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GTA 6 Devs Resist Rockstar Games’ April 15 “Reckless Decision”

GTA 6 Devs Resist Rockstar Game’s April 15 “Reckless Decision”

Rockstar Games announced on Wednesday, February 28, 2024, that its remote workers will be required to return to office as GTA 6 enters the final phase of development. As I anticipated, some of the affected devs have criticized Rockstar Games in strong terms calling the mandate a “reckless decision”.

GTA 6 Devs Resist Rockstar Game’s April 15 “Reckless Decision”

The mandate from Rockstar Games said workers will have to be in the office five days a week starting from April 15 this year. According to Rockstar Games, exceptions may be given in “rare” cases. The criticism of the mandate was made by Rockstar devs who are members of the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB).

The unionized workers were worried about the ill-planning of the decision and the impact it would have on their well-being. It was revealed that a select few of the affected individuals were notified about the company’s decision in early February. However, the official communication only happened on February 28. Those who were pre-informed feared circulating rumors given how long the coming of the official communication stretched out.

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Barely one year ago, unionized workers submitted a petition signed by 170 employees demanding the continuation of remote work option. At that time, Rockstar wanted to transition remote workers to 3 days of in-person work. The resistance is still referenced as one of the biggest trade union actions in the UK game industry to this day.

Unionized workers said Rockstar Games April 15 mandate contradicts the company’s previous statements where it insisted flexible work options would continue to be available.

Workers criticized Rockstar Games for varying reasons

GTA 6 Devs Resist Rockstar Game’s April 15 “Reckless Decision”

The majority of workers who criticized Rockstar Games pointed out how remote work has helped them to achieve work-life balance. They highlighted the difficulties that the decision will pose to them, particularly those with disabilities, health issues, or saddled with caregiver responsibilities.

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Also concerned are those who have moved further away from the location of the studio because of the flexibility that remote work gave them. They imagined how difficult it would be to undo their adjustments in under 6 weeks to comply with Rockstar Game’s mandate.

“Working from home has been a lifeline for many of us at Rockstar, allowing us to balance care responsibilities, manage disabilities, and relocate as we need,” said one of Rockstar Games’ workers under anonymity.

“Now, Rockstar is snatching away that lifeline without a second thought for the workers who’ll be impacted most. After so many broken promises we now fear management may even be paving the way for a return to toxic ‘crunch’ practices. Senior leadership needs to rethink their reckless decision-making and engage with their staff to find an arrangement that works for everyone.”

According to statistics shared by the Game Workers Union on their website, 74% of workers are not paid for overtime but 90% are expected to work extra hours. Rockstar Games has taken steps to mitigate its notorious crunch culture which saw some staff work overtime including weekends and at night to ensure project schedules are met.

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“As usual, there has been zero consultation with us: the people who these policy changes most affect,” said another employee anonymously.

“Just one of my concerns is being forced to work late hours in the office to maintain contact with global teams when before we could log on from home to attend late meetings. This will mean missing out on spending time with our families. I am also aware of colleagues who have health issues preventing full-time office work who are now left in limbo.”

Why Rockstar Games want employees to return to office

GTA 6 Devs Resist Rockstar Game’s April 15 “Reckless Decision”

In the official communication with staff, Rockstar mentioned that there was a benefit to in-person working with other developers. However, they did not fail to cite the security concerns associated with remote work. Owing to the fact that GTA 6 has faced multiple hacks and leaks, it was clear that Rockstar Games wanted to prevent that from happening again.

However, some of the workers made the management understand that they are passionate about what they do and would never take it for granted. Moreover, when games under development leak, it also affects the psychology of the developers—and ruins their moment for them.

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For example, the first trailer of GTA 6 was aired in December. However, Rockstar was forced to release the trailer hours earlier than scheduled after it leaked online. Some of the studio’s workers at that time had aired their frustration, highlighting the plans they had made for a watch party with their colleagues.

“We the staff care greatly about the games we make, and our passion, skill, and talent should never be taken for granted by studio management,” said another worker who spoke for their colleagues. “It is together, through collaboration and a healthy work-life balance and workplace culture that we continue making some of the most beloved and spectacular games in our industry.”

Reacting to the resistance by Rockstar Games workers, IWGB Game Workers Chair Austin Kelmore said workers were tired of allowing executives to “make reckless and harmful decisions”. The recent mass layoffs in the game industry have further given voice to the call for unionization. Kelmore repeated that call in his speech.

“The workers in the IWGB Game Workers Union at Rockstar are pushing for transparency over pay and promotions, a healthy and inclusive workplace culture, and work-life balance centered around what each worker needs,” said Kelmore.

“It is unacceptable that Rockstar leadership has gone back on their word time and time again and have ignored the workers’ requests for basic working conditions. There’s no better time than now to join our union and push for this to be the healthy and sustainable games industry we know it can be.”