A recent comment from Rockstar has once again pushed their name in the news for 100 hour work weeks. I think there are a lot of people upset about this, and it’s hard not to empathize. There are many who are attacking Rockstar and calling them exploitative. If there is a villain here, I don’t think it’s automatically Rockstar. It’s us, but maybe not in the way you expect.
In a recent comment to Vulture, Dan Houser, one of the founders, mentioned that they work 100 hour weeks. He tried to clarify that only a few senior members work those hours to get everything done, and it’s only for a few weeks. Anyone else who works those hours does it by choice. I’m inclined to agree.
First, working all those hours is awful. I don’t blame anyone for being miserable, and I would be too. It’s a tough schedule, it’s stressful, and I don’t know anyone who would want to be forced to work that schedule. But are they being forced?
In another life, I worked at a large company with some heavy deadlines we had to meet. We had a busy season of about four months in which you couldn’t take any vacation days. The hours would start to lengthen, and there were many days I would arrive at work and leave work in the dark, only to go home and work more. Those were some long weeks which turned into long months, and the busy season started to become longer as fewer people were asked to do more with less. This led to a very stressful work and home environment. As I said, I have a lot of empathy for people who are working like this.
With that in mind, there are some jobs that require more than a 9 to 5, Monday through Friday. They may even require a few 100 hour weeks. There are industries like games that are delivering software or a physical product, and they have a deadline that may not be able to move. Problems need to fixed. Changes need to be implemented. This all requires time and people.
At this point, I think a lot of people realize this is the industry. It’s not the same everywhere, but, in order to climb to those higher ranks, make more money, and maybe direct a game of your own, you will need to make a substantial time investment with some sacrifices. I’m not saying it is right, or the only way to do things, but we should be honest about what it is.
The gaming industry is growing, and it’s a hugely competitive field. There are so many people who want to work there, wages are very competitive as well. If you have 100 people applying for a job, you can lose one of those people, because you have 99 more people who are dying to take that spot, even if the conditions are less than great.
All of those people are making a choice. People have to make difficult choices every day, based on their values and needs. This extends to jobs and employers. At some point, I look at someone complaining about working 100 hour weeks, and I have to wonder when they will realize it’s their fault. Rockstar is not to blame.
If you are working all of those hours, it’s by choice. We need to be honest about that too. You worked hard to build a resume, you worked harder to get the interview, and you are working harder still in the job. That is a choice, and you can also choose to quit.
You can choose to work somewhere else that treats you better or gives you a better work/life balance. No one kicks you out of bed in the morning, puts a gun in your face, and forces you into a hard labor camp at Rockstar’s office where you are beaten every hour on the hour.
Your new job may be different, and it may take a while to find it. It may not pay as well. It may not be as prestigious or impress your friends and family. It may not be in games at all, but it will give you the hours you want. I would tell you to start your own company, but that is a sure way to take even more hours away from yourself for less, if any, pay.
The point is that you work all those hours, because you want Rockstar on your resume. You want to shape the next Grand Theft Auto, Red Dead Redemption, or the sequel to Bully that will be made eventually. I would want that too.
You have a passion, and you want to see it made real. That’s awesome. In order to get there, you may have to make some difficult choices and sacrifices. Chances are, the people who are currently where you want to be, had to make some of those choices too. No one has to do it. You are choosing to enjoy the rewards or accept the consequences of either choice, and only you know what will make you happy.
Determine what you want, where you want to be, and what you need to get there and realize that it will be a tradeoff and sacrifice in one way or another. I am not saying that you should work or be happy to work 100 hour weeks.
I am saying that it is sometimes necessary in certain industries, and, if you are going to do it, I can empathize. I just want you and everyone else to realize that this is choice, and we shouldn’t hate Rockstar (or any company) because someone makes a choice.
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Jason became terminally addicted to videogames after receiving the NES at an early age. This addiction grew to include PC gaming and was cemented with the launch of the PS2. From then on, he was afflicted with epic RPGs, tense shooters, and deep strategy games, never becoming skillful, but never able to quit. He continues to play games (poorly) and share his passion for them to anyone willing to listen.