Tuesday, January 16, 2018

French Developer Accused of Harassment and Hostile Work Conditions

Remember 2 months ago when I posted about harassment in video games? The change is coming.

Heavy Rain developer Quantic Dream is in a heap of trouble, with 15 current and former employees and 3 news sources reporting that it's a hostile and sexist workplace. Much of this culture perpetuated by studio heads David Cage and Guillaume de Fondaumière. A number of the employees claim that the lude and harassing behavior even occurred while Cage's wife was at the studio, and she was present during the alleged incidents.

The concerns first appeared last year, when the IT head brought a wrongful dismissal complaint to the Paris labour tribunal. The employee initially complained about inappropriate photoshopped images of employees in sexist or bigoted scenarios - all available on the company's server. Some were shopped wearing Nazi uniforms. Others in revealing clothing with homophobic slurs written on them. After the complaint was made, the images were claimed to have been removed, and so was the head of IT. Feeling that the firing was a retaliation, he went to the labour tribunal.

Other employees have commented that the environment is particularly hostile to women. Not only because of the 83% male dominated work-place, but the culture that has been cultivated there. Drawings of male genitalia are on a wall. Women are hit on, talked down to, and told smutty jokes. It's been noted that Cage has said inappropriate things about actresses that have worked on games with the studio. At company events and parties, Cage and other male colleagues would forgo polite greetings with female employees (the cheek to cheek air kiss), and go for lip contact and inappropriate touching.

There are also claims that employees are working up to 60 hours a week, including weekends, without compensation. A work-week in France is 38 hours, and employees can not legally work for more then 10 hours a day.

Both studio heads deny the allegations. Cage has been quoted stating "You want to talk about homophobia?" he said. "I work with Ellen Page, who fights for LGBT rights. You want to talk about racism? I work with Jesse Williams, who fights for civil rights in the USA... Judge me by my work."

Note: Working with people who fight for the LGBTQ community, civil rights, women's rights, and equality, does not absolve you of your bad behavior. See Harvey Weinstein. A producer with a very strong history of supporting multiple artists who have pro-equality backgrounds. But that didn't stop him from being a sexual predator.

Quantic Dream is based in France, and has become one of the larger gaming exports from Europe over the past 20 years. Their lineup of games includes Heavy Rain, Beyond Two Souls, and the upcoming Detroit: Beyond Human. The last game is one that I have been looking forward to for quite some time. Needless to say, I won't be buying it nor will I be supporting a studio that allows such behavior. As of this posting, I'm going back to my previous post and crossing it out.

The developer will have a long uphill battle over the coming years as they work towards a resolution. Needless to say, this is just the beginning. I would not be surprised if we see more of these revelations occur in the coming year.

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