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Bungie CEO apologises after damning report about toxic studio culture

It alleges "overt sexism, boys' club culture, crunch" and more besides

On Friday, a report into Bungie's work culture unearthed allegations of racism, sexism, discrimination, toxic leadership and more besides. Current and former employees of the Destiny developers claim they've experienced "overt sexism, boys' club culture, crunch, and HR protection of abusers, as well as more complex stories of microaggressions, systemic inequalities, and difficulties in being heard". CEO Pete Parsons has since issued an apology "on behalf of everyone at Bungie", acknowledging that the studio needs to listen to these accounts, and do better.

In an IGN report (which I encourage you to read in full), 26 current and former employees came forward to talk about their experiences at the studio. They say the majority of sources remained anonymous for fear of repercussions.

The report brings particular focus on troubles in the narrative department, dating back to Destiny 1's development. On top of horrific crunch where a team member claims they couldn't type because they were so sick, sources tell of a team lead who suffered from "massive burnout" creating "an increasingly toxic work environment for others". He allegedly threw a chair at a window "because he felt others were ruining his creative vision of the game".

Another leader was called a "sexist nightmare", who allegedly called one woman on the team an "unmanageable bitch". After he was let go, sources claim he was replaced by "similarly antagonizing men". One allegedly made frequent racist remarks, and was described by one source as a "callous, hierarchical, authoritarian, incurious, cruel leader".

Further claims say that women on the narrative team were offered no support when facing death threats and abuse from fans, and women had to push back on stories designed by male writers that leaned on "harmful stereotypes" for Destiny's female characters.

CEO Pete Parsons issued a statement shortly after IGN published their article, apologising "to anyone who has ever experienced anything less than a safe, fair, and professional working environment at Bungie". He lists a number of changes the studio has made over the years (such as removing bad actors and reviewing hiring practices), but adds that it's not enough, and has taken too long.

"I am not here to refute or to challenge the experiences we're seeing shared today by people who have graced our studio with their time and talent," he said. "Our actions or, in some cases, inactions, caused these people pain. I apologise personally and on behalf of everyone at Bungie who I know feels a deep sense of empathy and sadness reading through these accounts."

"As CEO, it is my job to factor both the past and the future and be accountable for all of it, here and now. Speaking with the team at Bungie, reading the stories, and seeing both known and newly surfaced accounts, it is clear we still have work ahead of us."

IGN's report details serious allegations similar to what we've heard from other companies over the last few months, but one difference is that Bungie's employees seem to feel the studio is improving (or at least wants to try). One employee says the leadership mean well, but don't know how to push causes forward. Another source sums the issue up particularly well:

"People are willing to learn, but wouldn't it be so nice to be somewhere where everyone already knows?"

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About the Author
Imogen Beckhelling avatar

Imogen Beckhelling

Former News Reporter

Imogen is a lore enthusiast and lover of all the fun shenanigans game communities get up to. She spends too much time playing Overwatch, and not enough time having interests that aren't to do with video games.