Rockstar Games: Hell on Earth

Over at Alphabet City, Jeff — an ex-Rockstar web producer — has unfurled all of the streaked underpants and suspiciously crusty socks accumulated during his time at Take 2 / Gathering of Developers/ Rockstar / Whatever.

It’s a really great read, and I could fill an entire post just blockquoting it, which I’d love to do, because as a professional blogger, I constantly oscillate between two existential states: lazy and drunk.

However, this portion probably offers the most concise summary:

It was obvious to me from the start that the company had built itself on one major hit game. The question was whether they knew how to capitalize on that and create other hit games. Manhunt was my answer, and that answer was “no”.

What Jeff describes sends shudders down my spine: a high-pressure gaming sweatshop with completely incompetent leadership and no real understanding of their initial success.

And for me, it also raises a question I’ve long wanted to know the answer to: why do gamers want to become game designers? Clearly, the conditions are horrible: game designers are underpaid, overworked, with little real sense of individual accomplishment. They are also constantly threatened with lay-offs.

I can understand the artistic appeal: if you are an artist and the art form that you want to create is games, then you are willing to suffer. But why do gamers want to design games? As a gamer, I love playing games… once, maybe twice. The unwavering monotony, frustration and exhaustion of game designs could not be more different from the experience of kicking back on the couch, ordering a GTA stripper to blow you in a voice of cool command, then blowing her head off with a sawed-off shotgun. In fact, working for the games industry? You’re that stripper, and the industry is the John with a shotgun to your head.

Illuminate me. Do you want to get in games? Are you a gamer who has already made the leap into games? What’s your reasoning? And is it really as bad as I’ve always been told? There’s no judgment here: clearly you have a passion, and that’s more than most people can say. I just want to understand.

Life During Wartime — Working at Rockstar Games [Alphabet City]

PS: Make sure to watch out for the great dig at 3D Realms!

Florian Eckhardt once had drinks with a guy recently laid off from Rockstar Vienna. When the topic of the PS2 port of Manhunter was broached, he said: “The way that game turned out is the reason I’ll say until the day that I die that Sony are fucking assholes.” Then he got violent. Florian co-edits Ectoplasmosis along with Eliza Gauger, a fringe art and culture blog that updates between 10-18 times a day. He also contributes to AMC’s SciFi Scanner.

Florian Eckhardt