’ Conference in March, the need and want for video game positions to be unionized was stated very loudly, and yet we are here now, with one studio shutting its doors and another under intense heat in the weeks and days following their latest release.
It’s time for this “crunch culture” to stop. It’s time for video game managers and producers to start actually managing and planning things out better. It’s time for developers and workers to stop being exploited by their bosses and superiors. It’s time for industry workers to be protected and unionized. And above all else, it’s time for change in the games industry.