Dan Houser, who founded Rockstar Games with his brother Sam in 1998, will leave the company on March 11, according to an SEC filing submitted today by Rockstar’s parent company, Take-Two Interactive. Houser’s various hats at the company include those of Head Writer, Executive Producer, Vice President of Creative, and, according to a 2018 Kotaku report, Fear-mongering Taskmaster.
“After an extended break beginning in the spring of 2019, Dan Houser, Vice President, Creative at Rockstar Games, will be leaving the company. Dan Houser’s last day will be March 11, 2020. We are extremely grateful for his contributions.”
No further information regarding Houser’s departure is provided in the SEC filing, which is required by the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. I tried to find the pertinent sections of the act, but after reading “whereupon the issuer shall be relieved from further compliance with the provisions of this section and section 13 of this title and any rules or regulations under such sections as to the securities so withdrawn or stricken,” my brain fell out.
Take-Two’s short, legally mandated statement is the only word thus far on Houser’s decision to leave Rockstar. The official Rockstar Twitter account has stayed mum on the issue, and neither Houser nor his brother have any real social media presence as far as I was able to uncover. Sam Houser’s role at Rockstar (read: President) remains unchanged, according to a statement received by Kotaku.
It’s possible that, after taking three-fourths of a year off work, Dan realized that he doesn’t actually have to perform any labor for the rest of his life if he doesn’t want to, given his extensive wealth and (what I’m assuming are) substantial continuing residuals for his work on one of the most successful entertainment products of any kind in recorded history.
As if having your name attached to Grand Theft Auto 5 wasn’t enough, Houser also has Executive Producer credits on Red Dead Redemption, L.A. Noire, Max Payne 3, and Red Dead Redemption 2, along with writing credits on every mainline Grand Theft Auto title since 2, most of the GTA side games, both (modern) Red Deads, and Bully, which people still won’t shut up about.
The Housers’ influence on Rockstar’s creative output cannot be overstated, and neither can the potential ripple effect of Dan’s departure. Predicting those ripples, however, is a bit trickier. With Sam still in place as President, I find it genuinely unlikely that Rockstar’s crass satirical humor will find itself any less welcome internally, or that the company’s culture of mandatory crunch and horse testicle perfectionism will suddenly give way to a unionized utopia free of painstakingly rendered testes. Rather, the effects of Houser’s exit are more likely to be felt on the trading floor of the stock market, or on the absolute most secret of planning whiteboards deep within Rockstar’s New York City headquarters.
On the other hand, Dan undoubtedly had final say in the writing rooms of Rockstar’s biggest blockbusters, so at the very least he must have given the go-ahead for that scene in Red Dead Redemption 2 where you beat up the developmentally disabled man immediately after he’s used as a comedic prop. It’s possible, though however unlikely, that whoever replaces Houser will have less tolerance for that kind of thing, but I’m not keeping my fingers crossed.