Months after the Rockstar Games labor controversy that shocked the video game world, the British-based Rockstar Lincoln is apparently converting its contractors to full-time employees in order to address some of the issues pertaining to crunch culture that have developed in-house. Last October, a report about development across several different Rockstar studios highlighted Lincoln as one of the most difficult places to be employed, with several confirmations suggesting mandatory overtime that took place over the span of an entire year.
Other issues, like Rockstar Lincoln employees being unable to keep cell phones at their desks and instead keeping them in lockers, added fuel to the fire that began to drastically shift consumer perception of Rockstar Games as an entity. The troubling reveal of work culture at Lincoln was part of a greater movement that saw multiple developers exposed for working employees far too hard, and helped begin a wave of support from outside parties to help end crunch culture in the video game industry. While some companies, like Blizzard, have gone on record as saying they want to make sure their titles like World of Warcraft are crunch-free, it's still been a slow progression toward getting workers the rights and protections they deserve.
According to a follow-up report on Lincoln from Kotaku, it appears that workers will be granted full-time status instead of the contractor designation, which should provide more benefits to the employees who did a significant amount of the work on Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption games. The decision will help give the employees more stable positions, and apparently, full-time status went into effect already as of August 1. According to the report, the cell phone rule has also been revoked, granting employees a more humane workplace environment.
According to two of Kotaku's sources, Rockstar is also experimenting with flex time, a popular concept in other industries that allows workers to shift around their scheduled work hours to help better fit their outside life - provided, of course, they still hit the required number of hours in a week. All of these changes are a positive direction for Rockstar, a company that was famously lambasted for reportedly working Red Dead Redemption 2 developers in 100-hour work weeks.
Although these reports are encouraging, the video game industry still has a long way to go before its working conditions and developer culture catch up to many other fields. Reliance on crunch has been proven to have debilitating effects on the employees who are forced into it, and there are still reports emerging this year of companies that have been using the practice after the world became more largely aware of it. At the very least, however, Rockstar has begun a difficult culture shift toward protected and happy employees, something worth celebrating for those who were affected.