Over Two Dozen Current And Former Bungie Employees Open Up About Toxic Culture
CEO Pete Parsons apologizes, re-iterates work company is doing to improve
Today was Bungie's day of reckoning, as the studio was the topic of an exposé by IGN's Rebekah Valentine, who published a long article detailing years of toxic behavior at the Destiny 2 maker. She spoke with 26 current and former Bungie employees, who detailed poor behavior at the company dating back to 2011 and continuing into the current year.
A number of the charges levied at Bungie are not atypical in any game studio: long hours, extended crunch periods, and hot-tempered supervisors. Toss in sexual harassment -- "sexual comments and unwanted hugs," "asking his colleagues to comment on images of women he brought up on Tinder," summed up with the general sense of "an environment where many men cultivated a pervasive atmosphere in which women were inferior" and the usual "reports were made to HR and leadership ... but to no avail" -- and things move into the "more severe" category that we're used to hearing about companies like Blizzard and Ubisoft.
Honestly, it's an extremely long read, and I could spend the rest of the day parsing every story, every detail, and trying to present them all here. But you know how it goes by now. It's happened enough over the past year-plus, and if you want all the details read Valentine's article. I don't want to shortchange anyone's stories with a casual synopsis.
If there's any slightly silver lining, it's that -- unlike with the leadership at those other two companies -- Bungie CEO Pete Parsons appears to be open and receptive to the criticism. In September, he announced intiatives to tackle diversity and inclusion issues, and while those didn't sit well with some of the people Valentine talked to, considering their own personal experiences, some of her interviewees "despite their own hurts, truly believe the studio is slowly but steadily improving."
Parsons himself responded to today's piece with a statement that began by acknowledging "the experiences we're seeing shared today by people who have graced our studio with their time and talent" and apologizing to those who "experienced anything less than a safe, fair, and professional working environment at Bungie."
He then detailed the several initiatives that were underway at the company, including increasing numbers of women and minorities, greater prioritization of team health, increased conduct reviews, and a commitment to removing bad actors, "without respect to their tenure, seniority, or interpersonal relationships." "We are not yet the studio we have the potential to become, but we are on our way," he said near the end of the piece.
Still, Valentine summed up the mindset of many of her sources, who would prefer the company does less "saying" and more "doing" but also acknowleding that Bungie's history is part of "a work culture with deep roots that cannot simply be dug up overnight."
While Bungie has not received the same vitriol that Activision Blizzard has for its response to the airing of its dirty laundry, at least one of Valentine's sources summed things up in saying that the issues stem from "systemic, industry-wide misogyny" and that no company should take the high ground when another's misdeeds are made public. And now we wait, until the next seemingly above-reproach developer is outed for transgressions that have occurred on its watch. If you don't think that's coming, then I don't know what to say.
About the Author
Jason Winter is a veteran gaming journalist, he brings a wide range of experience to MMOBomb, including two years with Beckett Media where he served as the editor of the leading gaming magazine Massive Online Gamer. He has also written professionally for several gaming websites.
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