In September, Bungie, attempting to distance itself from former publisher Activision, announced a series of reforms designed to foster increased diversity and inclusion. CEO Pete Parsons said his hope was the studio’s efforts would set an example for the wider gaming industry. At the time, it appeared the announcement was a proactive move by Bungie, but now it seems the studio was responding to some of its own inner turmoil.
In response to a story from IGN reporting on years of systematic sexism and workplace harassment at the studio, Parsons has published an apology letter. “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 says. “Our actions or, in some cases, inactions, caused these people pain. I apologize personally and on behalf of everyone at Bungie who I know feels a deep sense of empathy and sadness reading through these accounts.”
He says over the last several years Bungie has made “significant” changes to foster a better workplace. At the top of that list, he notes the studio has removed “bad actors” irrespective of their “tenure, seniority or interpersonal relationships.”
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That’s not something it appears was true of Bungie in the past. In one section of the report, IGN recounts the story of a Destiny narrative lead who threw a chair at a window because “he felt others were ruining his creative vision of the game.” That individual reportedly stayed at the company for several years after that incident until he left and was later hired to do contract work for Destiny 2. The report also notes many employees wrote letters to Parsons begging for him to intervene in a variety of workplace issues. He reportedly never responded to those pleas.
As things stand today, Parsons says he believes employees whose behavior warranted removal were either fired or they no longer work at Bungie. If new information comes to light, Parsons pledged Bungie would investigate those reports “with integrity.”
After reiterating the studio’s commitment to the reforms it announced in September, Parson’s letter turns to Bungie’s recent hiring efforts. Over the past five years, he says the number of employees who identify as women or as someone from an underrepresented community has increased to 20.5 percent and 18.6 percent, respectively. In 2021, 31 and 23 percent of the studio’s hires were employees who identified as part of those two groups. What he doesn’t mention is where those numbers were previously. Without historical data, it’s impossible to know how much better Bungie has become at hiring more diverse candidates.
While the sexual harassment scandal at Activision Blizzard has dominated headlines in recent months, today’s IGN report underscores that there are toxic workplaces across the gaming industry. Harassment and management protecting abusers: these are issues that keep coming up year after year. They're not exclusive to one company because many of them have been built in the same way, and it will take a concerted effort to undo those cultures.