Rockstar once settled out of court with San Diego employees, IGDA chimes in on controversy

Just when I thought it was safe to assume that I was done writing about Rockstar Games and their increasingly spotty employee relations track record, more and more tidbits continue to fall into my lap. Today’s discussion on how not to run a videogame developer (part five if you’re keeping track) focuses on a class action lawsuit filed in April 2009, spearheaded by Terri-Kim Chuckry and Garrett Flynn representing over 100 current and former Rockstar San Diego employees (and former employees of Angel studios, which became Rockstar San Diego). The suit alleges that Rockstar “failed to pay overtime compensation … to certain Angel employees whose primary duties are or were to create, produce, copy and/or install images into video games, using commercial or in-house software computer programs.” Rockstar settled out of court for a cool $2.75 million, but denied all of the allegations put fourth by the plaintiff’s, choosing rather to settle due to the fact that “further litigation would be protracted and expensive for all parties.”

In other Rockstar news, the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) has put out a release giving their thoughts on this whole hullabaloo. Pulling a page out of the United Nations play book, the IGDA has decided to talk very sternly on the subject even though there’s not actually anything they can do about it. Their entire response is below.

IGDA: Regarding Overtime Concerns at Rockstar San Diego
Submitted by Joseph Sapp on Wed, 2010/01/13 – 17:20

For Immediate Release

Regarding Overtime Concerns at Rockstar San Diego

The IGDA has recently become aware of a discussion initiated by the “wives of Rockstar employees” on Gamasutra raising concerns regarding excessive crunch during the development of Red Dead Redemption. In any studio, the IGDA finds the practice of undisclosed and constant overtime to be deceptive, exploitative, and ultimately harmful not only to developers but to their final product and the industry as a whole. While our research shows that many studios have found ways to preserve quality of life for their employees, unhealthy practices are still far too common in our industry.

Events like these raise the awareness of quality of life issues in the industry and among the public. The IGDA has made clear its stance on excessive uncompensated overtime, and this instance represents an opportunity for reflection across the industry. Particularly with the stresses imposed by the declining economy, game studios, like other independent businesses, are under increased pressure and therefore are more susceptible to production concerns.

The IGDA’s most recent Quality of Life Survey of over 3,300 game developers, completed in December 2009, reveals that over half of the developers surveyed felt that they needed more time for themselves and their families. However a majority of developers polled rarely crunch and feel that their companies work to avoid it. Further data and analysis will be released in the second quarter of 2010 with the IGDA’s updated Quality of Life Whitepaper. While crunch has always been a concern for the games industry, the IGDA concludes from its research that conditions in most workplaces are improving and, with diligence and an emphasis on increasing process efficiency, can continue to do so.

The Board of the IGDA and the IGDA’s Quality of Life Special Interest Group extend their support to the developers at Rockstar San Diego and their families, and wish them the best in resolving their concerns. The IGDA’s Quality of Life Special Interest Group has issued an open invitation to Rockstar developers, studio heads, and corporate officers offering consultation to bridge overtime gaps on the basis of their common interest in producing the best game product possible.

IGDA Overtime and Quality of Life Position

Due to the competitive marketplace, speed of advancing technology, and creative nature of game development, long hours have always been a challenge for the games industry. The IGDA advocates safe and legal business practices to ensure the quality of life of game developers around the world as a core organizational mission.

* As part of this mission, the IGDA published a landmark whitepaper on Quality of Life in the game industry in 2004, and it stands behind the paper’s conclusions. Specifically:
o We assert, as has been well documented, that extensive overtime is not only ineffective from the point of view of productivity, but moreover is destructive of employee morale.
o We believe that companies have an obligation to inform prospective employees of their overtime policies prior to their employment.
o We believe it is unethical for studios to routinely rely on extended, uncompensated overtime in order to get their products out the door.
o We believe that deathmarch hours injure the reputation of the entire game industry, preventing top talent from entering and remaining in game development. Excessive overtime destroys the talent upon which the game industry is founded and depends.
o We further believe that studios engaging in excessive overtime injure studios that work rigorously to ensure quality of life for their developers.

The IGDA maintains that, as a professional organization, it is our obligation to adhere to the highest standards of ethics to facilitate the growth and stability of our profession. In 2009 the IGDA adopted a Code of Ethics ( http://www.igda.org/about/ ) to address this and other professional concerns. We assert as an organization that this standard of ethical behavior is critical for the development, health, and happiness to which all game developers aspire.

To achieve a greater standard of working practice, the IGDA emphasizes education and communication as core pillars of professional growth and maturity. Developers that communicate arrive on saner and more efficient practices that ensure healthier developers and better games. The health and professional growth of game developers will always be of the highest concern to the IGDA.

Toward the pursuit of safe and sane working practices, the IGDA:

*Emphasizes leadership training and effective management;
*Regularly surveys developers to ascertain average industry health and well-being;
*Encourages individuals to know their legal rights in their regions;
*Promotes communication and information exchange between developers;
*Supports developers and studios in their pursuit of effective working practices.

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