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Animation and gaming titan, Rooster Teeth, rocked by accusations of crunch

Rooster Teeth

By now, many in the games industry and beyond are becoming increasingly more aware of issues within their various scenes involving crunch, low pay, discrimination and other forms of worker abuse. It’s no small matter when one of these problems get brought into the limelight, and this past week has seen a major player in the online creative community admit to some pretty startling problems.

Rooster Teeth, the creative force behind Red Vs. Blue, RWBY, Achievement Hunter and so many more iconic online brands, has been hit with accusations of “crunch culture”, rampant unpaid overtime, and a workplace environment made incredibly toxic by clique structure and nepotism. The complaints also alleged a practice of stringing employees along and promising them gainful employment, only to fire them after a project was completed.

The controversy exploded online after Georden Whitman, creator of animated series Nomad of Nowhere, confirmed that various issues anonymously reported on employee feedback site regarding pay and working conditions were valid and ongoing problems.

“Crunch here is out of control. No Paid OT. Expect to work A LOT for free. 70-80 hour work weeks. Mandatory 10-12 hour work days sometimes with no days off,” said one employee.

Earlier today, current CEO and one of five co-founders of Rooster Teeth, Matt Hullum, acknowledged these and other issues, and promised to do better. Among the changes, the company is pledging to revamp its staff practices and restructure management positions in order to deal with persistent issues. Part of these changes is that Gray G. Haddock, long-time studio head for the animation division within the company, is stepping down and instead moving into “a strictly creative role.”

“We acknowledge that we could have better managed our animation pipeline, and we apologize to all who have been affected.”

According to Hullum, “we are consulting with experienced leaders in the animation industry on our workflow, pipeline, production structure and other areas to enhance the workplace experience for our staff.”

With the ongoing pushes for unionization in the gaming industry and creative industries too, there’s going to be increasing pressure on employers to offer competitive wages, a fair and responsible work environment, and plenty of worthwhile opportunity. Gone are the days when large companies could use tired old excuses like “You should be happy to work here,” to stifle complaints from employees. And frankly, good riddance to that nonsense.

And as games and creative industries become more militant against these issues, I can only hope that companies like RT and NetherRealm Studios clean up their act. Of course those are literally just the tip of the iceberg, and the death of crunch culture is a long way off, but hopefully we’re getting there.

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