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Mortal Kombat: crunch, low wages,toxic work environment... ex-employees describe working conditions at NetherRealm Studios

KyoShiRo330

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Polygon's investigation into the working conditions of Fortnite developers visibly motivated NetherRealm Studios to make their voices heard:

On Twitter, James Longstreet has decided to express himself openly in response to Polygon's article:
"There is so, so much in this article that i can Identify with, except the "bonuses worth three times your salary"
I hardly sleep. I’m grumpy at home. I have no energy to go out. Getting a weekend away from work is a major achievement. If I take a Saturday off, I feel guilty. I’m not being forced to work this way, but if I don’t, then the job won’t get done.

It's been 8 years, and they've made it clear to me that I'm persona non grata there anyway so, fuck it: working at NetherRealm on MK9 nearly killed me. I didn't sleep more than 4 hours for months. from january to april 2011 i was at work more than half of the time. In the past 3 years, i had gotten a 1% raise and no bonuses. it was made very clear that everyone was required to crunch.
On MK9, crunch officially began after new years day 2011. of course, we did a bit of pre-crunch before that, just to make sure we were in a good spot for crunch. this was on schedule documents. this was not a wink-wink-nudge-nudge "passionate hardworking" thing, this was mandate. I took one day off between jan 1 and the day the day1 patch was approved. it was my birthday, and it was on a sunday, so it was ok if i was just on call. i was allowed to go to a friends' wedding (on call of course) on a saturday night, after working an 8 hour shift first. Those were the only two days i didn't work from at least 10 am to at least midnight. we were all doing this. i mean, except the bosses, of course, who would leave after dinner.
The whole time the old hats talked about how this was the easiest crunch ever. i hadn't done laundry in weeks. if i had stayed at NRS i definitely wouldn't be married.

The MK team's stance is that crunch works, and MK games are always profitable, so it's clearly the right thing to do. it's wrong -- crunch doesn't work, the workers don't see the profit (bonuses at WB games are capped to a small percentage of salary), and it ruins lives. From what i've heard the crunch cycle has gotten worse since i've left. a friend i talked to in september said they were crunching already. they hire as many contractors and interns as they can, pay them shit (much less than I started at 12 years ago) and work them to death


Isaac Torres, QA tester:
"I crunches for four months in a row. I regularly did 90 to 100 hours working every day. I literally did not live for several months. I went to work at 9 or 10 o'clock, and I left at 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning. I am sure I have aged 20 years in this four month period"


Still on Twitter, Beck Hallstedt, who also contributed to Injustice 2 on a short-term contract, reacted harder by stating that NetherRealm's "predatory" and "abusive" practices must be highlighted in the same way that Riot, Epic and Telltale have been in recent months. According to her, Ed Boon's studio relies heavily on "temporary" workers, with very short-term contracts renewable to the minimum wage, or almost, and who are constantly promised a more stable situation "after the next contract ". Rebecca Rothschild, a former QA analyst on Injustice 2 and Mortal Kombat X, corroborated this information. At PC Gamer, she also mentions 100-hour weeks that can span several months as they approach important deadlines, and most importantly, the low pay of these many hours of work paid $ 12 an hour for men. , $ 11 for women. In the state of Illinois, where NetherRealm Studios (Chicago) is located, the minimum wage is $ 8.25 per hour.

Rebecca Rothschild, employee from 2014 to 2016:
We were citizens of "second class". A supervisor was trying to make the QA understand that we were lucky for this additional pay. This money is good, but if I do not have a life and I work at death, what does it bring me?

Beck Hallstedt, former employee:
During my second or third week of work, a new "temporary" employee sat next to me and was setting up his workstation. The first thing we said to him was "ready to die from the crunch? .

James Longstreet:
The position of Warner Bros. is that the crunch works because their games are always profitable, so it's the right thing to do. The crunch does not work, the workers do not see the profit, the bonuses at Warner Bros. Games are limited to a small percentage of salary, and it ruins lives.


These former employees also describe a toxic work environment, where certain principles of common life are flouted: sexism, crowded offices, harassment ... Two former employees have tried to denounce the situation with the US Commission for Equal Opportunities. employment opportunities, to no avail. According to Beck Hallstedt, by accepting these practices, NetherRealm would be abusing its position as the only AAA studio in the city of Chicago, to which all graduates naturally turn


Source:
James Longstreet on Twitter
PC Gamers interview
Beck Hallstedt on Twitter
Rebecca Rothschild on Twitter
 
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Punished Miku

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Workers who want a dream job are the only reason this is allowed to happen. Most of these people could find work elsewhere in a related industry.

Shining a light on it is the right start. But its going to be up to the people working there ultimately.
 

Kenji Ramon

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That is awful. NRS have of course have made millions from these games but it’s sure come at a cost.
 

Ixiah

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wow.. Its like slavery is back. They just need to add sexual harassment to the workplace to become hell on earth.
There should be an Union for game devs.
Another Question:
WHY is there no Union for game devs ?
 
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TheDuskwalker

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These former employees also describe a toxic work environment, where certain principles of common life are flouted: sexism, crowded offices, harassment
*Looks at this*
*Looks at there comments on fictional females*
*Looks at this*
*Looks at there comments on fictional females*



No wonder they're respecting polygons, they're damn sure not respecting anyone real.
 
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ROMhack

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Not a big fan of Polygon but fair does to them for bringing this to light.
 

tkscz

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Another Question:
WHY is there no Union for game devs ?

The majority of workers they have are temps, these people cannot form unions as they technically do not work directly for the company.

Most people on a development team are temp employees. While they can form a union, most of them feel like it won't work very well as if they strike, they'd be easily replaced.

Believe it or not the games industry is a bit over crowded with people who would dive at the chance of being apart of a big AAA development team. So if someone quits or gets fired they'll be replaced in a matter of minutes. Unless a bunch of people even outside of the company jumps in on the union idea and they get that union in contract, a union is just not going to happen.

is every game dev gonna complain about working hard now? if you don't like it get another job. nobody is forcing you to work there. and if you complain too much your job will be outsourced to either eastern europe or some third world country.

There is a difference between a bit of hard work and being over worked.

50 to 80 hours a week is one thing but over 100 to 120 hours per week, sleeping at the office, getting four hours or fewer of sleep, that is over doing it.

Don't hand me that "they just want to be lazy" bullshit. Being lazy is working part time and complaining you're working too long. Being lazy is ignoring customers while having barely did any work that day. Being lazy is NOT working over 100 hours a week and taxing the shit out of yourself for a job that pays little and could let you go regardless of how much you put into it.
 
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Dragon_Rocks

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This is pretty common for all work which involves Software/IT and there is no union for Software/IT workers. Even within the same company there are groups which have relaxed work and then there are groups who will work all weekends etc. because their unit wants to deliver something in unreasonable amount of time and no one from the team wants to call it out and go against the management.
 
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angelic

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While i dont like this, most stuff is made in sweat shop conditions, our phones, consoles,shoes. We'll complain about high prices, game fidelity, hardware etc, then act surprised to learn how they're made. This is standard, it will never change, and consumer created.
 

EverydayBeast

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Can you be a AAA game by working normal hours? Yes. C’mon, you can’t tell me these workers don’t have options BUT of course they’re going to take the extra hours. I just believe you can make a AAA game on a normal schedule.
 

GrayFoxRJ

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If you die tomorrow, the company you worked at takes 3 days to get someone to substitute you.

Even if you are a specialist and it take months or even years for them to find someone, this does not justify throwing your life on the hands of corporates.
 
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Danjin44

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Can you be a AAA game by working normal hours? Yes. C’mon, you can’t tell me these workers don’t have options BUT of course they’re going to take the extra hours. I just believe you can make a AAA game on a normal schedule.
With better management maybe but even then it not guaranteed everything will go smoothly, things can go wrong in game development so they might have no choice but to crunch to finish up the game. What it needs is the workers need to get paid reasonably for crunch and better work environment.
 
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bitbydeath

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With better management maybe but even then it not guaranteed everything will go smoothly, things can go wrong in game development so they might have no choice but to crunch to finish up the game. What it needs is the workers need to get paid reasonably for crunch and better work environment.

If they’re getting paid the same then why not just hire more staff during crunch?
 
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Danjin44

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If they’re getting paid the same then why not just hire more staff during crunch?
I'm not exactly expert in all this but I don't think its that easy, they might go over the budget they set out for that game and unless it sells crazy well they wont profit. Another thing, I imagine the process of hiring right person for the job might takes some time and talented people aren't exactly easy to come by.
 
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Fuck Ed Boon and his old hat friends. Absolutely disgraceful and it confirmed my suspicion of him being an asshole. We need to support more friendlier and kinder developers such as Japan's esteemed Hideo Kojima who puts in as much work as the rest of his team.
 
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Tesseract

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and people were shitting on respawn for not wanting this kind of work environment
 
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Game companies can do this because some reason gaming employees love it and will do it every year for whatever game is released.

Just like buying stocks, never fall in love too much, unless you are willing to take the heat.

All these gaming employees surely have some good skills in graphics design, or programming, or audio, etc..... if game companies have such shitty slave driven hours, get a job elsewhere you can use those skils. It's not like only gaming companies need these skills.

As I said in another post somewhere, game employees are fickle but entitled. They think that dream job - making video games - is easy shit, and it should be a 9-5 job like most other jobs. Every knows it's not. So if you can't take the crunch hours, don't take it.

Every corporation I've worked at has a team of marketing and packaging people who do whatever graphics design to make visuals on products, banner ads graphics, posters and whatever shit needs people to do art. Good looking stuff. And a 9-5 job. And compared to game companies, it'll probably pay more and you get a bonus.

But hey..... but if you love video games that much you have to design orcs and MK fatalities, then crunch time it is.
 
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oagboghi2

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Another Question:
WHY is there no Union for game devs ?
1. A lot of these companies contract talent through staffing agencies or whatever for a certain block of time. I wouldn't be surprised if many of them didn't get a check from NRS.

It's hard to force unionization of a company you don't really work for.

2. The gaming market is saturated with talent, and it's a buyer's market if you are an employer. Especially in the art field.

It's also an issue of portability of skills. I had an interview with blizzard regarding their fullstack node.js a while ago and they seemed to be cognizant of the fact that my skills could get me hired in a different industry. If you go to school to learn unreal and unity...I don't know, you're kinda fucked.
 
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Northeastmonk

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That's such an awful wage for QA. You could work an IT job and make around $20. What's the incentive? Job recommendation to work at another corporate game developer? Making the same amount of money until someone notices you?

I have a lot of love for the games, but the big dogs and CEO's are the only people taking home the comfortable pay. Yet, those very same people aren't exactly gamers, right? Activision's CEO isn't someone you'd find at GameStop purchasing a video game on his leisure time. He could buy a yacht and sail with his buds while the creative geniuses crunch hours on end for lousy paychecks. Not to mention how their creative minds are torn to pieces along the way.

Anyone remember when Cliffy B gloated about the people he knew? The top dogs in the industry. The million dollar salaries. Do they even enjoy video games or do they just eat a bunch of olives and take expensive vacations all year round?

The success of all these games has been built with blood IMO. The top dogs of ages past either retained their credit and move up. Otherwise they're better off making a game at their own home or in a personal studio somewhere.
 

RedVIper

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If they’re getting paid the same then why not just hire more staff during crunch?

Hiring more staff isn't that easy. First you need to find the right people, then you need to train them and introduce them to the project, you can't just have a bunch of idiots showing up in the midle of the project and expect them to know wtf is going on, and then you need the space for them to actually work.

Paying your staff to work extra hours is much cheaper and much simpler.
 
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TeamGhobad

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nobody works 120hours a week the week only has 168hours. fox conn workers work 100hour weeks which is insane. im sure they work hard but non of these people have revealed their work schedules. i would think its something around 10-11hours with one weekend of half time.
 
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Hellblueboy

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Ahh, capitalism at it's finest.
Do whatever it take for maximums profit, ethics and moral be damn.
 

Scopa

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I found it amusing listening to the Giant Beastcast’s take on this.

In the past they have been disgustingly quick to throw companies and people that they deem “problematic” under the bus based on hearsay. People like David Cage, Randy Pitchford and Daniel Vàvra. They got their pitchforks out and called for their heads. #believealldisgruntleddevs

Meanwhile, in their brief conversation on this revelation they made sure to state multiple times that this, as it stands, is just conjecture. It hasn’t been corroborated or reported on “officially”, so take it with a grain of salt. Despite the fact that these accusations have actual names attached instead of the usual “anonymous sources”.

Could this pathetic and thinly veiled double standard have anything to do with the fact that MK11 and Netherealm Studios are the latest posterchild for the Woke Olympics and virtue signalling?

The cretins at Giant Bomb never cease to amaze me with how hypocritical, see through and unintelligent their opinions are nowadays. They should be ashamed of themselves.
 
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There is a difference between a bit of hard work and being over worked.

50 to 80 hours a week is one thing but over 100 to 120 hours per week, sleeping at the office, getting four hours or fewer of sleep, that is over doing it.

Don't hand me that "they just want to be lazy" bullshit. Being lazy is working part time and complaining you're working too long. Being lazy is ignoring customers while having barely did any work that day. Being lazy is NOT working over 100 hours a week and taxing the shit out of yourself for a job that pays little and could let you go regardless of how much you put into it.

First of all dont over exaggerated with the hours. Did you even try to count how much is needed for 120 hours a week shift? That means 20 hours A DAY of working six days a week. Nobody does that, human body is unable to grind like that so all that is bullshit. And as others have said, they arent tied to their desk in handcuffs. The door is always there to walk out.

Problem is, maybe for some of them it was a dream job to be working on a MK game or working for Netherealm Studios would look great on a CV. But hey its your fault you decided to stay that long and supposedly work 20 hours every day for 4 years. You are either an idiot or most probably they wanted that recognition..."yo im the guy that made the new MK".

And no they dont work for beer money, these guys dont get paid $10 an hour so dont bring out the sad violin song.
No job is perfect, why dont doctors bitch about double shifts and long hours?
 
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Sub_Level

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Could this pathetic and thinly veiled double standard have anything to do with the fact that MK11 and Netherealm Studios are the latest posterchild for the Woke Olympics and virtue signalling?

Except that has nothing to do with it. In fact the people complaing about NRS working conditions are themselves what you would call woke.

From Jiminiy Snackmouth's twitter:

From beck hallstedt's twitter:
Retweet: sorry not sorry clowning terfs and standing up for my transgender friends is a hill im willing to die on without a second thought lmao

And finally, the best one, from Rebecca Rothschild's own personal blog:

Having complaints about the aesthetic of the design choices is fine. However stomping your feet strictly over lack of sexuality is just so *sigh* tiresome. I could understand someone hungry to get a glimpse of the female form back in the 90’s when MK rose to infamy. However, nowadays if you wanna see boobs, you can get an eye full with a mere voice command.


Will Mortal Kombat 11 survive angry fans cancelling their pre-orders in direct response to lack of bewbs? I’m pretty confident it will.


An entire blog post defending MK11's change in female fighter design.

We have like many threads about the ESS JAY DOUBLE U AGENDA in MK so not sure why some of y'all are trying to bring it in here lol
 

Scopa

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Except that has nothing to do with it. In fact the people complaing about NRS working conditions are themselves what you would call woke.

From Jiminiy Snackmouth's twitter:


From beck hallstedt's twitter:


And finally, the best one, from Rebecca Rothschild's own personal blog:




An entire blog post defending MK11's change in female fighter design.

We have like many threads about the ESS JAY DOUBLE U AGENDA in MK so not sure why some of y'all are trying to bring it in here lol
What has any of that got to do with my comment suggesting that the Reeeeers at Giant Bomb are trying to play defence for a woke and virtue-signalling gaming company? If anything, it further proves my point.
 

Sub_Level

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What has any of that got to do with my comment suggesting that the Reeeeers at Giant Bomb are trying to play defence for a woke and virtue-signalling gaming company? If anything, it further proves my point.

You're implying that Giant Bomb are defending NRS because they are "woke" when the former disgruntled workers are also "woke" and even specifically defending "woke" aspects about MK11. The wokeness has nothing to do with the working conditions of the company, else these former workers wouldn't be defending MK11 nor would Giant Bomb be taking the accusations with a grain of salt. You're trying to draw a connection based on correlation rather than causation.