After the coaster brake, the counter-attack. Since Thursday, October 18, Rockstar Games (the video game publisher behind the series of GTA and the blockbuster Red Dead Redemption 2, which comes out October 26), has launched a communication campaign to improve its image as an employer, marred by recent accusations of overload of work.
In an interview published on 14 October, the co-founder of the label, Dan Houser, spoke of the weeks of 100 hours of work during the development of Red Dead Redemption 2. A statement that it has minimized the very next day, in the wake of the controversy that it has aroused, evoking the rare event of such weeks of employment, reserved for a few very high-placed and only on the basis of volunteering.
On 15 October, a survey of the World confirmed, however, a culture of overwork anchored since the early 2000s, having led many employees to work beyond 80 hours per week, in different proportions depending on the subsidiaries and the professional body. Former employees of Rockstar have also taken the word on the social networks, the image of Job Stauffer, who recounted that at the time of GTA IV (released in 2008), ” it was like working with a gun on the temple, seven days a week “.
“Ever worked more than 50 hours ”
It is in this context that Rob Nelson, co-head of the subsidiary scottish Rockstar North, has given an interview with the Guardian, published on 18 October. He said : “Is that hard-working people, is what is done with the additional hours ? Yes, this is the case. Is this something that we want to see regularly and over the long-term, standardized, as if it were a medal or what do I know ? No. We think hard to find the best organization, and we still want to improve. “
A unique case in the video game industry, the company has provided for the occasion of the statistics on the time of actual work, based on the hours reported by the employees : between 42 and 45.8 hours per week on average of 8 January to the end of September. These statistics do not specify whether the cross business (accounting, human relations, etc), which are less exposed, are counted in, or especially if overtime, regular at Rockstar, are taken into account.
At the same time, Rockstar has sent, Thursday 18 October, an e-mail to its employees to allow them to express themselves publicly on social networks — a first in this company notoriously known for its culture of secrecy. Vivian Langdom, a programmer at the subsidiary Rockstar San Diego, told on Twitter not having ” never worked more than 50 hours per week with the ladle “, but do it regularly, between two and six hours of overtime paid on a weekly basis. In Scotland, the work week is capped at 48 hours.
Zoë Sams, programmer at Rockstar North, assures her, ” they never worked 100 hours of his life “, and have been thanked each time she had been working overtime. Another employee of Rockstar North, Tom Fauntley, is, to him, showed more reserved : “We do overtime. I’ve never seen anyone forced to work 100 hours per week, but I’ve certainly seen friends get closer to much more of this figure than they should for their health, ” without specifying in what studio.
A studio showcase and silences
As the story of The World in his investigation, Rockstar relies on a network of ten antennas spread in England, Scotland, the United States and in India, with the statutes and different purposes. Rockstar North, based in Edinburgh, Scotland, is the historic centre of the creation, and enjoys working conditions, as well as a strong attachment of employees to their company. To a lesser extent, the same goes for Rockstar San Diego, who, after having protested the overload of work presented as very difficult in 2010, has seen its conditions improve.
The situation is less rosy in the antennae less prestigious, as Rockstar Lincoln, England, where they are supported tasks to the least qualified, as the Q & A (quality assurance, which is to play the loop game to track down the bugs). According to the information of the World, in spite of the e-mail internal to Rockstar, the employees are much more reluctant, even fearful, at the idea of expressing themselves on social networks, and to complain publicly, in the sight and knowledge of their employer, their working conditions.
In the evening of October 19, in an anonymous testimony authenticated by the moderators of Reddit and The World, an employee of Rockstar Lincoln spoke have worked eight times more than 60 hours per week and a time of 80 hours, in less than a year at the studio. He said that Rockstar has also announced this week the end of mandatory overtime.