22nd February 2024 3:53 pm
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Toxicity at Bungie laid bare – CEO apologises, promises change

The day to day activities at your favourite video game maker are likely something you don’t think about. Over the last few years not thinking about how a game is made has become tougher as exposes have thrown the cover off of the industry and revealed how deep the rot runs.

Earlier this year when Activision Blizzard was served a lawsuit alleging the publisher/developer was a hotbed of toxicity and sexual harassment, Bungie was one of many others that were critical of the firm.

However, an expose published by IGN at the weekend shows a darker side of Bungie.

The report from IGN draws on the experience of 26 current and former employees at Bungie and highlights a number of toxic elements within the workplace.

Much time is spent describing the horrors of working on the narrative team for Destiny and Destiny 2. A narrative team lead would reportedly suffer burnout and that lead to them creating a toxic workplace for employees. There are reports that this team lead threw a chair at a windows because he felt others were destroying his creative vision.

Beyond that, team members were forced to work 60, 70, 80 and even 100 work weeks ahead of expansions.

Female employees on the narrative team were subjected to death threats and vitriol online following the release the Curse of Osiris expansion, but it’s said no support was offered to these employees during this time. Rather, it’s alleged that leadership sent comments from Reddit directly to these women in a bid to tear them down.

There are reports of narrative being changed by a lead as they were walking to record voice overs and writers weren’t informed until after they heard they new lines. There’s even a story of how a voice line for Devrim Kay was removed because it alluded to the fact he was homosexual. This would like not fly in places like Russia, Bungie leadership told writers.

However, a throwaway line that was recorded did lead to speculation that Devrim wasn’t heterosexual, something that was confirmed later and Bungie still enjoyed the praise of inclusivity despite actively working against that.

We simply can’t get into everything IGN’s report touches on, but the image created is one of a company that looks welcoming on the surface, but could take an arm once you get closer. While no leadership figures are named it’s clear that sweeping changes need to be made at Bungie.

Hope shines brightest in the dark

The good news is that those sweeping changes are being made.

The report from IGN is very concerning and it’s fitting then that chief executive officer at Bungie, Pete Parsons started off his addressing of the report with an apology.

“First, I want to apologize 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 apologize personally and on behalf of everyone at Bungie who I know feels a deep sense of empathy and sadness reading through these accounts,” said Parsons.

The CEO then states that bad actors have been removed from the studio without an consideration to their tenure, seniority or relationships within the studio. While Parsons believes the bad actors highlighted in the IGN report have been removed, but will investigate any new claims that come to light with integrity.

What needs to be said is that Bungie knew there were problems within its own house and it has seemingly been working to address those problems over the years. The CEO tells us about inclusion clubs the firm has created in a bid to increase diversity and equity at Bungie. The firm has been reviewing its hiring, promotion, review and compensation practices this year and a third party has been brought in to address potential inequities.

But this doesn’t mean Bungie is absolved of its past. The experiences highlight by IGN are important to heed because they have become so common in the gaming industry. Brands like Activision Blizzard, Riot Games and Ubisoft all have black marks against their names and change needs to come.

For Bungie, that change is happening, but it’s clear this process doesn’t happen overnight and even Parsons admits “we still have work ahead of us”.

What this matter does highlight is just how much work the likes of Activision Blizzard has before it.

Our hearts go out to the former and current Bungie employees who were done wrong by the developer. We live in hope that Bungie can change it’s stripes and become the developer fans and employees can look up to.

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