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Former Rockstar and Telltale dev says "time for change" on crunch culture

Job J. Stauffer recalls harsh work culture on GTA IV, cites "dozens" of other devs with similar experiences

A developer who worked for both Telltale and Rockstar has said that both companies suffered under a "crunch culture," describing the experience of working on Grand Theft Auto IV as, "like working with a gun to your head 7 days a week."

Job J. Stauffer used Twitter as a platform to make public statements about crunch culture at the two companies, which he said is, "absolutely real, and it is *never* going to change unless we ask harder questions like these. It's time for change."

He placed particular emphasis on his experience at Rockstar Games, which has been in the news this week following some ill-judged comments from co-founder Dan Houser about 100-hour working weeks on Red Dead Redemption 2.

Stauffer acknowledged that he had left the company in 2009, but stated that Rockstar in the GTA IV era was, "like working with a gun to your head 7 days a week. 'Be here Saturday & Sunday too, just in case Sam or Dan come in, they want to see everyone working as hard as them.'"

This idea of "working hard" resonates with the statement Houser released following his comments about Red Dead Redemption 2. Houser said there had been "some confusion" about the content of the interview, as the 100-hour weeks had only applied to a small, core team of senior employees in the weeks leading up to the end of the project.

"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.

Houser continued: "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."

While Stauffer acknowledged that Rockstar should get "the benefit of the doubt" due to the time that has elapsed since he departed, he also said that, "I've heard this from dozens of [Rockstar] folks in recent years that it continues, and I'm not surprised. It was the most ruthlessly competitive and intense work environment imaginable."

Another developer, Stone Spark Games' Josh Mattyasovszky, responded to Stauffer's claims, stating that he'd left Rockstar two years ago because, "the same shit was in play. GTA Online just meant endless crunch, one dlc into the next."

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Matthew Handrahan avatar
Matthew Handrahan: Matthew Handrahan joined GamesIndustry in 2011, bringing long-form feature-writing experience to the team as well as a deep understanding of the video game development business. He previously spent more than five years at award-winning magazine gamesTM.
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