Darwin Project Studio Described As "Toxic Work Environment," Will Conduct Audit

A lengthy report from GamesIndustry.biz describes Scavengers Studio as a sexist, toxic work environment.

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Scavengers Studio, the developer behind the battle royale Darwin Project and the upcoming narrative-focused game Season, is the subject of a report at GamesIndustry.biz that describes the studio as a toxic work environment that was particularly hostile and demeaning to women employees.

In the report, nine anonymous current and former employees of the studio describe a culture of bullying and sexism that was introduced and perpetuated by the company's co-founders, Simon Darveau and CEO Amélie Lamarche. The report cites Darveau as the main instigator of most of the behavior, including one incident where he groped multiple women employees at a workplace party, leading several of them to quit the studio. It also accuses Darveau of other bizarre and childish behavior, such as stealing alcohol from neighboring workplaces, openly making fun of the company's sexual harassment policies, or outright screaming at employees during meetings.

Though Darveau and Lamarche are singled out in the report, the culture of sexism went far beyond their conduct alone. One employee described a particularly egregious incident where a person suggested that the main character of Season, Abby, should play the guitar. Another person remarked that such a feature wouldn't be "realistic" because the guitar is too complicated for a woman to play, suggesting that Abby should play a ukulele instead.

Scavengers Studio's response to the allegations is included in the report. The company cites its new HR policies and replacement of Darveau as CEO by Lamarche as "adjustments" made due to any possible complaints. Such policies include the creation of a "wellness committee" to ensure a safe working environment and an annual survey to raise such issues anonymously. The studio also claimed that "certain elements in [the report]" are "false, somewhat blown out of proportion, or lacking important pieces." When asked to clarify what parts the studio was referring to by the report's author, Scavengers declined to comment further, citing privacy concerns.

On January 27, however, Scavengers published a lengthier statement on the allegations. In this statement, the company announced that Darveau would be indefinitely suspended immediately, and an external auditing firm is going to conduct a full assessment of its workplace culture. Chief Executive Amélie Lamarche is temporarily stepping down for the length of the audit.

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