Bungie Workers Speak Out Against Crunch And Toxicity In The Workplace
A few months ago, Bungie tweeted a response to what was then the breaking Activision Blizzard scandal. It seemed to distance itself from Activision–a company that it had only very recently separated from–and championed Bungie's zero-tolerance policy towards a toxic work culture.
"We don’t pretend that Bungie is perfect and that no one has experienced harassment while working here," Bungie wrote, "but we will not tolerate it and will confront it head-on. And we will continue to do the work every day to be better.”
Now, thanks to a report from IGN, we’re finding out just how far Bungie has come and how much further it still needs to go. In conversations with 26 former employees, IGN revealed a history of sexism, crunch, and a "boys' club culture," as well as an HR department that seemed to only protect abusers rather than put a stop to them.
Much of the report centers on Bungie's narrative team working on its key game, Destiny, and how a string of team leaders were abusive, racist, and homophobic. One even tossed a chair through a window. Turnover was rampant, and work-weeks between 60 and 100 hours were commonplace. This was during Bungie's days at Activision, and just like today, it seems that corporate overlords made it difficult to hire anyone other than contract workers to take some of the burden off an overworked team.
Beyond crunch, the narrative team also had problems convincing bosses to create more inclusive stories in Destiny. Team leaders often tried to remove references to homosexuality for fear of being locked out of foreign markets, or of rewriting female characters to follow harmful stereotypes.
Requests sent to HR to reign-in overbearing and abusive team leaders were ignored. Only after every non-male member of the team threatened to quit en-masse did Bungie management finally step in to remove those leaders and start over.
A recurring theme of the report was an HR department unwilling to listen to complaints and even protected abusers. Many former employees said they had to increase their medications, therapy, or both while working at Bungie. Some even reported suicidal thoughts.
However, unlike some companies that seem reluctant to change their ways, Bungie does at least seem to be different. Many of the stories recounted in the report ended with the manager eventually being fired–too late to prevent harm but terminated nonetheless. Bungie has been quietly cleaning house for the past few years, removing the most problematic elements of its old guard and starting Employee Resource Groups like Black at Bungie, Women at Bungie, Trans at Bungie, and Accessibility at Bungie. A Diversity & Inclusion director was hired just this year, and according to CEO Pete Parsons, Bungie's workforce diversity has never been better.
But, as many who spoke to IGN noted, most of those bad actors will simply move on to new jobs at different companies where they will continue to act badly. Although Bungie ended its forced arbitration clause in September, a non-disparagement agreement still prevents fired leaders from being named.
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