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Accusations of Toxic Workplace Culture Surface Against Life is Strange Developer, Deck Nine

A recent investigation into developer Deck Nine, known for overseeing the popular Life is Strange series, has unveiled a troubling environment within the studio. Reports suggest that toxicity, hate speech, harassment, crunch, bullying, and abusive leadership have been allowed to persist due to a lack of action from senior management.

The investigation by IGN’s Rebekah Valentine, based on accounts from numerous current and former Deck Nine employees, makes several alarming claims. These allegations shed light on a discrepancy between the inclusive values synonymous with Life is Strange and the actual atmosphere at the studio.

Instances of sexual harassment, bullying, transphobia, and other forms of toxicity were reportedly prevalent at Deck Nine, with senior management allegedly turning a blind eye to these issues for extended periods. For example, complaints about a senior programmer’s harassment and aggression towards female staff were initially met with a passive response from management, who chose to relocate the team’s desks instead of directly addressing the problematic behavior. Although the involved staff member was eventually dismissed, the delayed action raised concerns.

Moreover, the narrative team at Deck Nine, described as one of the most diverse groups within the studio, faced challenges such as sexism, harassment, bullying, and transphobia. Former chief creative officer Zak Garriss was specifically called out for allegedly overstepping personal boundaries with female staff and exhibiting resistance to feedback on portrayals of diverse characters. Garriss was accused of dismissing concerns raised by team members regarding certain aspects of the game script, including scenes that were deemed potentially triggering or problematic.

In response to the allegations, Garriss defended his actions, citing creative differences and challenging the narrative team’s professionalism. He eventually parted ways with Deck Nine voluntarily amid escalating tensions. However, the delayed response from the studio’s leadership to address these issues reportedly persisted, leading to further discontent among employees.

The investigation also revealed troubling incidents involving the insertion of inappropriate content into the game by a staff member, which allegedly went unaddressed for an extended period despite internal complaints. Management’s slow reaction to such incidents and the lack of concrete measures to address hate speech raised additional concerns among employees.

Notably, IGN’s report also implicates Life is Strange publisher Square Enix for allegedly exerting pressure on Deck Nine employees and displaying reluctance towards diverse themes in the game. Square Enix’s handling of certain aspects of the game development, including representation and inclusivity, raised questions about its commitment to these values.

While Square Enix refrained from commenting on the allegations, Deck Nine issued a comprehensive response to address the concerns raised in the report. The studio emphasized its dedication to diversity, employee welfare, and collaborative storytelling, outlining initiatives to enforce stricter conduct policies, enhance training on hate speech, and ensure a more inclusive development process.

In conclusion, the investigation sheds light on the challenges faced by Deck Nine and its employees, underscoring the importance of fostering a respectful and inclusive work environment within the gaming industry.