Comments concerning 100-hour work weeks at Rockstar Games kicked up quite a bit of controversy recently and, last week, one of the developer's studios reiterated to employees that overtime is not mandatory. This has, in turn, led to a bigger conversation about common work practices within the entire industry.
In a recent interview featuring Rockstar co-founder Dan Houser, it was noted that employees of the company were "working 100-hour weeks" to get Red Dead Redemption 2 out the door by this Friday, Oct. 26. Backlash followed, leading Houser to clarify that he was specifically talking about himself and a trio of members of the writing staff, not the entire company.
Amidst all of the fallout, Variety is reporting that Rockstar Lincoln held a special meeting with employees late last week to discuss overtime policy. In short, the studio reiterated the fact that overtime hours are not mandatory, something that employees were reportedly unclear on. Based on the report and messages posted on social media from past and current employees of Rockstar, the idea that overtime was not mandatory until last week could have been up for debate.
Animation Development Assistant Flik Green, for instance, tweeted that overtime "was never assumed to be optional," noting that she was working on a six-month contract and "kept seeing" her friends let go.
As noted by the initial report, despite overtime not being mandatory at Rockstar Lincoln, it was still requested and scheduled. As noted by Jennifer Kolbe, employees felt that if overtime was requested and scheduled, it wasn't exactly voluntary.
On top of the meeting to reiterate the fact that overtime is not mandatory, Rockstar Lincoln is taking additional measures to ensure its employees are more comfortable with scheduling. The studio aims to make those OT hours more flexible, for instance.
Concerning specific work hours, it is reported that employees were asked to work 37.5 hours per week from last October to mid-May of this year. That went up to 45.4 hours from mid-May to early August, and 53.1 hours through Oct. 1. Hours clearly went up as Red Dead Redemption 2 neared launch, the very definition of "crunch" time for a developer.
As noted above, this response was partially due to the fact that, following the controversy stirred up by Houser's interview comment, Rockstar actually axed a longstanding policy concerning employees and comments on social media. In the past, employees were unable to comment much about their life behind closed doors at Rockstar. Last week, the developer lifted those restrictions, encouraging anyone who wanted to talk about their time with the company to do so. The announcement stated that employees should not feel the need to "sugarcoat" their comments. After a week of seeing these types of comments pop up on social media, the gist seems to be that working conditions at Rockstar weren't ideal in the past but, over recent years, things have improved.