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It was inevitable that #MeToo would expand beyond the movie industry. You’d have to be a card-carrying, tunnel-visioned member of the patriarchy to think that Hollywood was uniquely shitty in its attitude towards women. Indeed, if you were in any way aware of the Gamergate controversy of recent years, the fact that #MeToo also affects women in the gaming industry can hardly come as a surprise.
In recent weeks French development studio Quantic Dream has come under scrutiny for its alleged attitude towards female employees. They accused of promulgating a ‘sexist’ and ‘toxic’ working environment. According to a recent article in the Guardian studio heads David Cage and Guillaume de Fondaumière have been accused of behaving inappropriately and turning a blind eye to an unhealthy working culture after members of staff filed a complaint against the company regarding photo-shopped images of employees. It is alleged that some 600 photo-shopped images were distributed showing employees in Nazi uniforms , swimming costumes and sexualised nurse outfits. According to the Guardian “Cage and de Fondaumière claimed they were unaware that some of the images were offensive, and told Mediapart that the images had been removed from the company servers as soon as the complaint was received.”
Among other accusations, reported in Le Monde, are that Cage made jokes with racist and homophobic undertones. Cage denied this saying that the fact he had worked with people like Ellen Page in Beyond: Two Souls and Jesse Williams in Detroit: Become Human suggests that they are above such accusations. The “I can’t be homophobic because one of my friends is gay” is hardly an adequate defence. In fact, a few days ago the studio released a statement saying that French courts had dismissed allegations from two employees and that a third claim is in a tie.
In January IGN fired its editor-in-chief Steve Butts for alleged misconduct. This came several months after GameSpot Associate Editor and former IGN employee, Kallie Plagge tweeted allegations about her own sexual harassment at the hands of former editor Vince Ingenito. In her statement Plagge said “I can’t swallow my anger any more. The silence physically hurts.” Plagge went on to describe how Ingenito had harassed her and one other female employee for months. Even though Plagge complained to HR she was told that she was an equal partner in the “flirtation” and forced to work with Ingenito for another six months.
In another case the Sony-owned game studio Naughty Dog behind the “Uncharted” series has been accused of firing an employee after he complained of being sexually harassed. David Ballard said on Twitter that he was sexually harassed by a manager at the studio near the end of 2015. When he told HR about the harassment he had experienced several months later he was fired the next day. Ballard said that he had discussed his harassment on a phone call with HR but not that he had filed an official complaint. Indeed, a joint statement from Sony and Naughty Dog said that they hadn’t found any evidence that they had received a complaint about sexual harassment from Ballard and that they take such complaints seriously.
It’s too early to say if the gaming industry is experience its own #MeToo moment or if these are isolated incidents. but it does seem obvious that the industry is not immune to claims of sexual harassment – no industry is – but what is important is how the industry reacts to such claims. The treatment of Kallie Plage is particularly disturbing. If, after making an official complaint, your claim is summarily dismissed as an office “flirtation” then something is rotten at its heart. An industry in which there is a higher preponderance of men than women should be going out of its way to (a) attract female talent and (b) ensure that that talent is safe and secure in their jobs.
If #MeToo has taught us anything, and it has oh-so-much to teach us , it’s that there is no time frame on the hurt and anger caused by these actions. Whether a victim comes forward immediately or months or even years later does not matter. We need to stop, shut up and we need to listen. We need to ask ourselves why victims choose to keep quiet or just move on?