With the release of Red Dead Redemption 2 looming over us, more and more allegations of their shady work practices have surfaced, mostly pertaining to them overworking their workers. Rockstar bosses have been proudly bragging on about how their employees work 100-hour a week shifts as a sign of “dedication” to the company. Since then many ex-employees have spoken out on the mistreatment that they’ve received from the company. One ex-employee has come out with a more bizarre take, with Rockstar not allowing their employees to eat cake, of all things.
It all started when co-founder of Rockstar Studios, Dan Houser, shared the workload and toll that Red Dead Redemption has taken on the studio especially the staff behind the project in an interview with New York Magazine. While also outlining the hundreds of thousands of animations, dialogues and lines of code that goes into their long-awaited wild west sequel, Houser mentioned all the crunch that every department went through while making Red Dead Redemption 2.
Since then, former employees of the studio has since come forth with their stories on video game crunch and the toll it brings to those going through it. Working for 14-hours a day, 7 days a week is something no company should be proud of, especially not a studio like Rockstar who seems to be practicing this for quite some time now.
Thread: I worked at a AAA company once. When I started everyone looked so miserable after literally years of hard work & crunch. So late one night after work I baked 2 cakes for the office. I sent out a mass email & we all took 30 minutes to eat cake and talk.— Jenn Sandercock (@JennSandercock) October 16, 2018
Enter Jenn Sandercock, a former member of Team Bondi, the very same team responsible for the production of LA Noire. While working as a Junior Designer on LA Noire, she thought she could lighten the load of her co-workers by baking them treats for them to enjoy. It soon became a weekly thing for her to bring cakes on certain days of the week, these “Cake Days” gave employees some time off and allowed them to socialise with other members of the team.
After quite a few months of this, I got pulled aside by my boss. Apparently the higher ups thought our entire office slacked off ALL the time because we had cake once a week. I was told that I was jeopardising my career by continuing to make cakes for the office.— Jenn Sandercock (@JennSandercock) October 16, 2018
The higher-ups at Rockstar soon caught wind of this and put an end to it, saying that this team-building treat is making their employees slack off, also saying that if it continues it will jeopardise Sandercock’s career and the production of the game. Of course, as the game’s release came close and the crunch started pretty hard for members of Team Bondi. In 2011, many employees were laid off after the release of LA Noire, and not long after that Team Bondi was closed for good.
The day I was told not to do Cake Day I had already baked a cake. I was so scared I decided not to announce anything. I never ate that cake. It was a Portal cake. That’s what voluntary crunch pressure does: it scares people into believing there's no other choice. pic.twitter.com/tabovChDI4— Jenn Sandercock (@JennSandercock) October 16, 2018
Jenn Sandercock has since moved on to brighter pastures, she designed and produced indie hit Thimbleweed Park and even put her baking skills into a new venture called Edible Games, which is a cookbook and tabletop game hybrid. To this day, Rockstar Studios still enforces some draconic work measures, some we might not even know of beyond the cakes and crunch. Hopefully with more people speaking out, the state of video game development will be much better and there will not be a repeat of what happened to the recently shut down Telltale Games.