Fullbright co-founder Steve Gaynor stepped down as creative director of the studio’s new Open Roads game following accusations about the company’s culture. New report from Polygon shares a deeper look at the toxic work environment at Fullbright, after the game’s Twitter account posted a leadership change notice.
The official Open Roads Twitter account informed fans of Gaynor’s position change. “We’re a small team committed to creating an inclusive, edgy, story-driven game that gives players a sense of discovery,” the social media post begins. “We care deeply about making games that have a positive impact. We also strongly believe in creating a healthy and collaborative work environment in which we can work with transparency, autonomy and trust.
“So Fulbright co-founder Steve Gaynor stepped down from his creative executive and managerial roles and into the writing role, handing over day-to-day responsibilities to the Open Roads team. We are all excited about how the game is progressing and we hope you will follow us as we continue to share our progress. “
Immediately after posting a message Polygon The report also went public, detailing what led to the decision that caused the transition. In its report, the site began by stating that 15 developers who have worked on Open Roads since its development in 2019 have since left their positions at the studio. 12 of those 15 spoke to Polygon, citing Gaynor’s actions and behavior at work as a reason. In particular, former employees stated that much of the alleged behavior that led to their dismissal was directed against women.
Polygon further notes that the co-founder actually stepped down from his position earlier this year, in March 2021, when it “became clear” that the efforts made to improve working relationships were not effective in the long term. All of the exiting employees wished to remain anonymous to avoid retaliation and backlash when they shared their experiences at Fullbright. Many of the stories have a controlling theme that ties them together, claiming that Graynor took the high school mean girl stance when it came to belittling, ridiculing, and firing his employees.
Some of his former employees retired from the gaming industry altogether, while others took jobs in other studios. Of the workplace statements listed, those who spoke to the site mentioned that they had never witnessed or experienced anything related to sexual harassment or “blatant sexism.” This detail comes to light as Activision Blizzard is currently being sued by the state of California on charges of sexual harassment and abuse.
Many former employees noted that women in leadership positions at Fullbright were over-micromanaged, ridiculed and mis-characterized while under Gaynor’s leadership. Those who came forward said they wanted to talk about his behavior, but they “had no real process to do it.” While outside consultants occasionally came, Fullbright did not have HR staff.
The report also details past instances where Gaynor became aware of his allegedly toxic behavior, even citing warned of possible parallels between him and the report. Scavengers Studio Toxicity… According to the timeline posted on the site, Annapurna Interactive, the publisher of Open Roads, soon stepped in when management noticed that most of the departing employees were women.
In anticipation of his shift at the company, employees made numerous attempts to publicize his behavior, including sending e-mail notes through internal servers and during weekend interviews. Some developers have even approached the publisher for a more direct approach.
The studio representative said Polygon that Annapurna was “aware of the situation” and “helped the Open Roads team make changes to its structure.”
Gaynor addressed the charges with the following note:
Hello. I have a statement about my role in Fullbright. Earlier this year, I gave up my role as Creative Director at Open Roads. My leadership style was offensive to the people who worked at Fullbright, and for that I sincerely apologize.
Taking a step back gave me the space and perspective to see how my role should change and how I need to learn and improve as part of a team, including working with an experienced management consultant and rethinking my attitude to working at Fullbright.
I care deeply about Open Roads and the Fullbright team. I’m sad that I gave up on the day-to-day development of Open Roads, but did the right thing. I fully believe in and support the Open Roads team to bring the game to completion.
To learn more about Gaynor’s leadership style, you can read the entire report from Polygon here…
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