Ex-Rockstar Employee: "It Was Like Working With a Gun to Your Head"

Job J Stauffer, the co-founder of Orpheus Self-Care Entertainment, took to Twitter to discuss his experience working at Rockstar.

October 16, 2018

Earlier this week, in a interview with Vulture, Rockstar Studios co-founder Dan Houser remarked that Red Dead Redemption 2’s production team worked multiple 100-hour weeks throughout 2018. In light of these remarks, multiple video game developers from across the field have started to come forward and tell their industry horror stories on Twitter.

One of these developers is Job J Stauffer, the co-founder of Orpheus Self-Care Entertainment and ex-employee of both Rockstar and Telltale Games. Responding to a tweet about Rockstar’s working conditions from Kotaku‘s Jason Schreier, Stauffer writes, “It’s been nearly a decade since I parted from Rockstar, but I can assure you that during the GTA IV era, it was like working with a gun to your head 7 days a week.” Stauffer’s tweet continues with a quote, stating, “‘Be here Saturday & Sunday too, just in case Sam or Dan come in, they want to see everyone working as hard as them,'” alluding to Rockstar Studios’ co-founders Dan and Sam Houser.

Shortly after posting his initial tweet, Stauffer penned another, relaying an anecdote of getting reprimanded at Rockstar after staying home with the flu.

After Dan Houser’s initial quote was picked up by several online publications (including DualShockers), Houser issued a clarification to Kotaku, writing:

There seems to be some confusion arising from my interview with [Vulture’s] Harold Goldberg. The point I was trying to make in the article was related to how the narrative and dialogue in the game was crafted, which was mostly what we talked about, not about the different processes of the wider team. After working on the game for seven years, the senior writing team, which consists of four people, Mike Unsworth, Rupert Humphries, Lazlow and myself, had, as we always do, three weeks of intense work when we wrapped everything up. Three weeks, not years. We have all worked together for at least 12 years now, and feel we need this to get everything finished. After so many years of getting things organized and ready on this project, we needed this to check and finalize everything.

More importantly, we obviously don’t expect anyone else to work this way. Across the whole company, we have some senior people who work very hard purely because they’re passionate about a project, or their particular work, and we believe that passion shows in the games we release. But that additional effort is a choice, and we don’t ask or expect anyone to work anything like this. Lots of other senior people work in an entirely different way and are just as productive – I’m just not one of them! No one, senior or junior, is ever forced to work hard. I believe we go to great lengths to run a business that cares about its people, and to make the company a great place for them to work.

Both Houser’s clarification and Stauffer’s remarks remain at odds with one another. While Stauffer was not employed by Rockstar during the production of Red Dead Redemption 2, both Stauffer and Houser paint pictures of two incredibly different workplaces. Houser’s statement that no Rockstar employee “is forced to work hard” inherently contradicts Stauffer’s experience of grueling hours and strict workplace conditions.

Red Dead Redemption 2 will be available for the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 on October 26th.

Travis Verbil

Travis Verbil is a Staff Writer at DualShockers. Outside of writing, he is a musician from Queens, NY. He enjoys the New York Mets, tabletop gaming, and Donkey Kong lore.

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