Rockstar controversy reveals employee mistreatment in the gaming industry

By Staff Writer Thomas Griffin.

Recent controversy has arisen circulating around rumors that Rockstar Studios employees have been mistreating their staff to push publication of their newer products.
Rockstar, the mastermind developers behind the industry-toppling Grand Theft Auto series, have reportedly been forcing their employees to work nearly double overtime to meet the demands of releasing new games.

In an interview with Harold Goldberg of Vulture magazine, Dan Houser, founder of Rockstar, boasted that his employees “were working 100-hour weeks to push the release of their newest creation. Red Dead Redemption 2, which was expected to reach the market on October 26th, was still somewhat behind schedule. Employees were apparently pushed, in potentially forceful ways by their managers, to work around-the-clock to finish the game by their preset deadline, or risk losing their jobs.

In response, many current and former Rockstar employees came forth on social media and in the press, exposing the company’s management for enforcing poor working conditions and intentionally overworking staff. Former Rockstar programmer Job Stauffer, who worked with the company through the development of Grand Theft Auto IV, compared his tenure to “working with a gun to your head 7 days a week,” expected to be working overtime and through weekends “just in case Sam [Houser] and Dan [Houser] come in.”

These issues only scratch the surface of employee mistreatment in the game development industry.

Merely weeks before Rockstar reported overworking their staff, Telltale Games, the company behind the popular video game adaptation of the Walking Dead, laid off 90% of their workers providing no severance pay for their newly jobless employees.

The root of the issue lies in the apparent lack of political power amongst workers in the game development industry. Jim Sterling, a former writer for Destructoid and well-respected critic of video game corporations, noted that there simply “is no unionization in the game industry” with which the laborers would have been able to argue for more rights against their employers. Without a union, Sterling believes these workers would find themselves unable to strike for normally simple issues like “incredibly low wages,” being “given neither healthcare nor sick days,” being “easily fired for missing a single day,” and so on.

These sorts of regulations are standard workers’ rights for the employees of other industries and lines of work.

Game development, as an industry, is one purely of entertainment and luxury, yet its employees work more than twice as long as the average laborer, sometimes putting more hours into their work than employees in critical roles, such as politics and law enforcement.

They receive few benefits, royalties, or breaks in a career that seems to emphasize working to the point of exhaustion.

The worst part about how little rights game developers receive is that their career is anything if not unstable. If they can’t fulfill the monumental role they’ve been thrust upon, they’re relegated to the unemployment line; if they slip up once, the next wave of hires will take their place.

If these developers can’t contest their management and employers, they shouldn’t need to fight with the consumers as well. The next time you, the reader, pre-order a game from a AAA company, and on day one, find loads of bugs coded by an exhausted, overworked, underpaid developer on thin ice, don’t blame the coders. Instead, blame the greedy corporations who overworked them and pushed them to produce a rushed product for an arbitrary deadline.

After the hell they’ve been put through, the glitches are not their fault.

PHOTO COURTESY: ROCKSTAR STUDIOS

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