Since the backlash stemming from an aside about its staff’s “100-hour workweeks” in a lengthy Vulture feature, Rockstar Games has been on something of an image-reconstruction tour. The studio has taken steps to appeal to dismayed critics and fans, with its latest being a massive “thank you” note to the thousands who worked on Red Dead Redemption 2.
“Red Dead Redemption 2 has been a massive project spanning many years and multiple teams, and we are extremely proud of the work of the entire company in bringing this game to the world,” Rockstar Games wrote in a public letter on the Red Dead Redemption 2 site.
“We would like to extend our sincere thanks to all those whose contributions both big and small, assisted in the journey along the way.”
What follows is what appears to be a complete list of credits for the game. That list runs more than 3,000 names long — which makes sense, considering the size of the new Red Dead game. While this seems like a minimal update in the lead-up to Red Dead Redemption 2’s launch on Oc. 26, it’s a piece of something larger: Rockstar’s overt, even performative efforts at seeking approval from an enraged industry.
In the week that followed Vulture’s interview with Dan Houser, studio co-founder and the one who flippantly mentioned the immense level of crunch in the first place, Rockstar has tried hard to dispel the image of crunch that it’s built for itself, by itself. It lifted a social media ban to allow employees to speak up about working conditions at the studio; many of these have been positive, a distinct different from other claims by ex-employees.
But other current staffers also expressed concern over the hours they work at Rockstar.
“We do crunch,” tweeted Rockstar’s Tom Fautley. “I’ve not seen anybody forced to work 100 hour weeks, but I’ve definitely seen friends get closer to that figure than is healthy.”
A QA tester at Rockstar Lincoln in the UK later wrote on Reddit that the company has also updated its strict overtime policy following the interview fallout.
“We had a big meeting today where it was announced that all overtime going forward will be entirely optional,” the verified Redditor wrote, “so if we want to work the extra hours and earn the extra money (As well as make yourself look better for progression) then we can do, but there is no longer a rule making us do it.”
The idea that overtime is “optional” echoes Houser’s clarification about the earlier, controversial figure. Overtime that isn’t required doesn’t mean it’s not highly encouraged, of course — and it’s not a given that this policy rewrite will change that part of the equation.
Stories about the working conditions at Rockstar are nothing new. In 2010, the “wives of Rockstar” came together to insist that the company lighten the load on its crunching employees. Perhaps this latest, strenuous development cycle will finally change things at the studio for the better ... or perhaps things will remain status quo.