This week, a manager at Rockstar games was quoted saying that his employees were working ‘100-hour weeks’ trying to finish their newest game, Red Dead Redemption 2. Since the comments were made, there’s been a huge backlash from workers in the games industry talking about the prevalence of overtime, or ‘crunch,’ as it’s called, and how poisonous it is to workers.
Big names, HUGE names in the industry have been thrown under the bus, as workers decry companies like Naughty Dog, Rockstar, Activision, and CD Project Red, AAA powerhouses that have transformed the way that we look at video games and entertainment in general. They say that this practice is so commonplace that every company seems to do it. Each worker has their own story of ‘crunch time.’
‘It’s time we start organizing,’ some say. ‘We need to unionize,’ shout others.
Which I’m all for, guys. Don’t get me wrong – we have unions to thank for every single workers’ right we have today: holidays, 40-hour work weeks, healthcare coverage, not being locked inside our places of business for 15 hours a day, child labor laws…you name it, it’s thanks to unions. The fact that unions are losing power is a terrifying proposition, and you should be scared of your future as an employee…anywhere.
But games workers can’t unionize, and I’ll tell you why.
Competition. It’s as simple as that. In such a competitive industry, there’s always going to be someone out there who says ‘Oh. You want to strike? Well hell, I’ll go in and work that 100-hour week so my name can be on Red Dead Redemption 2 instead of yours. Move aside.’ There’ll always be someone willing to sacrifice their personal and mental health to get a job.
But it’s not just the games industry. Every creative industry is facing a surplus of workers, and individuals are clawing at the doors just to get a chance to put their name on a project or brand. If that means working 100 hours a week, so be it. If that means going 16 hours without getting up from your desk, whatever. As long as you can get experience.
The advertising industry is especially guilty of this practice. When I worked at an agency, I was chastised for leaving at 5:00, even though I got to work 45 minutes to an hour before my co-workers. Others had to stay until 7:00 or 8:00 to finish projects with tight deadlines, just to appease higher ups and meet deadlines.
Fuck that, man. Fuck that with rusty pole.
I don’t play that game. No one should have to play that game. No one should have to put up with bullshit just to get and keep a job. But alas…here we are. And it’s not going to get better.
The more competition there is to get into an industry, the more this practice will continue. Not because it’s the right thing to do. Not because it’s a necessary thing that companies have to do to meet consumer demand.
Because companies can. When they can fuck workers over, they will fuck workers over. It’s simple as that.
That’s not to say that every company is like those AAA giants that can push their workers to the brink of death. Some employers treat their workers like kings and queens, giving them food, a gym, ‘unlimited’ time off, and all the pay they could hope for. I’m not saying there aren’t negatives at places like this too, but some employers are genuinely good.
But for every one of these ‘healthy’ work environments, there are 500 rat traps that snag workers on their sticky floors. They tire out their workers and exhaust them so much that they can’t go looking for another job. They wear them out so much that they just sit there, do their jobs, and eventually, die a slow, painful death.
What stopped shitty, terrible practices like this 140 years ago? Labor laws. Unions. Workers that banded together and said ‘We’re not taking it anymore.’
And judging by the way that our legislatures are working these days…I don’t see a fix coming that way anytime soon.