Rockstar responds to allegations of poor working conditions

No business is perfect and making great games is challenging, says Red Dead developer

Rockstar has issued its first response to recent allegations of poor working conditions at its San Diego studio, made in an open letter by anonymous writers claiming to be wives of employees of the studio.

The letter stated that Rockstar was pushing its workers to the brink, expecting them to work 12 hours days, including on a Saturday, and being dishonest about deadlines.

Such conditions were threatening the health of employees, the letter said. It threatened that Rockstar should change its working practices or face legal action.

However, in its first public response since the allegations were published, Rockstar has said the matter is an unfortunate case of people believing the opinions of anonymous posters on message boards and that the company cares passionately about the people working for it.

"As for the stories spreading around the internet, yes we have noticed them," the company said in a Q&A session with fans in its official site. "Unfortunately, this is a case of people taking the opinions of a few anonymous posters on message boards as fact.

"No business is ever perfect, but Rockstar Games is a tight knit team made up of around 900 supremely talented and motivated professionals, many of whom have worked here for a very long time.

"We’re saddened if any former members of any studio did not find their time here enjoyable or creatively fulfilling and wish them well with finding an environment more suitable to their temperaments and needs, but the vast majority of our company are focused solely on delivering cutting edge interactive entertainment.

"We’ve always cared passionately about the people working here, and have always tried to maintain a supportive creative environment. There is simply no way Rockstar could continue to produce such large scale, high quality games without this.

"That being said, making great games is very challenging, which is why we have and will continue to try to keep hold of some of the best talent in the industry and support them in every way we can,"

Earlier this month the International Game Developers Association also commented on the claims, saying that these kinds of events raised an important awareness of quality of life issues within the industry at a time when economic factors could be leading to increased pressure on businesses.

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Latest comments (9)

As someone only familiar with this situation via the press, I've got to say that the above response in my opinion, doesn't go far enough to address any of the issues/points raised by the letter. Yes, it states that they have talented, dedicated staff who produce high quality games, and whom they will try and retain and support them. But the rest is just filler, and ignores pretty much all the contents of the letter. By not rebutting the issues raised, implies that those issues are based on fact, which in the UK would be breaking employment laws unless the overtime (over 48 hrs per week) is voluntary (Iím not sure about the US?). I hope for the sake of the employees and shareholders that this is not the case?

Itís not what the above response said, itís what it didnít say, which is of greater concern.
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Soeren Lund Producer, Io Interactive12 years ago
I read:

Yeah, we crunch! It's what it takes to create AAA games and if it's a problem for you, and we really want to keep you, we'll pay you more. All others can go right home and start looking for new jobs.

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Simon Small Studying Bachelor of Multimedia (Games and Interactivity) / Bachelor of Science (Computer Science and Software Engineering), Swinburne University of Technology12 years ago
When I enter the gaming workforce, I hope that I get a job good enough that I don't feel the need to pretend to be my own wife to bargain for better conditions, but it has to be a possibility I take into account.

On a lighter note, I found the juxtaposition of Soren from "Deadline Games" talking about deadlines to be humorous.
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Soeren Lund Producer, Io Interactive12 years ago
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Antony Cain Lecturer, Teesside University12 years ago
I read it as Damien did, then instantly thought:

"...ladies and gentlemen of this supposed jury, I have one final thing I want you to consider. Ladies and gentlemen, this is Chewbacca. Chewbacca is a Wookiee from the planet Kashyyyk. But Chewbacca lives on the planet Endor. Now think about it; that does not make sense!"
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Joseph Marlow Blogger 12 years ago
I interviewed at Rockstar one time and they said right from the get go "when it's crunch time we expect you to be here and get the work done. In return they are exceedingly generous. If that doesn't suit you, don't accept a job with us".

So basically "what Soren said".
I notice you're freelance now, Soren. I hope all is well.
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Justo Jones Rigger 12 years ago
If it's true and they are working these long hours, then I suggest to Rockstar that they should hire more staff... now it just so happens that I happen to be available ^_'

Seriously, the rebuttle doesn't say anything to deny the allegations, just PR waffle. So it's most likely true. It's ubiquitous to a lot of industries, the thinking is if you can't keep up there's 100 others who are willing to take your job.
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I think a big factor is that with employees who have been with the company for years (who gave many hours when they were able to, helping to make them top games AAA), may now have wives and children, and not the same free time that they were willing to commit to their work anymore. This needs to be recognised by the company, and they should really avoid putting their employees in a position where they need to choose between work OR family life, as with the hours allegedly stated, would put a massive strain on both.

Generally speaking (and not talking specifics here as only I admit to not knowing ANY facts about this case, just what has been alleged) you also have to wonder if an employee is not happy with working these hours, what sort of output rate you are getting from their staff? They stay on as not to loose their job, but what value for money is the company getting anyway? If you can motivate your staff to work long hours BY CHOICE for your company (a threat of loosing your job hanging over you isnít a true motivator), you will get far better returns.

Yeah, it might sound great for the head honcho to report to their board and say youíre cracking the wipe and getting X hrs out of your staff, but when you have incidents like this arising, you have to ask the question ďsurely there is a better wayĒ than just saying ďdo it or you are out!Ē?

My advise to anyone who is thinking of taking up a role within a company who have had this sort of employee management questions arise, is to look at the employee contract in detail (preferably with a lawyer) and see how well you are (or not) protected in this regard. Employment law can only protect you if you havenít already waved your rights within your employment contract. Itís likely you canít change the contract on offer, but you atleast know what you could potentially be exposing yourself to.
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Ryan Davies composer, sound designer, audio engineer 12 years ago
I took from that response exactly the same sentiments as Soren, I understand where the wives and girlfriends are coming from but we work in an industry driven by goals and deadlines.
I imagine that most of the people here have burned the midnight oil on more than one occasion.

This has obviously become an issue for Rockstar that they need to address, like Damien said, when employees are unhappy the quality and speed of their work will often suffer.

I imagine that a large part of the problem is pressure from investors and stockholders who want a quicker ROI forcing tighter, stricter deadlines
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