Quantic Dream has announced a series of proposed changes to leadership and development processes ahead of its 25th anniversary. The company posted a blog today, outlining plans they’re putting into place to help ease the development of Star Wars Eclipse. Included in the plan are diversity training and an overhaul of reporting practices to help foster a safer and more welcoming working environment. It will be years until we see Star Wars Eclipse, but that hasn’t stopped the French studio from making changes.
It’s worth drawing attention to the actual character of the accusations they claim they’re addressing. Quantic Dream leadership is accused of both intentional sexism and harassment of whistleblowers. There are even accusations of photoshopped images being used as a form of targeted harassment of employees. One instance allegedly involves likening an employee to Hitler, and photoshopping them into compromising images. A court even ruled against the studio in a suit resulting from these and similar issues. The culture at the company was described as “homophobic, misogynistic, racist, or deeply vulgar” during said suit.
The studio’s statement doesn’t specifically address any accusations. Instead, it lists “some facts and actions [Quantic Dream has] taken to further [its] commitment to nurturing a respectful, welcoming, and supportive studio.” They also claim to be partnering with ” an LGBTQIA+ organization” to better understand and represent that community. Whatever that means, we don’t really know, because the company didn’t provide many details of a practical nature. As far as we can tell, this will take the form of selected representatives having input on games, and training sessions being used to help better encourage understanding and representation.
The issue here is that the advice and changes could simply be ignored. Speaking anecdotally, corporate environments can be diverse and still be incredibly toxic. Ever tried to get long-time employees to agree to new policies? It’s a major uphill battle in any corporate environment. In a very concerning point, Quantic Dream points out that “more than 50% of our managers are women” and that this somehow makes them more diverse and less deserving of criticism. That mentality directly ignores the systemic trends and institutional inertia that keep racism and sexism alive in business environments. You won’t undo those with a few seminars.
The timing of this response is also fairly suspicious; it’s as if the studio is just trying to jump into the news cycle ahead of its 25th anniversary, while simultaneously papering over its issues.
Quantic Dream isn’t the only studio dealing with systemic abuse within leadership. The highly-publicized issues at Activision Blizzard are a pretty clear example of what it looks like when leadership protects abusers. And I genuinely have a hard time believing any gaming company when they say they’re doing better. Absent substantive proof of change, words mean nothing.
When the game does release, it’s entirely likely we could run into the reality of this promise meaning literally nothing. Quantic Dream could find itself falling into the same empty promise that CD Projekt Red did when they promised not to crunch employees during Cyberpunk 2077 development. That promise ended up being worth nothing as the developer pressed developers into crunch anyway. The company further doubled down when criticized. And then they made the same claim again with the new Witcher games.