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Rockstar undergoes serious backlash over 100-hour work week comment

Red Dead Redemption 2 is going to be a massive game. Between the enormous file size, the 60 hour campaign  and the super-detailed horse testicles, it’s clear that developer Rockstar aren’t holding anything back on their open-world Western. But after a concerning statement by company co-founder Dan Houser, you have to wonder what cost it all comes at?

In a recent interview with Vulture, Houser (who is also the lead writer of RDR2) nonchalantly stated that his team had been “working 100-hour weeks” several times this year to get the game to where it is now, ready for its release next Friday.

Let’s just sit back and digest that figure for a moment. If an average person is awake for 16 hours in a day, that translates to 112 waking hours a week. Working for 100 of those hours means you are working just over 14 hours a day, 7 days a week. It also means you have just under 2 hours per day to do everything else – including transit time to and from work, eating, basic hygiene, interacting with loved ones, etc. That is insanity.

RDR2

“Crunch culture” – the idea of working crazy hours to meet tight deadlines – is notorious within the video game industry. Many well-known companies, including the recently deceased Telltale Games, have been accused of it.  The negative impact crunch has on employees is also no secret – a simple Google search can show numerous articles that go into detail about the topic. It’s no surprise then that Houser’s statement received significant backlash , forcing him to go into damage-control.

After Kotaku questioned Houser’s comment, he replied with the following statement (edited for brevity, but you can see the full statement on Kotaku):

“There seems to be some confusion arising from my interview…After working on the game for seven years, the senior writing team, which consists of four people, Mike Unsworth, Rupert Humphries, Lazlow and myself, had… three weeks of intense work when we wrapped everything up. Three weeks, not years.

…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. Lots of other senior people work in an entirely different way and are just as productive – I’m just not one of them! No one, senior or junior, is ever forced to work hard.”

RDR2

Your mileage may vary on how truthful Houser’s response is, but notably, he doesn’t actually deny the 100-hour figure. And this is by no means the first time that Rockstar have been accused of seriously over-working its employees. 8 years ago, in the lead up to the release of the first Red Dead Redemption, the fed up and concerned partners of Rockstar’s employees published a damning open letter about the insane hours and work conditions their spouses were subjected to.

Red Dead Redemption 2 is very likely going to be an incredibly high-quality game. As gamers, we don’t have to deal with all the blood, sweat and tears that goes into such massive projects – all we do is benefit from, and enjoy, the end product. But given how pervasive and insidious crunch culture is within the games industry, it’s clear that something needs to fundamentally change. Even if that comes at the cost of photo-realistic horse testicles, or means that we have to (gasp!) wait a little longer to play cowboy.