Quantic Dream deny abusive working conditions

Another awful office

Quantic Dream, the French studio that made Fahrenheit: Indigo Prophecy and is currently working on PlayStation exclusive Detroit: Become Human, has been accused of having an abusive work environment, according to reports in the French media. A joint investigation by Canard PC, Mediapart and Le Monde spoke to former employees who made accusations about the studio and its head honchos, David Cage and Guillaume de Fondaumière, both of whom deny the allegations.

The accusations range from general toxicity to racism to senior staff members making inappropriate remarks about female colleagues.

One of the major complaints concerns the discovery of a cache of photoshopped images in which pornographic photos have been spliced with the faces of employees (you can see a semi-SFW sample of these images on French website Canard PC). Many of the images are accompanied by homophobic, racist or sexist text.

There are over 600 such images, some of which date back as far as 2013. A formal complaint was made about these in early 2017, when an IT manager, who was a subject of one of the images, saw one of them in an email and discovered the rest on a freely-available work server. However, bosses Cage and de Fondaumière say they hadn’t seen the “worst” of these images until that point. Although they admit they had seen some which they said “were funny or more or less amusing”.

This is not the only complaint made by former employees. Cage is said to have overworked his staff, and made racist jokes as well as inappropriate remarks about some of the female actors starring in the studio’s games, according to Eurogamer, who have translated the French reports. According to Eurogamer’s article, here’s how one employee described working conditions under Cage.

Cage is also accused of a lack of consideration for female colleagues, and of making insistent dirty jokes, smutty remarks in the presence of his wife, and inappropriate remarks about actresses in his games.

“David Cage has a very particular viewpoint on how he runs his studio, which in his own words he sees as a private, or a semi-private, space,” said one former employee. “He feels he has the right to say whatever he wants, it’s his place.”

Others have apparently witnessed homophobic or racist jokes. One incident involved a burglary caught on CCTV. After watching, Cage allegedly asked an employee of Tunisian origin, “Is that a cousin of yours?”

Cage denied the allegations, calling them “ridiculous, absurd and grotesque” and saying they were made by “ranting” former employees.

“You want to talk about homophobia?” he told Le Monde. “I work with Ellen Page, who fights for LGBT rights. You want to talk about racism? I work with Jesse Williams, who fights for civil rights in the USA… Judge me by my work.”

Yesterday, Quantic Dream, which employs over 180 people, responded to the accusations with a tweetment.

“We categorically deny all of these allegations,” it says. “Inappropriate conduct or practices have no place at Quantic Dream. We have taken and always will take such grievences seriously.”

“We value every single person who works at Quantic Dream.”

Fifty employees left the studio in the years 2015-16, says Le Monde.

“Some employees, with medical certificate as proof, talk about burn out and depression…” says the paper. “One year and an half later, they don’t want to hear again about Quantic Dream.”

The public prosecutor’s office of Paris has opened a preliminary investigation into the company for harassment and discrimination, says Le Monde. The article’s author also describes meeting Cage in the studio as part of his investigation.

“In the meeting room, where Le Monde met him, David Cage swore twice that Quantic Dream ‘wasn’t a rugby changing room.’ Just behind him, on a board, was drawn a phallus whose testicles were dropping a fart.”

81 Comments

  1. ahac says:

    The studio that thinks PC gamers are not good enough to get their games is a toxic place? O_O

    > Judge me by my work.

    I can’t, it’s console hostageware.

    • Halk says:

      Well, you can always judge him by “Fahrenheit”. Which is what I have always done and continue to do.

    • dethtoll says:

      Look, calling a console-exclusive game “hostageware” isn’t as infuriatingly obnoxious as being a shitty boss who runs their employees ragged and makes racist and sexist jokes about them, but you still shouldn’t do it.

      That’s not even what the word means, anyway, you pillock.

      • Ben says:

        What does it mean, then? A brief google indicates that it means ‘game made console-exclusive to force consumers to use the particular system’, which seems to be how Halk is using it…

        (Also, as we’re telling people what they shouldn’t do in comment sections, unless you know Halk well enough for it to be friendly banter, calling someone a pillock isn’t great either.)

    • grrrz says:

      I’ve played “the Nomad Soul” on PC, and have a pretty fond memory of it (maybe this has something to do with the fact that I was 14)

  2. Premium User Badge

    Lexx87 says:

    Brendan the quote you used to end the article there is masterful :D

  3. Premium User Badge

    DuncUK says:

    That closing paragraph is one of the finest ends to an article I’ve ever seen.

  4. dethtoll says:

    Self-important weirdo who thinks nobody buys his weird opaque ‘art’ games because they’re immature and he’s a misunderstood genius turns out to be a shitty person, film at 11.

  5. Premium User Badge

    Risingson says:

    Thing is, this does not look like anything surprising given how these games talk about personal relationships or, er, women. And not being surprising is the problem at this point.

    Anyway, let him be judged by his work. And about time this stuff started to come out of the usually sick workplaces of videogame development.

    • dethtoll says:

      Every horror story I hear about game dev studio working conditions just further convinces me that it’s time to start unionizing.

      • Don Reba says:

        It could also ease the problem of there being too many games.

      • Stropp says:

        Unionism only really works in the country the union is based in. Game development is an international activity. It’d be pretty hard to come up with the legal framework to support an international union.

        Interestingly though, France already has some pretty restrictive labor laws. Iirc, there’s a maximum 37 hour week, no overtime allowed, and I remember hearing about them introducing laws for no work email after working hours. I wonder if QD are breaking any of these laws too.

        • robinwak says:

          Well, being french I can tell you you’re unfortunately mistaken. 35-37 hours/week contracts are for base level employees, not managing positions. If you’re a manager your only protection is a 6 day consecutive work limit and yearly evened-out hours / paid leave. And let’s say employers use quite liberally the term “manager” nowadays…

    • Charles de Goal says:

      Also not surprising at all if the mindset is the same in the French video games industry as it was 20 years ago when I briefly worked there. Many people had an immature personality to say the least, and bosses were generally not very professional.

    • FranticPonE says:

      Really you don’t even need to play the games, just listen to David Cage speak. Not that you’d want to do it for that long.

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    Grizzly says:

    As was mentioned by Ashabel on the RPS discord, it’s rather galling that David Cage would mention Ellen Page in his defence considering that “Page didn’t allow the game’s developers to scan her naked body. Instead, programmers and artists at the game’s development studio, France-based Quantic Dream, created a fully rendered naked model of Page’s in-game character, Jodie.” The model is used in game exactly once, in a shower scene that obscures nearly everything and really doesn’t require a fully rendered model to be present in the game files for everyone to share online. But it was there, and it was promptly shared. Ellen Page did not find out about this until well after the damage had already been done.

    The work that David Cage wants to be judged by is at best one that involves the callous disregard of the privacy of one of the people he’s worked with.

    • Premium User Badge

      Ninja Dodo says:

      I see a lot of people bringing that up but it’s pretty normal for a 3D character to be modeled and textured with little to no clothes. If there’s any costume changes, cloth simulation or anything like that it doesn’t make sense to build that into the base mesh… especially so if there are scenes where the character is mostly or completely nude even if the view is obscured: you’re not going to make a blurry version of the texture, you blur the camera instead (you don’t bake those things into source files unless you have to). The fact that malicious hackers then unearth and share that material is not really the developers’ fault. It might be slightly more complicated with a character built to resemble a real person with likeness rights and such, but people highlighting this as *evidence* seems very odd to me.

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        Ninja Dodo says:

        Looking at the scene in that article I don’t see how you create the art assets for that without building a (more or less) complete naked model… or how you distribute the game without it containing those files in some form. Seems more like a legal issue of likeness agreements being incompatible with game development processes.

      • Mechman says:

        Model without clothes yes, but model nipples and genitals no. They did it because they felt like it, not because it was required.

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          Ninja Dodo says:

          It’s possible they did not yet know what level of nudity would be agreed when they modeled the character and it’s less practical to go back and add such details later, but modeling nether-regions (if that’s what they did) does seem an odd choice.

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            Grizzly says:

            They knew, they modelled her character after Ellen Page refused to let her body be scanned. That Cage ‘needed’ a full nude body for a 2 minute long shower scene (of which Page was also not made aware) is almost beside the point there.

            The point is more that one of the people Cage has worked with and wants to be judged by hates him with good reason, and strongly considered suing him to boot.

          • Premium User Badge

            Ninja Dodo says:

            Merits (or lack thereof) of the scene aside, there is a difference between not agreeing to be scanned and not agreeing to be depicted nude. If they included that whole scene in the game without asking her, that’s certainly not OK. If they planned and discussed the scene with her and she simply didn’t want to be scanned that sounds more like the digital equivalent of using a stand-in actor for explicit scenes in a movie. As far as I can tell from the article the only issue was Page did not agree to be depicted fully nude on screen and while she wasn’t in the game itself, those images existed in source files that were accessible to those with devkits.

          • KDR_11k says:

            The ESRB doesn’t like exposed nipples or genitalia. Most developers won’t bother with such details for that reason, takes more time (i.e. money) for no benefit or even potential damage because it makes nude mods easier and that can trigger a media circus that can even lead to an AO rating (see Hot Coffee).

          • blur says:

            All arguments about this shower scene aside, they’re all moot anyhow.

            The “I support LGTBQ+ people, because I worked once with Ellen Page” argument holds as much water as “I can’t be racist; I have a black friend.” I think the core sentiment has to be addressed, rather than picking apart the statement’s validity.

            The important bit is that being okay sometimes doesn’t negate being shitty at other times, which is the point that Cage seems to be missing.

      • shde2e says:

        Also, if you’re going to make an image in the likeness of a real person, you need their permission. Both for moral and legal reasons.

      • Premium User Badge

        subdog says:

        “I see a lot of people bringing that up but it’s pretty normal for a 3D character to be modeled and textured with little to no clothes.”

        Which is why we’re constantly inundated with images of Mario’s balls.

    • Cederic says:

      It’s kind of impossible to think of Ellen Page in a sexual way after seeing Hard Candy.

      Not only is my mental image now of her as a 14 year old, parts of my anatomy shrivel up when remember that film.

      (but watch it anyway – absolutely superb film)

  7. bongobo says:

    This is exactly what I would have expected of the working conditions based on David Cage’s personality and the work they produced. Fuck capitalism for starving good, smart people regularly while allowing shitwicks like Cage to take advantage of his employees in service of atrocious art.

    • wraithgr says:

      Yes, clearly capitalism is at fault here. Too bad there’s no thought police to ensure that only people who you approve of are successful… /S

      Not defending this guy in any way, but he is only successful because people buy his stuff. I will join you in lamenting the fact that they do, but the economic system in the western world is not to blame for this…

      • KDR_11k says:

        I wouldn’t be surprised if that was actually violating labor laws. We’re talking about France here, not America.

        • Charles de Goal says:

          Labor laws would protect against illegal working conditions (60 hours work weeks may apply), but not against distasteful behaviour of a single person, such as the CEO of the company making “smutty remarks in the presence of his wife”.

          I’ll mention in passing that the French mentality is not the American mentality, and while making “smutty” remarks at work isn’t exactly admired in many circles, it doesn’t have the scent of scandal here that it has in puritan countries.

          Unfortunately I don’t have full access to any of the three press reports (Mediapart, Le Monde and Canard PC all have paywalls in place).

        • Captain Narol says:

          There is Laws in France against Moral Harassment at work, they could totally apply here if the facts are proven true.

          Apparently, an investigation of the case is already open, let’s see what the justice will find and what the eventual sanctions will be.

          Legally, David Cage and Quantic Dreams are presumed innocent until proved otherwise, but there is obviously a conjonction of signs that points all in the same direction.

      • automatic says:

        Ironically NSA and internet vigilance is much more closer to thought police than anything socialism has ever produced. I seriously wonder if my comments on this website are watched and if they will be relevant if I ever go to USA. Big Brother is watching.

        BTW that guy did not build those games by himself. He employed people for building them using money god knows where from (inherited? exploited from other workers?). That’s what capitalism means.

        • Premium User Badge

          subdog says:

          God I hope you’re right. I would love for an NSA analyst to read the comment I just made about Mario’s testicles.

          • automatic says:

            Mario’s testicles probably aren’t on NSA’s crawlers queries. Mario himself probably would, since he is a working class wearing red and dating a princess.

            link to i0.kym-cdn.com

  8. Nevard says:

    “I worked with Ellen Page, before she came out, and kept putting her character in uncomfortable sexual situations with men. I worked with Jesse Williams, before he became a prominent activist. Obviously these two things disqualify me from being a racist, homophobe, misogynist, or general bigot.”

    • Faldrath says:

      I mean, even if we could take Cage’s statement at face value, Page and Williams hardly were present daily at the studio’s environment, so that is a very, very weak defense.

    • shde2e says:

      Or in other words: “I can’t be homophobic! Some of my best friends are gay!”

    • Baines says:

      To be fair, there at least is the chance that he knew about, or at least suspected, Ellen Page’s sexual preferences.

      Ellen Page is one of several women that last year accused Brett Ratner of sexual harassment, in her case while filming X-Men. Page also said that Ratner outed her (against her will) back in 2006. So the information was out and known at least in certain circles long before David Cage came along.

      • Nevard says:

        If he knew, he certainly didn’t act on that information in any way. Quite the reverse, in fact.

  9. Ghostwise says:

    Incidentally, Canard PC’s Maria Kalash has the greatest video game journalism pen name in the world.

    Assuming that you like opera and Kalashnikov firearms, but then who doesn’t eh ? Eh.

    • Don Reba says:

      😖

    • shde2e says:

      “Ring des Nibelungen” definitely became more interesting when the backup dancers broke out the Kalashnikovs.

      • Ghostwise says:

        They did the soprano part, à la Sopranos. Makes good sense to me, yes ?

  10. Premium User Badge

    FhnuZoag says:

    Seems like you have a missing word there, Mr Cage.

    “You want to talk about homophobia?” he told Le Monde. “I work with Ellen Page, who fights for LGBT rights. You want to talk about racism? I work with Jesse Williams, who fights for civil rights in the USA… Judge me by my collaborators’ work.”

    • Charles de Goal says:

      Then please say “employees”. “Collaborators” is managerial speak to obscure the fact that these people are in a subordinate relationship to their employer because of their need to make a living.

  11. Gothnak says:

    I worked at a company that had a folder of photoshop images like this. It was primarily done by the art department as a bit of banter between each other on a Friday afternoon, we were an indie studio and no one really cared.

    Then we got bought by a big publisher, and someone sued the company over something they found offensive (but was aimed at a different employee with the same first name) and from that moment, anything like that was banned.

    Looking back, I’m pretty split. On one hand, it helped the Art team gel together through some hard projects. On the other hand, if you weren’t part of the ‘in crowd’ you could feel victimised, i only got it a small amount and didn’t really mind. Everyone felt a lot more comfortable after it all stopped, but the studio was also just less ‘fun’ and edgy and certainly less indie.

    I think the sexual stuff really isn’t on, but other types of photoshopping with the other person’s knowledge and being involved is probably ok. Many people do it about others who don’t know however, and then it really just becomes bullying.

    • Lawlcopt0r says:

      I’m sad to say it, but it should probably have been forbiggen from the get go, mostly because the line between being a willing or unwilling part of the joke that you point out can be really blurry and change fast, and it can very quickly result in bad situations even if it was truly innocent fun. I feel like this is one of the sacrifices of being professional, even if you’re an indie.

    • Vodka, Crisps, Plutonium says:

      That’s an eternal dilemma of restrictions that always come along with order VS “Wild West” of free will, but, in my opinion, the restrictions should only be present within the areas of activities, vital for humanity survival, such as natural resources management, health industry and generally anything that may cause physical destruction of either our habitat or our bodies.
      Suing people and companies over offensive comments and meme pictures for financial gain (if it’s not done for profit, plaintiffs would just ask for official apology or something) is long-term damaging abuse of trust people have in legal system.

      Moreover, when you tell an artist/cartoonist or writer that, for financial safety of company, you can’t make fun of this or that group of people when you do your job, you’re effectively ripping off the most essential component of any creative process from their mindset – pattern recognition.
      This is exactly the reason for why so many products, made by the bigger companies, tend to feel dry and soulless more often than the efforts of a small group of dedicated people, restricted with as little set of rules as possible, and I’ll be happy to keep buying games from developers that, as a team, feel secure enough to put the pictures of their employees’ mugs photoshoped over penis-wielding mobs into encrypted files of their games.

      • baud001 says:

        > feel secure enough to put the pictures of their employees’ mugs photoshoped over penis-wielding mobs into encrypted files of their games.

        What? Someone has done that?

        • Vodka, Crisps, Plutonium says:

          I thought Frictional Games did with their SOMA “super secret” archive, but after double-check it turned out that developers’ mugs and monster penises are displayed on separate pictures, albeit within the same folder.

      • mitrovarr says:

        Suing for an apology would be the stupidest thing in the world. First of all, suing costs money. You gonna just eat your own lawyer bills? Your legal expenses? Second, you’re messing up your own reputation and employability by suing your employer at all. You might need that money if it makes it harder to find a job. Finally, companies aren’t people and apologies from them are meaningless. The person who gives it probably won’t be the person who wronged you and may not have even worked there when it happened – it’s just some other peon.

        No, suing for money is the only kind that makes any sense. Apologies are cheap and businesses don’t care. Legal damages are expensive and will make them change their behavior.

      • RogerMellie says:

        Courts can’t demand nevermind enforce an apology. In this case even if it could, look at what DC said after the allegation came about; would you take an apology from him after that?

        If you leave a job that has a toxic working environment, that’s going to cost money.

        Money isn’t perfect but it’s the best we have in these circumstances to right wrongs.

  12. poliovaccine says:

    My suicide note will be one word long, and that word will be “tweetment.”

    • dglenny says:

      Bravo.

      Bonus points for stating it in a tweet-length format.

  13. allison says:

    I must see these pornographic photos that have been spliced with the faces of employees, but the Canard PC link is paywalled :-(

  14. suber says:

    You guys shouldn’t be so quick to judge.

    All this story has been mainly reported by ancient employees that are currently in a lawsuit with the company over money after resigning/getting fired/a nasty legal and/or personal issue.

    And you all know that newspapers like to over-dramatize and enlarge issues, much more than they really are, just for the sake of having something that shocks people.

    Nowhere there’s been any proof of most of what is said in these papers, and it’s their word (the fired people) against the company’s word. Maybe it happened, but also maybe it didn’t. Nowadays, trusting newspapers and gossips sounds to me to be a dumb mistake.

    And in this article here, there’s a whole part missing: the one where old and current employees said the exact opposite, that it wasn’t/isn’t a toxic workplace, that everything said in these newspapers were grossly exaggerating, etc etc…

    So instead of jumping on the first report of something bad happening (20 years that company existed, and nobody reported anything before now…?), maybe we should all wait and see what will happen with that story.

    • Halk says:

      >trusting newspapers and gossips sounds to me
      >to be a dumb mistake.

      A much bigger mistake would be to fall for astroturfers yelling “fake news”.

    • DefinitelyNotHans says:

      But I already bought my mobbing pitchfork and torch!

    • Lawlcopt0r says:

      Then again, if you assume fired employees to make false claims about their employer you should also consider that current employees might deny some things because they want to keep their jobs.

    • Nevard says:

      I think everyone trusts it happening because if you’ve played or even seen footage of any of his games and know anything about their development then you would immediately go “yeah, that makes sense”.

    • grrrz says:

      there have been actual investigations by 3 separate outlets (two working together); and the article they produced are a little less sensionnalist that what I’ve generally red in the english press who mostly kept the “juicy” bits. still it’s not at all a very flattering picture they paint overall (of the whole studio, not just Cage).

      • ansionnach says:

        Have you read these other pieces, then? I had a look but you need a login to read them. If you can believe what’s written here they’re more reports of what former employees say and Quantic Dream is denying them. I’m with those who don’t mind waiting for actual evidence before making any judgement.

  15. DingDongDaddio says:

    “Judge me by my work.”

    He’s look at his own work right? The characters he’s written? Characters like Madison, who exists only for the male lead character to rescue and have sex with? Who is put in to two different rape fantasies, a pointless shower scene, and an entire section of the game where she walks around in her underpants? Man, she’s willing to fuck Ethan almost on sight, a guy who is losing touch with reality and could possibly be a murderer…

    • April March says:

      Yeah, I judge him by his work and therefore judge the likelihood that these accusations are true to be pretty exceedingly high.

  16. ToozdaysChild says:

    Oh no, I made ze Bad Workplace.

  17. Deviija says:

    Yes. Yes, we ARE judging your work. And the way you have created, designed, portrayed, and written women characters in your work. Not to mention the quota of shoehorned in nude shower scenes for these ladies.

  18. charrsezrawr says:

    Judge you by your work, you say?

    How bout that crappy domestic abuse trailer your studio put out?

    link to thejimquisition.com

    • grrrz says:

      yeah an old french article described him as the “Godard of pixel”. I believe “Ed Wood of pixel” would be a lot more fitting.

  19. Kem0sabe says:

    what the fuck does this have to do with pc games? It’s a console developer, and this is just gossip with no proof…

  20. zaldar1978 says:

    Its France – where making someone work is abusive so yeah…no news here.

    • Captain Narol says:

      Before you slander again a whole nation by just repeating the stupid preconceptions that you have heard from ignorants, please learn that France is in top 6 Nations of the OCDE in term of productivity, ahead of countries like Germany or United Kingdom :

      link to en.wikipedia.org

      • Charles de Goal says:

        It is delicate to compare productivity using such statistics, because they are impacted by the structure of the labour market.

        Example: country A strives to keep low-productivity jobs on its national territority; country B instead tends to move low-productivity activities offshore. Country B gets a productivity boost compared to country A.

      • Halk says:

        It’s quite odd that you picked the “per hour worked” statistic. Not the one you would need to illustrate that France is working a lot. That would rather be the “per capita” statistic.

        And on that one France looks worse (but is still doing okay — I don’t want to defend the stupid stereotype about the lazy French).

        • grrrz says:

          Well, as a french, I didn’t know about the stereotype (except from chinese people maybe). Probably comes from the fact we (used to?) have robust labour laws that caps the amount of work you can do each week (35h for normal week, 48 for a finite period of time), and still have a standard 5 weeks vacations each year (also women and men can get paid pregnancy and sickness). Of course all of this is supposed to go out of the window pretty soon, unless we fight for it. so yeah, to the guy talking about lazy french people, I guess enjoy the shitty working conditions in your country.

  21. grrrz says:

    So there was 3 different articles wrote in different outlets,
    (all are behind paywalls)
    link to canardpc.com
    link to mediapart.fr
    So I’ve red the Mediapart article and in all fairness the picture they paint isn’t this bad, and in fact the conclusion is all that is described here is very common practice in videogames studio, and that doesn’t make it ok at all, that just paints a picture larger than Quantic Dream, and specially since the studio is often seen as a “model” here.
    Also a few stuff about the “crunch” culture, and how Cage is controlling to the point of tyranny.
    for the record the funniest part of the Mediapart article, grossly translated by myself:

    he (David Cage) reminds us that his wife is employed by the studio and totally denies the fact the atmosphere would be comparable to a “rugby locker”. A strong statement, slighlty balanced by the fact he’s saying this standing in front of a whiteboard with a drawing of a penis going “prout”.

  22. TrenchFoot says:

    Sounds serious. I was hoping, it being France, that the abuse was making staff work 38 hours per week.