As criticism of the game industry’s often abusive labour practices took hold, reported crunch at Rockstar proved to be one of the biggest points of discussion. Things at the QA department, primarily based in Rockstar’s Lincoln studio, seemed especially bad – in addition to mandatory overtime, testers were often employed on temporary contracts with no guarantee of renewal. Now, it seems that things are changing.
Contracted employees at Rockstar Lincoln are being converted to full-time status, according to a report from Kotaku citing anonymous sources familiar with the studio. The changes were set to be effective as of August 1, but we don’t know how many employees this affects or whether contractors at other Rockstar studios will be affected.
Nonetheless, reports out of Rockstar Lincoln suggest things have improved since the controversy hit. Kotaku’s original report noted that employees weren’t allowed to keep their cell phones at their desks. That policy has changed. Rockstar is also reportedly trying out flex time to let employees shift their work hours.
“I can honestly say that things have absolutely been better since last year,” one Rockstar tester tells Jason Schreier. “We’ve only worked one weekend of overtime since we last spoke and it was entirely voluntary.”
Notably, Rockstar isn’t at the end of production on a major title, as it was last year with Red Dead Redemption 2, which may contribute to the lack of overtime. However, the continued cadence of updates for both GTA Online and Red Dead Online means that the work never truly ends.
Labour practices in the game industry have garnered plenty of headlines in the enthusiast press over the past couple of years, and the reporting has even crossed over to more mainstream venues – which just this week included Netflix’s Patriot Act.
Organisations like Game Workers Unite continue to push for unionisation in the game industry, and it looks like the push for better working conditions is finally starting to pay off – just slowly for now.