Rockstar Responds To "Rockstar Spouse" Controversy

An image wasn't all they had to say. Two weeks since the posting on the internet of anonymous complaints about working conditions at its San Diego satellite, the development studio most famous for Grand Theft Auto addressed those charges.

The company did so by addressing a reader question on Rockstar's official website

"Unfortunately, this is a case of people taking the opinions of a few anonymous posters on message boards as fact," the response began. "No business is ever perfect, but Rockstar Games is a tight knit team made up of around 900 supremely talented and motivated professionals, many of whom have worked here for a very long time.

"We're saddened if any former members of any studio did not find their time here enjoyable or creatively fulfilling and wish them well with finding an environment more suitable to their temperaments and needs, but the vast majority of our company are focused solely on delivering cutting edge interactive entertainment. We've always cared passionately about the people working here, and have always tried to maintain a supportive creative environment. There is simply no way Rockstar could continue to produce such large scale, high quality games without this. That being said, making great games is very challenging, which is why we have and will continue to try to keep hold of some of the best talent in the industry and support them in every way we can."

The furor over working conditions at Rockstar San Diego began on Thursday, January 7, when an anonymous writer or writers, referring to themselves as "Determined Devoted Wives of Rockstar San Diego employees", published a screed against the studio in a user-blog on website Gamasutra. Echoing widely-publicised complaints made in 2004 about working conditions at publisher Electronic Arts, the user-blog was entitled "Rockstar Spouse".

The letter alleged that Rockstar San Diego employees were experiencing extended crunch-time working conditions since March 2009 for the April 2010 Red Dead Redemption. Allegations included mandatory six-day, 12-hour work weeks and a culture of "dishonesty" among Rockstar San Diego management that contributed to stressed workers. The letter, which was written awkwardly, suggested that the well-being of San Diego workers was a growing problem: "Without time to recuperate and no efforts made to alleviate the stress of such conditions would procure on an employee after a period time, serious health concerns. Yet, now the health concern becomes another financial concern as the stripping of medical benefits surfaces to realisation."

The Rockstar Spouse letter promised consequence: "If these working conditions stay unchanged in the upcoming weeks, preparation will be made to take legal action against Rockstar San Diego."

Rockstar's headquarters is in New York. Managers and creators in that office oversee the work at all Rockstar studios around the world, including Rockstar North, where the main Grand Theft Auto games are built and Rockstar San Diego, the group responsible for Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis, the RAGE graphics engine that was used to run the GTA IV and the forthcoming western, Red Dead Redemption.

MTV quoted an anonymous former Rockstar New York employee as saying Rockstar New York's oversight of the satellite studios was similar to the watchful, menacing Lord of the Rings "Eye of Sauron".

Since the publication of that letter, writers claiming to be current or former Rockstar employees - most of them anonymous - chimed in below the Rockstar Spouse post and and other websites, agreeing with the letter's complaints or at least saying that they were believable. Kotaku was unable to independently verify any of these accounts, including those anonymous ones that arrived in our inbox vouching further support for the Rockstar Spouse claims. On Friday, website Joystiq reported that, in April 2009, Rockstar had settled a lawsuit brought against the San Diego office in 2006 regarding unpaid overtime.

Amid the response to Rockstar Spouse was an argument by some Internet posters that the tough working conditions alleged at Rockstar San Diego were commonplace in the gaming industry and possibly even the price of working at a topflight development studio.

Rockstar itself remained mum, providing Kotaku no comment on the matter, despite repeated requests over the last two weeks. On Friday, however, the company did update its series of regularly released computer wallpapers with a series seemingly based on the "Eye of Sauron" comment. The studio behind the often-satirical GTA games appeared to be having some fun with the controversy.

The company's comments on its official site may not have addressed the specifics of mandatory six-day work weeks, 12-hour work days and health risks, but it is clear that the makers of some of the biggest games in the world wants it to be known that it wants its employees happy, no matter how hard making games is.


    I think they need less of the "he-said, she-said", and more trailers for Red Dead Redemption :)

    They didn't actually deny the allegations though, which leads me to believe the allegations could be true. Shame on Rockstar.

    Rockstar's answer is full of spin, Unhappy workers make me a sad panda!

    the final product ... GTA IV .. is ... beyond what I used to come to expect from video games .... :D ... whip them .. whip them harder !! push them further !! !!! ! ! ! !!!! HAHAAHAHAHAHHAHA IM INSANE.

    While it's true that crunch-time is, unfortunately, common place in the industry, the notion of such extreme working conditions over such a prolonged period seems morally reprehensible and, quite probably, illegal.

    While it would be unfair to assume the accusations to be true, the lack of denial on Rockstar's part is a touch concerning and, it has to be said, the 'eye of sauron' wallpapers were in terrible taste. While it's all good fun to joke when your company is accused of being 'evil', it's hardly appropriate to make jest of the working conditions in which you place your staff.

    A lot of people like to say that such harsh working conditions are the 'price of doing what you love', to which I say 'nonsense'. While working on games is certainly a great dream of many, that should not come at the cost of a fulfilling life. Many wish to become doctors, and certainly treating diseases is both vital and ongoing. Should doctors not be allowed a day off until all disease is cured or they themselves become patients? Quality of Life is a major concern in the industry, one often dismissed by tyrannical studio managers as demonstrated last year at an IGDA round-table.

    Yeh, mocking your own employees with a wallpaper is hilarious.


    they don't care about their employees, they care about the bottom line. whatever it takes attitude

    personally i don't buy in to the GTA BS. the last one was a piece of rubbish and they still get praised.

    Sounds like they don't give a shit about their employees, and their response just goes to show they're not willing to address it in any real way.

    It even has veiled threats of, "if you don't like it, work somewhere else." I guess, if you don't like America, you should move somewhere else instead of trying to change it, too..

    Bring on the lawsuit.

    12 hours 6 days a week is fine, at least they have a damn job.

      I have to disagree lcb. I too envy them a job, having looked non-stop now for over a year. That said, I've also been trapped in similar working conditions before and can tell you it's not ok. When you're young your body can sustain that activity for MAYBE a few months if you're healthy, eat well and get ok sleep. After that your health starts to deteriorate. You wake up tired and sick to your stomach, you don't sleep properly and your mental health can deteriorate quickly. Your imune system can even start to fail if it's prolonged for extreme lengths of time.

      Going on, some, if not most, of these people will have families. Partners and children that have certain requirements in terms of time invested and care supplied. Seeing your partner for drastically reduced amounts of time, forcing them to commit more effort in terms of household maintenance and the raising of children and being constantly stressed when you do see each other is a quick way to destroy a relationship. This is ignoring the basic principle that people should have some small amount of time to call their own. Everything for the almighty dollar...

      and probably paid very well too!

        Hah! In your dreams!

    Is it me or is it in the midground of that wallpaper is what suspiciously looks like a pair of breasts.

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