This Week In The Business: Buncha Crunch

Illustration for article titled This Week In The Business: Buncha Crunch
Image: Rockstar

QUOTE | “That was shit. This was the hardest.” - Rockstar co-founder Dan Houser says Red Dead Redemption 2 development set a new difficulty bar for the studio, in the same feature where he said “we were working 100-hour weeks” several times this year to finish the game.


QUOTE | “No one, senior or junior, is ever forced to work hard.” - Dan Houser, in a follow-up statement defending Rockstar’s working culture and clarifying that the 100-hour work weeks he referred to were limited to a lead writing team of four people.

QUOTE | “It’s been nearly a decade since I parted from Rockstar, but I can assure you that during the GTA IV era, it was like working with a gun to your head 7 days a week. ‘Be here Saturday & Sunday too, just in case Sam or Dan come in, they want to see everyone working as hard as them.’” - Orpheus co-founder and former PR person for both Rockstar and Telltale Games Job J Stauffer recounts his time with Rockstar.

QUOTE | “The most sinister thing about all three of these: it was never asked for or mandated. I did it to myself, because it was my ‘dream job’ and I was ‘just so passionate.’” - Bungie senior PvP designer Andrew Weldon details the absurd lengths he has gone to in his career as a game developer, saying whether it’s mandated or not, crunch culture is destroying people and their families.

QUOTE | “There is a dangerous notion of team members being ‘heroic’ when individuals pile into problems and crunch like crazy to fix them. I find this entirely toxic and incredibly risky.” - Wish Studios CEO Caspar Field says there’s nothing to celebrate when people burn themselves out compensating for your failed processes.

QUOTE | “I know plenty of people who never do overtime, and leave on time every day to spend time with their family. One of those people has been working here for over 15 years.” - Rockstar North senior code content developer Phil Beveridge was one of a number of developers who defended Rockstar’s work culture after the company gave them permission to discuss the subject on social media.

QUOTE | “We are always trying to improve how we are working and balance what we are making with how we make it and we will not stop working to improve in this area.” - Rockstar North studio co-head Rob Nelson pledges to not stop working until the company is better at stopping working.


QUOTE | “So I’m not going to say this is the only answer, or even necessarily the best answer, but especially in the United States, where your work is tied to your healthcare, I think we need to have a really serious conversation about potentially starting a union.” - Emily Grace Buck, former Telltale Games narrative designer, discusses what went wrong at the studio and concludes that the industry needs to start holding leadership accountable for the people at their companies.

STAT | 80-90% - The reduction in the number of Sega Sammy employees working long overtime following the introduction of new measures to ensure a healthy work life balance. Workers could still put in as much as 20 extra hours of overtime each week and not be considered working long overtime (defined as more than 80 hours in a month).


QUOTE | “It’s a balance because we cannot be openly political in our games. So for example in The Division, it’s a dystopian future and there’s a lot of interpretations that it’s something that we see the current society moving towards, but it’s not - it’s a fantasy.” - Ubisoft Massive COO Alf Condelius explains how The Division, a franchise in which the United States is brought to its knees by a disease circulated through money on consumer holiday Black Friday, has nothing political to say and is just a victim of people wanting to put politics into it. 

QUOTE | “In short, given our concerns around both the innate valuation of Bitcoin, and of the operating practices of many exchanges, we feel that the industry is on the brink of an implosion.” - Juniper Research says the cryptocurrency market is worth a fraction of its former value, and unlikely to recover.



Ubisoft’s assertion is that The Division doesn’t have political overtones is ridiculous. For one thing, Tom Clancy’s novels and other properties have an intrinsic political bent: that people in the armed forces and the nation’s intelligence and counter-intelligence agencies are simply better than everyone else. They’re not merely in better physical shape than most folks, they’re smarter, more charming, morally superior (except when one of them is a dirty traitor because plot, of course) and almost without exception justified in their actions. Whether or not you think the preceding sentence is the case, the hero worship of these individuals has explicit political overtones.

Then when you look at the actual plot of The Division you see all sorts of conservative overtones: a distrust of money (particularly strong with Libertarians), the “sleeper cells” of The Division are a call out to gun ownership and of course the idea that eco-terrorists want to kill people en masse. I mean the villains occupy the fucking UN building while your group occupies a post office as their base (aka USA vs UN). Ubisoft don’t want to say it’s political because that could hurt sales...but it is, it absolutely is, and claiming it isn’t political is bullshit.