Quoting unacceptable working conditions and the onset of mass depression within the ranks, the spouses of some employees at Rockstar San Diego have written to the company to express their grave concern of how their partners are being “turned into machines” and “robbed of their humanity.”
The open letter (which has appeared over at Gamasutra blogs if you wish to read it in full) stresses the crunch time the studio has been under since March 2009 in preparation for their next title’s launch (Red Dead Redemption) and how the stress is literally bringing some to breaking-point. It’s disheartening reading, with claims of 12+ hour days and people only getting Saturday off for good behaviour. They do have a full-time masseuse on site; though I’m not sure how much you’d fancy a massage if you were suffering suicidal tendencies due to work related stress. (As one of the employees is alleged to be.)
The harangue is a veritable litany of abhorrent working practices. Medical expenses have been cut (which kinda come in handy when you’re being worked to the bone), a culture of guilt if you request a two-day weekend, and a system where, the higher you get in the company, the less likely you are to receive overtime (which is quite normal in the industry it should be said). As much as we’re saddened to hear how some Rockstar employees are allegedly being treated, the rant does dip into the crazy pool at times. A manager who swears a lot? Hey, get over it. I once had a manager who threw a lot. Pay raises that have not even covered inflation? Get in line sister. It’s a recession – we’re all getting shafted.
Of course, this is not to belittle the alleged poor conditions some employees of the studio may be being subjected to. We’re just saying: Rockstar are not holding them prisoner, and as one commenter to the article states – stand up and have the courage to leave. There are studios out there who will recognise your talent and not swear at you. We hope.
This is not the first time a spouse of an industry employee has gone public with their concerns of arduous and all-encompassing working conditions at a studio. We all remember EA Spouse, the wife of an EA employee who finally had enough and spoke out about the working environment at that particular studio; concerns that were apparently addressed internally by the company after the negative media backlash that followed. It will be interesting to see how (and even if) Rockstar responds to the group’s threat that legal action will be instigated unless something is done soon to remedy the situation.
Finally, and you’ll see this if you check out the letter yourself, the malcontented women like to use words like ameliorate to make their claims sound more official. They also tend to write in the passive voice to such a degree that it’s hard to tell what they’re complaining about half the time before sleep sets in. In other words: it’s not easy to get through, though I fear that this is exactly their point.