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A major new investigation by IGN has revealed that Bungie, the studio behind the Destiny series and previously the developers of Halo, has failed to take appropriate action across a number of instances of workplace sexism and abuse, and has forced staff to crunch to meet deadlines.
IGN’s Rebekah Valentine spoke with 26 Bungie employees past and present, who recounted instances where they witnessed or were aware of sexism, racism and other discrimination at the Bellevue-headquartered company. They also spoke of, writes Valentine, “overt sexism, boys' club culture, crunch, and HR protection of abusers, as well as more complex stories of microaggressions, systemic inequalities, and difficulties in being heard”.
Bungie's Destiny 2: The Witch Queen releases in 2022...
Bungie’s narrative team in particular is highlighted by the IGN report as “a severely divided group” that has been experiencing problems since development of the original Destiny, a game that came out in 2014. IGN was told that some staff in the narrative team worked 100-hour weeks, and requests for additional staff to ease that burden were denied by management.
One of these managers is described in the report as a “sexist nightmare” who would “throw papers” and yell in meetings. He is alleged to have told staff who felt his behaviour unacceptable to grow thicker skin. One of IGN’s sources called this leader “literally the worst person I've ever worked for”.
When the Destiny 2 DLC Curse of Osiris released in 2017, certain female members of its development team became targets for angry players, who posted threatening comments on Reddit and elsewhere. Death threats were even sent to some staff - but IGN has learned that these employees were not supported by Bungie’s management. And worse still, it’s alleged that a senior male staffer who remains with Bungie at the time of writing even emailed some of these abhorrent comments to other managers in, writes IGN, “a bid to tear down the narrative team because players didn't like the story”.
The IGN report - which you can (and should) read in full here - doesn’t get any prettier the deeper you read. Male narrative leads would promote storylines for the Destiny series which “leaned on harmful stereotypes of women and mental health struggles”, despite protests from other staffers; and that it took multiple writers threatening to outright quit before the toxic leads were finally taken care of. IGN’s sources speak of “multiple individuals with long histories at Bungie” who can “get away with anything, protected by either those above them in the leadership chain or long-serving HR employees”.
Rather than attempt to play down IGN’s report, or push back against it by claiming it’s in any way false, Bungie’s CEO Pete Parsons has issued a statement that admits to failings, on his part and that of the wider company management. As PC Gamer reports, he has posted a public message, which can be read in full here, where offers apologies, and admits enough was not done at Bungie to protect those staff who needed it.
Parsons writes: “First, I want to apologise to anyone who has ever experienced anything less than a safe, fair, and professional working environment at Bungie. I am not here to refute or to challenge the experiences we're seeing shared today by people who have graced our studio with their time and talent. Our actions or, in some cases, inactions, caused these people pain. I apologise personally and on behalf of everyone at Bungie who I know feels a deep sense of empathy and sadness reading through these accounts.”
He continues by outlining some changes the studio has made to bring about a better working environment in recent years, but adds that “it is not enough, and it has taken too long. It also does not sweep away the bad experiences people have had at our studio.” He concludes: “Our current and future actions around the care of our people will define Bungie's future and is our most important purpose. We are grateful and humbled to continue this work and are energized by the journey ahead.”
It should be noted that several of IGN’s sources agree that Bungie is making strides towards being a better place to work, but it’s clear from the CEO’s statement that he feels they’ve some way to go yet.
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