“Crunch culture,” or the culture of overworking employees among game developers, has been a hot topic recently since a report from Kotaku revealed the working conditions in Rockstar Games. This prompted many studios, including The Outer Worlds developer Obsidian Entertainment and Apex Legends developer Respawn, to make statements against the crunch culture that plagues the industry. It seems that the most recent company that seems to be taking a stand against crunch culture is Rockstar Games itself.
The conditions at Rockstar affected contract employees the most, due to the fact that they had to rely on getting their contracts renewed to stay employed. Kotaku reported that contractors felt pressured to work “mandatory” overtime or risk being let go at the end of their contracts. Many reported that they had to sleep under their desks to meet work targets and worked up to 100-hour work weeks. Employees were not even allowed to keep their cell phones at their desks, having to lock them up in lockers during the day.
Now, Kotaku reports, Rockstar is making improvements to the aspects of their workplace policies that contribute to the crunch culture in the studio. Many of these changes affected the heavily crunch-impacted Rockstar Lincoln, which is mostly used for quality assurance.
One of the most important changes is that the game testers at Rockstar Lincoln are being converted from contract employees to full-time. This will hopefully reduce the impact of crunch culture by providing more stable employment, which should reduce the pressure to work so many hours under the threat of unemployment. Rockstar is also experimenting with “flex hours,” which allow employees to have more control over the hours they work. Additionally, the cell phone rule has reportedly been revoked, and employees are allowed access to their phones during the day.
Although it seems that Rockstar is making improvements to its policies that reduce the effects of crunch culture, it is important to continue to listen to employees who speak out about working conditions. The threat of unemployment is not the only way that companies “encourage” workers to take extra overtime. These reforms, while clearly a step forward, are not the end of the discussion.
Source: Rockstar Games