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In Wake of Overtime Debate, Rockstar Tells Employees OT Not Mandatory

At least one of the studios under the Rockstar Games umbrella held a meeting Friday to tell its employees that overtime work is not mandatory, Rockstar Games told Variety.

While overtime at Rockstar Lincoln was not mandatory, it was requested and scheduled, Rockstar’s Jennifer Kolbe said.

“Our team could let their managers know when they would not be able to work the requested extra hours so that we could plan accordingly,” she said. “Some people have said that they felt it was effectively mandatory because it was expected of them. In light of the discussion around this issue, we got the team together today to make sure it is clear to them that OT work is not mandatory.

“We are also pushing to make any OT worked more flexible in terms of schedule (i.e. “work when makes sense for you”), though since Lincoln is the one location where we have a meaningful shift pattern we do need to coordinate specific timings more than for other teams.”

The requested schedule at Lincoln asked employees to work 38.4 hours from Oct. 9 to May 13 ( a regular shift is 37.5 hours), 45.4 hours from May 14 to Aug. 5, and 53.1 hours from Aug. 6 to Oct. 1, Kolbe said. She added that the Lincoln studio worked the longest hours as the game went into final submission, but that meant that 18 of the 18,432 weeks worked by employees were more than 70 hours and 248 were more than 60.

“We are very grateful to our team in Lincoln and to the rest of our team worldwide for everything that went into making RDR2,” she added.

The comments come after Flik Green, animation development assistant at Rockstar North, noted the meeting.

“HR called me in to let me know that Rockstar had announced to their QA teams that overtime was no longer mandatory,” Green wrote on Twitter in a thread about how well the company and specifically the Rockstar North studio treats employees. “The leads and HR here at North and at Lincoln are, in my experience, incredibly caring, and I genuinely believe that Rockstar care about their staff immensely. Is this company perfect? No. Is there room to improve? Definitely.”

Part of that improvement, she wrote, came today in the form of that internal announcement.

Green’s comments come after Rockstar Games told their employees that were allowed to comment about working for the company on social channels, a change to a long-standing policy that prevented it. That change in policy came in response to an interview with co-founder Dan Houser in which he said that “we were working 100-hour weeks.” He later told Variety that he was referring to the overtime worked by himself and three others on the writing team.

Despite that clarification, the statement ignited a discussion about the state of work conditions in the game industry. Specifically, developers from a number of game studios discussed the history and use of crunch, a term used to define the long hours worked by developers in the days, weeks or months leading up to a game’s launch. Other concerns raised recently include the sudden closure of studios and lack of stability in the industry. Some have called for unionization.

In her thread Friday, Green noted that when she worked at Rockstar Lincoln on the quality assurance team working the night shift, she did occasionally work overtime on Saturdays as a game approached launch, but that they were paid overtime. Those Saturdays, she added, did become mandatory as the launch approached.

Green went on to say, though, that her time at Rockstar North has been quite different.

Kolbe added that Rockstar will continue to communicate with its team about how to “make the best possible games in the best possible environment.”

“We have evolved and will continue to evolve over time,” she said. “Today’s clarification with the team in Lincoln is one example of that. Overall, what we believe and what we are hearing from our teams is that people are largely happy and very excited for the game’s launch.  Of course, we will always continue to address individual concerns as they come up.

“We believe we have the best teams in the industry and know that providing a great environment for them is the only way to get their very best work.”

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