“It’s an open secret amongst the game industry that the wheels of most modern AAA titles are greased with the lifeblood of their developers,” states Rapidfire CEO and former underwear model Travis “Pocket Rocket” Fimmel. “Rockstar Games reportedly required hundred-hour weeks from its development team to meet its launch target for Red Dead Redemption 2, while the brutal crunch period at Telltale Games actually forced several developers into hospitalization. At Rapidfire, it’s a whole different culture. No more than eighty hours of work per week, and bathroom breaks are actually encouraged. That’s saved us a fortune on furniture replacement.”
Travis reclines back in his chair and gives us an easy smile. Behind him, we can see a hip, modern office: open windows illuminate a busy workspace, with masked developers hunched over computers, typing frantically, their IV tubes glowing softly in the sunlight. Just another day at Rapidfire, Travis assures us. “Admittedly, today is a bit frantic,” he laughs, strong and healthy. “Normally, we would allow the devs to drink nutritional slurry from a bowl of their choice, but hey, even we have deadlines.”
“Now, I want you to notice something,” he continues. “Look around. No makeshift beds. No urine-filled cans of Red Bull. Most blood donations are completely optional. That’s what makes us different from other studios. We want the best, and we know that the best won’t give up their blood more than two, maybe three times a year. Sure, sometimes the shareholders complain, but there’s always more than enough of that sweet, delicious developer blood to go around. After all, what we lose by not pushing devs to the brink of madness on a hopeless quest for perfection is more than made up for by what we save on healthcare.”
I was also able to speak to Cassandra “Oracle” Troy, a young and fresh-faced game artist who was quite enthusiastic about Rapidfire’s new philosophy. “Most people claimed that treating your employees like human beings couldn’t be done—but Rapidfire is proof that ethical practices can still turn a profit,” the young woman assured me, her IV bag decorated with cute anime stickers. “Happy employees are productive employees, after all. Honestly, I wish I could donate more of my blood. I don’t know why they want it, I just need to give it to them!” she laughs, her sunken eyes pleading with me much less desperately than developers at other AAA companies.
“I can’t say that our development process would necessarily work for everyone,” Travis responded when I asked him about the future of the games industry. “We’re fortunate enough to have a team of talented, motivated people, and a fanbase that doesn’t mind paying a little more to ensure that our studio isn’t subsisting on a steady diet of intense pain and human suffering—only moderate suffering. Makes us look damn good by comparison. Can you imagine if we were trying to pull this shit in literally any other industry? We would be crucified. Speaking of, do you mind donating some blood?”
While an intern gets the needle, we tossed Travis a few more questions to wrap up the interview—mostly about his hair and skin routine, but he does prick up my ears with a mention of CD Projekt Red. “Now, let’s be clear—any amount of suffering is worth The Witcher 3,” he chuckles, “I would sacrifice a newborn baby to dark and unspeakable gods for a game that good. But that’s the old way. We need to keep pushing forwards. Developers can’t be expected to piss into bottles anymore. And who knows? If this little experiment works out, we might even consider giving some dignity to our customers.”