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Labor Groups Investigating Sexual Harassment Claims at 'Detroit: Become Human' Developer

Paris-based developer Quantic Dream has had allegations of a deeply toxic work culture leveled against it in the past.

by Nicole Carpenter
May 7 2019, 5:38pm

Screengrab: YouTube/PlayStation

Pro-union game industry organization Game Workers Unite has issued a “call for testimonies” from people with information about alleged sexual harassment and assault at video game developer Quantic Dream.

Game Workers Unite alleges that it’s heard reports of harassment and assault at the Paris-based developer, which created the 2018 PlayStation 4 exclusive title Detroit: Become Human for Sony Interactive Entertainment. The call for testimonials is in collaboration with French union Solidaires Informatique, according to a press release.

“We have been informed of acts of sexual harassment and sexual assault committed against women who work and have worked in the company,” the Game Workers Unite press release states. “These offenses are extremely serious and are punishable by law, however, they seem to be repeated with impunity for several years because of a strong omertà, this must stop.”

Omertà is an Italian word that refers to a complicit “code of silence” often associated with the mafia.

Game Workers Unite and Solidaires Informatique are asking victims and witnesses of the alleged assault and harassment to contact Solidaires Informatique, promising that that “total confidentiality and legal assistance” will be guaranteed.

“Solidaires Informatique carries the voice of [Quantic Dream] former workers that have witnessed and experienced sexual harassment and assault at work and is working with lawyers to bring the culprits to account and eradicate such risk to other workers,” Game Workers Unite communications lead Marijam Didžgalvytė told VICE via email.

Read More: Over 100 Riot Games Employees Walked Out to End Forced Arbitration

Game Workers Unite is also standing by workers at Riot Games—makers of League of Legendswho walked out of the studio yesterday in protest of the company’s forced arbitration regarding allegations of sexual harassment. According to reporting by Kotaku, employees at Riot Games give up their right to sue when they join the company, and instead agree to abide by an extra-legal resolution process where the victim is forced to mediate with a third-party arbiter. After five current and former employees filed lawsuits against Riot Games, the company filed motions to force two of the women into private arbitration.

“We believe trade unions could provide that separate body that could represent the worker in [sexual harassment cases], rather than relying on in-house investigations that can tend to be corrupted by favoritism [and] fear of firings,” Didžgalvytė said. “GWU stands against any form of harassment at work and will support the brave people coming forward and reporting inappropriate behavior.”

Spokespeople for Solidaires Informatique were not immediately available to respond to VICE's request for comment.

"Quantic Dream is a studio where everyone can express themselves freely. Our diverse team reflects our values of freedom, inclusion and diversity," Quantic Dream said in an emailed statement to VICE. "We are strong in our commitment to creating a safe and creative work environment, in an open and respectful atmosphere. The entire team remains, as always, united in this mission. We take matters of harassment very seriously. We are not aware of any such cases at our company and strongly encourage victims to immediately contact the relevant authorities.”

In 2018, French media reported on a labour case brought against Quantic Dream by a former IT manager that revealed how higher-ups at the studio created a huge series of offensive and humiliating photoshopped images of their colleagues, which were sent around and displayed. Other allegations, included in other reports translated from French by Eurogamer, include racism, sexism, and homophobia at the company. Quantic Dream issued a statement on Twitter denying the allegations in January 2018.

Kotaku reported in April 2018 that Quantic Dream was suing two French media outlets that reported the allegations, Le Monde an Mediapart. In July, the former IT manager won the court case regarding their “unfair dismissal,” according to Eurogamer. The employee terminated their own contract, but, according to Eurogamer, French law allows for employees who resign under intolerable conditions to be treated as having been unfairly dismissed.

Quantic Dream is best known for its role in creating well-regarded games such as Heavy Rain, Detroit: Become Human, and Beyond Two Souls. In January, Chinese internet company NetEase acquired a minority stake in Quantic Dream, but the company announced at the time that co-founders David Cage and Guillaume de Fondaumière will continue to lead the studio.

Neither Quantic Dream nor NetEase have responded to VICE's inquiries regarding the allegations and call for testimony.

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Update: This article was updated with comment from Quantic Dream.

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