Rockstar: one of the most polarizing companies in video games

Originally published at: Rockstar: one of the most polarizing companies in video games | Boing Boing

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Bit of an eyeroll at the narrator starting off by expressing surprise at the expressed “hatred for Rockstar” from gamers; thought they might back it up with something real, but no. When it comes to players expressing “hatred” for a studio/publisher/game, it’s disproportionately - and rather ironically - from fans of the products. Obsessive players send a lot of death threats, for instance - because they’ve invested so much time/emotional energy into a game, if something isn’t exactly the way they think it should be, they flip out. The bigger the game, the more of those kinds of players there are. They’re still playing the game(s) obsessively, and they’d be hugely upset if the studio/publisher/game stopped existing, so “hatred” isn’t what’s really at play here. As Rockstar’s games are some of the most successful games of all time, they have a lot of obsessive player-haters who will express extreme displeasure whatever they do, no matter how innocuous.

This is not to be confused with the other things they actually talked about in the video - the mainstream culture moral panics (i.e. controversy outside the “world of gaming”), legal issues over accounting practices, and certainly not with things that weren’t relevant here or touched on in the video at all, but are serious issues in the game industry, such as the actual hate that women and minorities in game development get for just existing.


Acti-Blizz: hold my beer.


Grand Theft Auto was an innocuous title before the third iteration of the game kicked up enough controversy to furnish yet another conversation about video games corrupting the souls of America’s youth.

I wouldn’t say the first two games were innocuous; they just didn’t get much attention from moral crusaders in the US, who were mostly focused on the FPS genre in those days (having moved on from Mortal Kombat and Night Trap).

The original GTA was controversial in its native UK; the House of Lords discussed banning it from sale before it was released. Its creators eventually admitted they manufactured the controversy themselves, as an advertising strategy.

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That’s a really weird and shallow overview. It claims to be about the controversy around Rockstar, but doesn’t even mention their most controversial titles, like Bully abs Manhunt. In the former you literally play the school bully, trying to force other kids to cry. That caused a huge uproar even before bullying was in the public consciousness the way it is today.

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Was it really, though?

It’s always been about being a criminal and doing criminal things. The first two games were rated M, had plenty of violence, gore, and vehicular homicide.

With the technological advancement available at the time 3 came out such as improved graphics and DVD storage, the top-down perspective was changed to third-person and the world and story became much more complex (although they used a lot of clever technical trickery to get there).

I think the irony of Bully was that after all the initial controversy and hand-wringing, it was pretty tame and irreverent for the most part. (Also notable for the protagonist having the option to be in gay and/or straight relationships with other characters which was pretty cutting edge at the time.) More often than not the true bullies in the game are *dramatic music* the adults in positions of power.


The first game was definitely a moral-panic news item thing in the US as well. I remember reading about it in Newsweek (and thinking it sounded amazing).

This was what I was expecting, some insight into what is happening on the ground floor in developer studios. What is the cultural workplace of an industry that takes visceral violence as a masculine past time as default!? I guess the annoying stock footage in this video speaks volumes about how little it has to say other than Rock Stars standing on the stock market.

As someone that is a 3D designer and cinema junky I have an interest in the way that the gaming industry has pushed technology and acknowledge that the collateral damage in both are the workers and talent on the ground.

Looking at an industry culture from a capitalist/stock holder down perspective as well as the moral and political upper down rhetoric is a road that only goes in circles.

Thinking about a gaming audience that wants fast twitch response times, fps, is a ground up push for new technology, video card development, is an interesting discussion., creative executives machinations, not so much. Gender identity and real lived sexual violence doesn’t matter at the top unless it helps their bottom line.

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What about Roblox? There’s alot of shady shit going on with them that got no where near as much attention as Rockstar’s games that were clearly rated M and AO that were marketed towards an older audience.

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There’s been some general interest in the working conditions of game developers in the last couple years (that didn’t exist before), but reportage is still very much driven by the rare games writer who does some actual journalism and asks people questions.

In Rockstar’s case, the horrible “crunch” workers experienced working on “Red Dead Redemption” got some coverage, but that’s all I’ve seen. (I’ve not heard any horror stories from former coworkers who previously worked there - that kind of crunch is common, and Rockstar is multiple large studios, so work conditions vary.)

But given that they are makers of some of the most popular shooters, the size of their toxic fanbase must be enormous - so the amount of abuse and death-threats they get from fans, especially any women or developers of color on the teams, must be equally enormous. But no one talks about that - it’s really a given, and developers most likely to be targeted have developed defense mechanisms. Women I’ve worked with in game design deliberately had zero social media presence nor did they even allow their picture to be taken (for e.g. the studio website).


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