Naughty Dog Inc., developers of Crash Bandicoot, Uncharted and The Last of Us, have come under scrutiny these past couple weeks as allegations of sexual harassment have been made against the studio.
Former environment artist David Ballard worked for Naughty Dog for two periods of time between 2009 and 2016. He wrote about the harassment on Facebook and Twitter where it received a lot of attention. Ballard states that “In late 2015, I was sexually harassed at Naughty Dog by a lead. My work environment became extremely toxic afterward. In February 2016 I had a mental breakdown at work & Sony Playstation HR became involved. When I told them about the harassment they ended the call and fired me the next day. They cited the company was moving in a different direction and my job was no longer needed. They tried to silence me by offering $20,000 if I signed a letter agreeing to the termination as well as to not discuss it with anyone. I declined to sign. I have been unemployed for 17 months since.”
Naughty Dog has denied any knowledge of the harassment and states they have no record of any HR communications with Ballard.
Verge reporter Megan Farokhmanesh stated on Twitter that “a Naughty Dog dev asked me if I ‘fuck all my sources like on House of Cards’ after I introduced myself as a reporter.” This abhorrent behaviour is unfortunately what women face quite frequently in the male-dominated games industry and in games media. Naughty Dog has not commented on this allegation but Ms. Farokhmanesh has received a great deal of abuse over the tweet from Naughty Dog fans.
These allegations paint a pretty sorry picture of Naughty Dog as a workplace. Infamous for working their employees well over the healthy amount of hours in a week it appears that the studio also harbours a toxic workplace in which sexual harassment can flourish and go unchallenged. Whether intentional or not it’s something that deters me from wanting to support them as a studio in the future, and seeing as they’ve made some of my favourite games ever that’s very upsetting. But not nearly as upsetting as knowing there’s men and women who’ve endured and are quite possibly continuing to endure harassment by this studio and those in positions of power within.
We need to challenge behaviour like this and support those who endure harassment so that they and others can feel comfortable coming forward. Naughty Dog has fans loyal to a fault, fans who rip into anyone who dares to say anything negative about the studio or their games. As a fan of Naughty Dog’s work myself I had a hard time tapering my excitement for The Last of Us Part II with the knowledge that my support would only serve to perpetuate the seemingly hostile work environment the studio is maintaining. We’ll see whether there’s any developments in this story and any sign of positive change at the studio before The Last of Us Part II releases but I for one am doubtful.