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Fullbright comes under fire after allegations of "toxic culture"

Steve Gaynor, the cofounder of indie studio, Fullbright, has resigned his position as Creative Lead on Open Roads, amidst allegations of workplace toxicity toward female employees.
Fullbright comes under fire after allegations of "toxic culture"

Fullbright is an indie studio that is best known for their acclaimed game titles, "Tacoma" and "Gone Home", which each won the Best Debut at the GDC and BAFTA Awards. The studio is also expected to release their upcoming mystery-thriller video game, "Open Roads" later this year.

It seems that Activision Blizzard is not alone amidst workplace controversies. Fullbright has recently come under fire following allegations surfaced that Fullbright Co-founder and Creative Lead of Open Roads, Steve Gaynor, demonstrated toxic behaviour in the workplace, particularly toward female employees.

Fullbright under fire after 

allegations of "toxic culture" surface

According to a report by Polygon, Steve Gaynor would micromanage female employees by being overtly "controlling" and that they felt "undermined and demeaned" by him. This ultimately resulted in several employees leaving the company.

Polygon reported that fifteen employees left the studio since 2019 and "12 former employees said their departure was at least in part due to Gaynor’s behaviour toward workers".

The report noted that neither of the former employees had "experienced or witnessed harassment or explicit sexism" but rather the studio's inherent "toxic culture" was the reason they had left.

fullbright open roads
Upcoming game by Fullbright, Open Roads (Picture: Fullbright Studios)

"The studio’s toxic culture hid behind the veneer of inclusivity, as women were allegedly repeatedly broken down by microaggressions", Polygon reported.

One source commented: "This is going to sound like a joke, but I'm completely serious: Working for him often felt like working for a high school mean girl", who further explained that Gaynor would mock and embarrass staffers in front of other employees.

Steve Gaynor steps down amidst "toxic culture" allegations

On the 5th of August, the Official Twitter account of Open Roads announced: "Steve Gaynor has stepped back from his role as creative lead and manager, and transitioned to a role as a writer, handing off day-to-day responsibilities to the team to complete Open Roads".

Despite also indicating that they are fervent believers in transparency, they failed to provide a reason for Gaynor's resignation from his position as Creative Lead.

steve gaynor game developers conference
Steve Gaynor with developers at Game Developers Conference (Picture: NY Times)

One Twitter user commented: "You owe an apology and an explanation to the people who were hurt making these games. You failed to protect the people who work there, and this sorry ass excuse for a statement does not even come close to acknowledging the harm done, it simply tries to move on".

gone home by fullbright
Gone Home game by Fullbright (Picture: Fullbright)

Others were upset that Gaynor was still on staff and being allowed to make decisions in the company.

"A man who has belittled and micromanaged your female employees to the point of poor mental health and them leaving on a monthly basis but still gets to write about two women on an empowering adventure is not the best look", someone on Twitter commented.

steve gaynor fullbright cofounder
Steve Gaynor at DICE 17th Annual Awards (Picture: DICE / Yahoo Sports)

Gaynor has since ushered his apology to all those affected by his "hurtful" leadership style, citing: "Earlier this year, I stepped back from my role as creative lead on Open Roads. My leadership style was hurtful to people that worked at Fullbright, and for that, I truly apologize".

He concluded by saying that he cares deeply about Open Roads but believes it was the right thing to step back from his leadership position on the project. "The Open Roads team has my full faith and support as they bring the game to completion", he said.

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Header image via DICE.