Red Dead Redemption 2 releases for consoles later this week. It’s the biggest game of the year, made by a company with a reputation for regularly raising the bar when it comes to open world action games. But concerns over Rockstar’s lengthy overtime hours and unhealthy crunch have dominated the conversation around the game leading up to release, and a new report has collected dozens of anonymous accounts from current and former employees.
If you’re hoping for either a damning indictment or absolution of Rockstar’s work practices, you won’t find it here. The worldwide studios working under the company’s banner are all different, and the thousands of developers who’ve touched Red Dead Redemption 2 all have different experiences to share. Some of those experiences include mandatory overtime, diminished relationships, and deteriorating mental health.
The full feature from Kotaku is well worth your time. One current employee says that “the overall tone at Rockstar is that what the company values most is not the bugs you fix but the hours you put in.” Those sentiments are echoed throughout – even among those who are generally positive about their time at the company. Everyone values putting out the best game they can, but it seems the expectation is for developers to show that value by staying late and coming in on weekends.
But even the harshest critics inside Rockstar say you shouldn’t boycott the game. Part of the company’s workaholic culture is self-enforced, and most – if not all – of the people who’ve worked on Red Dead Redemption 2 are proud of what they’ve accomplished. Rockstar also pays bonuses based on sales, so employees within the company will be rewarded if the game does well.
However, those same employees do want crunch to change. The best way consumers can help is to continue putting public pressure on Rockstar to make that change happen. That means continuing to speak out on social media about issues with working conditions at the company.
Those pressures have already produced some results. Developers have reported that management has now indicated overtime is purely voluntary, and while some Rockstar leadership has said it never was, that clearly wasn’t the impression among workers there.
But while change is happening – and accounts already suggest things at Rockstar have gotten better since the horrific days around the original Red Dead – there’s plenty of room for things to improve. For some departments, those performance bonuses reportedly come in lieu of paid overtime. Creative decisions, like the choice to make all the cutscenes letterboxed, can add weeks of work that the game won’t be delayed to meet – meaning no choice but overtime.
Today, Rockstar published a list of the more than 3,000 people who’ve worked on Red Dead Redemption 2. Historically, the company would excise the names of employees who left the studio mid-development from their games’ credits, but that list is said to encompass every single person who’s touched the upcoming western. Most of them may still want you to play it, but you should still be aware of the costs it’s put on them – and what you can do to reduce those costs in the future.