Bungie’s CEO Pete Parsons has issued an apology following a report published by IGN about the toxic work culture inside the studio. IGN’s long form report is comprised of both former and current employees at Bungie with the majority speaking anonymously, and they discuss issues of toxic leadership, sexism, racism, different visions between teams, and crunch. Some of the stories are shocking including a staff member who was so sick they couldn’t type but could not take time off so dictated their words so someone else could type for them. There are also mentions of violence like chairs being thrown by team leads because others would disagree with them, and staff being reduced to tears.
In the apology Pete Parsons writes: “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.”
Pete then lists the ways in how things have changed over the last couple of years at Bungie to address these issues. These ways include more hiring of women and those from underrepresented communities with 2021 seeing 31% and 23% of hires belonging to those categories respectively. Those in leadership roles are at 22.5% and 20% respectively from those areas too. There is also acknowledgment that projects and releases are being pushed back to reduce crunch culture in the workplace. Staff that are discovered to be toxis are being let go too, with Pete stating that even those with ‘rockstar’ reputations are not exempt. However, in the IGN report a former employee said: “This was not my experience there […] They have that core value that they don’t tolerate assholes even if they’re rockstars but they totally do. All that’s aspirational. Those are the values they want to get to, but they’re not enforcing them.”
Pete Parsons continued in his apology by saying: “As CEO, it is my job to factor both the past and the future and be accountable for all of it, here and now. Speaking with the team at Bungie, reading the stories, and seeing both known and newly surfaced accounts, it is clear we still have work ahead of us. I am committed to it. We are not yet the studio we have the potential to become, but we are on our way. And we will not rest or slow these efforts because we recognize that the journey of inclusivity, diversity, and equity is, in itself, the destination we all strive towards. This is critical to achieving our vision and fulfilling the potential of the welcoming, equitable home of creative and technical excellence Bungie should be.”
Over the last couple of years there has been a lot of exposure regarding toxic workplace issues in the games industry, and it is a situation that continues. Just this week Activision Blizzard employees have started efforts to unionise following poor treatment from senior management, including letting staff go at Raven Software despite giving assurances they would not. It is likely we will see more stories like this come out as people speak out.