Scavengers Studio is the developer behind free-to-play battle royale title Darwin Project and the upcoming atmospheric road trip game Season. Whether the latter project sees the light of day is debatable because the studio has now been rocked by allegations of abuse and bullying according to an investigation by GamesIndustry.biz, something unfortunately not uncommon in the industry. The result is that, while the allegations are looked into, the company’s CEO has stepped down while the creative director has been suspended.
The original claims came from nine different current and former employees at the developer. They alleged there was a toxic work environment mainly created by the two people to found the studio, creative director Simon Darveau and CEO Amélie Lamarche, who had been romantically linked at the time the studio was founded. Screaming and yelling at employees was commonplace. Women would be belittled and often “treated as if they did not know what they were talking about” by male employees. Many were victims of sexist remarks, and even inappropriate touching during a Christmas party.
Most of the behavior was instigated by Darveau or a group of employees he favored, known as the “commandos.” Darveau even compared himself to “a dog in heat” and was known to blame his behavior on his inability to handle alcohol. With no presence of HR in such a small studio, Lamarche was the person responsible for solving any issues. This meant many felt she was unable to be impartial.
The result of the investigations is that the developer has now issued a statement apologizing for “the harm caused.” Darveau has been suspended indefinitely and Lamarche has stepped down while an external investigation takes place. The full statement is below:
Following the toxic workplace allegations brought forward in the media, Scavengers Studio wishes to apologize for the harm caused. Allegations such as these are serious, and we are committed to doing better for our employees, our fans and our partners.
Our company held an emergency Board of Directors meeting to discuss the best course of action moving forward. Effective immediately:
- Simon Darveau is indefinitely suspended from all responsibilities within the company and from the Board of Directors.
- An external auditing firm will conduct an independent workplace assessment and audit of our culture and practices.
- Daisy Lilly Best, currently Director of Operations, is appointed as Chief Operating Officer and will be reporting directly to the board of directors for the duration of the audit to ensure complete transparency and accountability.
- The audit report will be shared in its entirety with the team and presented by Daisy to the board for further actions to be taken.
To ensure a transparent, fair and unbiased process, I offered to temporarily step down from my role as Chief Executive for the duration of the audit. I will remain available to support the studio’s normal course of business.
In the meantime, we ask for the community’s patience and understanding as we go through this process. The Season team has poured their hearts into the project. We have full confidence in their creative direction and will continue to support the amazing work of our talented team.
Even before the external investigation took place, things weren’t looking good for Season. The project has a different creative director, Kevin Sullivan, and Darveau was not meant to be involved. Despite the latter’s penchant for “more gameplay-oriented, fast-paced things”, Lamarched placed Darveau into the Season development team. Since this decision, the game has changed dramatically in focus and scope, with Darveau forcing his own ideas onto the game, some of which had already been scrapped by the team beforehand. With the studio now in chaos, only time will tell whether the work environment improves enough for the game to cross the finishing line.