- Rockstar has been “working 100-hour weeks” on Red Dead Redemption 2

the guardian stay embarassing


The guardian did their own article about the crunch story that was overlooked:

Keza is a good writer.

predictably, one of those articles has 300 shares, one has over 5000. separating out and barely mentioning the huge labour issues behind it is a symptom of games journalism’s consistent failure to really take seriously games as an artform. especially that cursory mention at the end - “sure, some people were institutionally exploited, but they sure did make an amazing thing!” - is incredibly tasteless.

even aside from that, the review spends multiple paragraphs lingering on how beautiful and stunning and visually mindblowing the game is, and while i’m sure it’s very pretty, it’s a very shallow way to even analyse the visual aspect of the game. what is it trying to say? and how effective is it at saying that?

sick of reviews which analyse games as a collection of Stuff, rather than as part of a culture as a whole. mark my words: this review will age horribly when we hear about all the weird racism and misogyny in the game. in about three weeks.

(not here, by the way, to dispute if Keza personally is good or not. that review, though, is Bad)


We should probably avoid name dropping too many people, lest the thread gets locked down

extremely waiting for black reviewers i actually trust to actually talk about this because as of now all i’ve heard about is how “fascinating” and “flawed” the characters are. i refuse to believe that rockstar managed to contain themselves this entire game without calling sombody the n word


(Speaking with my mod hat on here!)

Name-dropping people is fine, although giving names or quoting reviews without context isn’t as helpful as critiquing the work (whether or not someone is ‘good’ or ‘bad’) – trustworthymartin’s approach is what I’d be looking for in terms of engaging with the review as a text (putting to one side whether or not I agree with it). Using a particular review as a springboard to start tearing into a particular author is where folks should be particularly mindful about our rules.

Basically – Rule 10 is Rule 10, but see also Goal D. This would typically be the provisions we’d have in mind with this sort of thing.


What you’re asking for is analysis, not a review. And there’s a reason we’re going to be seeing them in weeks rather than written to meet hard deadlines and embargoes. Not that critique is impossible in a review, but it’s going to be shallow by necessity.

That is an extremely hyberbolic characterization of what was actually written: “Around 2,000 people worked very hard (probably too hard, in some cases) to make this game possible. Every last one of them should be proud of their contribution.”

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A review that doesn’t contain any analysis is just free marketing


i feel there’s been about 15 years of discussion on the fine line between the review (especially the day-one review) as consumer advice versus as criticism, and i don’t want to rehash that except to say that even on the most charitable end of the consumer-advice spectrum, we can do so much better than writing glowing praise for games with multi-million dollar marketing budgets.

true, i’m being a little over the top, but look at that sentence as written! i can’t think of a more overt way to blunt criticism of working conditions! it’s the Charlie Parker speech from whiplash about crunch!


I just see a lot of parallels between the discussion of Rockstar’s crunch and the pressures of writing what will probably be among each of these reviewers most read things they ever write, while under strict timeliness requirements. Yet one group everyone has sympathy for and the other group everyone seems anxious to see get their comeuppance. Is one group held to a responsibility not to participate that the other isn’t?

If Keza, Kirk, Chris Plante or anyone else could convince their multi-million dollar conglomerate employers to let them put out their review a month after the game launches for 2% of the page views, that would be great. Until that happens, I can appreciate their putting forth a genuine effort (unlike EGM coma guy) while being churned through the same system we all are.

Edit: just to elaborate on this a little, look at the major sites that don’t have reviews up: Waypoint and Giant Bomb. Two sites which, from an outside view, seem to have significant autonomy when compared to an actual newspaper or the infamous Kotaku real-time “scoreboard.” But people seem to have an innate understanding of the available autonomy an indie developer has in comparison to a cog in the AAA machine - I didn’t see anyone suggesting the solution to Rockstar’s problems was mass resignations - while at the same time thinking writers at major publications should have the same discretion as a Patreon blogger. When you gotta hit your review deadline, you gotta hit your review deadline.


ok but if you’re forced to put out something flimsy to meet a deadline it’s still flimsy. I don’t think anybody wants to rail on the writers who I’m sure are doing their best but their function and product should still be examined (amongst many other parties’) if you want to do anything about this fucked ecosystem.


Battlefront 2 only blew up because 1) EA 2) messed up Star Wars and angry gamers used the legitimate loot box criticisms to make their rage seem justified. Unfortunately I have the feeling that those same people are the ones who are coming to R*'s defense. If a company gets in the way of your space lasers, destroy them. If criticizing a company gets in the way of your horse adventure, ignore it.


As consumers, we have to advocate for and support devs forming and joining unions. All these issues need to be collectively bargained by the folks who work at these studios, not settled through a consumer boycott (until devs come to us as a union and ask us to boycott, that is.) Sorry to be so reductive, but unions are the only way to cut through all this BS. I share your frustration but only because the answer is literally staring us in the face.

i may have missed this … was there some sort of successful boycott of battlefront 2 that meets your definition of “organized, loud and massive” ? not trying to be a jerk, i just honestly don’t remember that happening. didn’t it sell like … double digit millions?

“I’ve definitely done more than 100 hours,” someone who worked at Rockstar North recalled of their time on GTA4. “Some people would come with sleeping bags. They would work until two or three in the morning, then unroll their sleeping bag, go to sleep under the desk, then get up at six or seven and start working again. It was usually two nights because it would become unbearable. And then you’d do a normal day - finishing at eight o’clock.”

“I know people who suffered breakdowns,” one Rockstar North staff member told me. “We’d be told quietly those people had to go and they’d been taken ill and be off for three months. Some people, we’d hear later they wouldn’t be coming back. There was a time you were always worried - what if you pushed it too far? I know someone on GTA5 who took a stroke aged 30-something. They went back to work after a while. It was brutal. That was the lifestyle.”

I really don’t have any words other than this horrifying shit can’t continue.


Battlefront 2 sold 8 million by the end of 2017, just over half of EA’s projections as it was anticipated to be the holiday title based on the colossal hype for The Last Jedi, and possibly dethroning COD. The awful progression system and loot boxes being reported in the mainstream media as a badly implemented mechanic that made progression a chore unless you spent money (And even then it wasn’t a guarantee) basically destroyed the games rep and sales dived as parents and more casual gamers kept their money in their wallets. It succeeded but not on the level EA wanted and also damaged their rep even further with the “core” gamer bubble along with the “Ethics” crowd already bemoaning their shiny new Star Wars game had a Female and POC lead in the Single Player campaign helping the pile on using the bad progression as a convenient parapet to take shots at it and revel in glee at it’s “failure”.

The big irony being was that it was an incredibly well managed project in terms of employee health and sane working hours across three studios (DICE, Motive and Criterion) from all accounts of that development. A badly done progression system was all it took to destroy it as reviews were generally positive on what it played like and how incredible it looked. (Gotta admire how vulture like Disney PR was painting them as coming in to save the day from the progression system when accounts also implicated they were involved in the progression system’s design from Day 1).

Essentially something is really messed up in the culture when shooty space lasers gets absolutely destroyed over a bad, fixable mechanic while bloody mayhem and unholy carnage western gets a free pass even though it was literally destroying people’s lives.


Listen. What EA did was literally evil too. They were trying to scam extra money out of people with gambling addictions. Don’t white wash their scummy, predatory actions because crunch wasn’t involved. Real, actual people still suffered.


love to buy the video game to Support Workers


This is a huge part of the reason why I’m not so much “boycotting” the game but just not interested in experiencing it, and the main reason why I don’t buy the “purchase the game because it will bring bonuses to workers” argument.

Sure it will bring some bonuses but that entire system is rotten, as evidenced by this (but of course we don’t need this to assume that the top managers will always receive the lion’s share of whatever profits/bonuses etc).


What in the world even is your point? Because it sure sounds like we shouldn’t listen to people with actual addiction problems about clearly predatory practices meant to entrap people with addiction issues.

You see some knuckledraggers on the Steam forums and a few subreddits being morons and decide that’s the only possible viewpoint for all this? I come from a family of addicts, I have dealt with temptations all my life to the point I refuse to drink. I have a dealt with periods of addictive compulsion and mental weakness many times before. I know what I’m talking about, and I don’t exactly like seeing people wash over a very real problem that’s resulting in people around the world wasting at times thousands of dollars because a video game is designed in such a way to hook them in and prey upon their worst tendencies.

We can talk about both crunch and the predatory practice of hooking gambling addicts (which the industry even admits to with terms like fish and whales), you don’t have to belittle one for the other because you read a dumb comment in a Kotaku article.