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Ori and the Blind Forest, as well as Ori and the Will of the Wisps are two of the most beautiful, applauded games in recent memory. Unfortunately, a new report states that the situation behind the scenes at developer Moon Studios is about as far from beautiful as possible.

In an investigative report by GamesBeat, former and current employees of Moon Studios were contacted in order to get a picture of the studio’s work environment. The result was a slew of comments that painted the studio as racist, sexist, and overall, oppressive.

One developer shared the following sentiment about his time with Moon Studios.

“We really created something special, and I know the only way I was able to reconcile it was I was able to watch people on Twitch and watch other people get moved by it, and that was actually part of my healing process. Because maybe my suffering was worth it because other people felt something. In the end, I mean, so many of us were burned out.”

The more employees interviewed, the worse the situation behind-the-scenes seemed. Various Moon Studios staff, both currently employed and former, labeled the work environment as abusive and unprofessional. Anti-Semitic comments were posted openly on work chats, and ‘jokes’ about genitalia were handled in the same way.

““...maybe my suffering was worth it because other people felt something. In the end, I mean, so many of us were burned out.””
—anonymous Moon Studios employee

Moon Studios was contacted about these allegations, and provided GamesBeat with a lengthy statement in response. You can see that statement below.

“We don’t believe the experiences suggested by your questions are representative of the more than 80 Moon Studios team members who are thriving and doing great work every day — nor do we believe they are representative of the experiences of former members of our team. In fact, we are very proud of our history of making people happy, advancing their careers, and contributing to their financial success.

We built Moon Studios with a simple premise. First, we wanted to create a distributed studio that is not limited by geographic boundaries enabling us to draw the top talent from around the world. Second, we wanted to foster a vibrant culture where our team thrives and delivers the very best work in our industry. And finally, from day one we set out to share the profits and rewards of our efforts with the full team. We believe we have succeeded.

What makes our team so powerful is our global and cultural diversity — we have team members working from more than 40 different countries across four continents — and a flat studio structure that allows everyone to speak honestly and directly and to challenge and push each other to do our very best work. We purposely set out to create a different kind of studio — one that encourages creativity, open communication, collaboration, and performance.

The result has been two award-winning games — with more on the horizon — and a team of professionals who enjoy working together, are excelling and breaking new ground in our industry, while also sharing in the financial success of Moon Studios. If at times we are brutally direct in our critiques and challenges, we are also genuine and vocal in our praise. We are incredibly proud of everything we have built and achieved together.

Finally, we appreciate the irony that we — an Austrian and an Israeli Jew — started this multicultural enterprise. We view each other as brothers. And, like brothers, we sometimes argue and frequently tease each other. We have made jokes at our own expense about the differences in our backgrounds — and there may have been times that our teasing of each other has come off as insensitive and may have made others feel uncomfortable.

Moon Studios has prospered for 12 years. We have grown and learned so much over all of these years. We have been privileged to work with many, many great, and extremely talented people. We are truly grateful and proud of our team — those who are here today as well as those who spent time at Moon and have since moved to other ventures – and we are happy to have made a positive difference in their lives. We are not perfect but we deeply care about our talent and are constantly working hard to improve. If we have ever made anyone feel uncomfortable or let anyone down — we regret that and we will always strive to do better.”

What you’ve read is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s much more to dig into with Moon Studios and its work culture and environment. Make sure to visit GamesBeat for the entire piece.

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Comments (16)

donutmuffin

9M ago

Their response to the allegations makes a lot of excuses about why they couldn't possibly be a bad place to work and how their team just don't understand their sense of humor. Then ends with a half-hearted apology... "Methinks they doth protest too much."


thegreatking

9M ago

I DONT BELIEVE developers anymore, everything is opressive ,racist and sexist this days, soft sjw types want to cry because they expect hardwork, and jokes are offensive and traumatic to this very soft people


streex

9M ago

How hard is it to treat others with respect?


socar

9M ago

I'm pretty sure Microsoft can take a close look at this and inspect. After all, Microsoft published the games.


What an absolutely poor take. Tasteless jokes, especially racist and sexist ones, have no place. Calling people "soft" because they don't want to be shit on by assholes where they work is such a bad take that I hope you reevaluate your life here. Look at what happened at Blizzard, my dude. This stuff doesn't need to exist anymore.


hypnomancy

9M ago

@donutmuffin

Yeah that made me really suspicious honestly


hypnomancy

9M ago

@bakfug

Funny enough one of the founders worked at Blizzard. How surprising


Why am i not surprised honestly.....


noxide

9M ago

I don't really take these devs for their word anymore.
I remember how that one Ratchet and Clank employee had a hissy fit over Rivet looking too feminine and called his workplace toxic.
I remember how a certain dev from Night in the Woods was accused by a known liar about sexual harassment and the resulting reaction online drove the man to kill himself.
If they really have legit issues with how they were treated, they can settle it with lawyers instead of screeching about it online.


noxide

9M ago

@bakfug

What they really need is to get out more and experience life, then maybe they won't twist and contort at every tasteless joke :^)


jprhino84

9M ago

@noxide

I’m sorry but this whole concept of “toughen up, you soft SJW!” is horribly misguided. There are absolutely situations where some people occasionally overreact to workplace banter. To suggest otherwise would be foolish. But at the same time, dismissing all complaints as false blatantly allows genuinely terrible behaviour to go unchecked.

Ideally, all of this kind of stuff would be resolved by HR but those departments are often far from infallible and can have a tendency to turn a blind eye. And some form of lawsuit would be the nuclear option with a potentially high price tag for many people.


claudelv250

9M ago

@jprhino84

Excusing terrible behavior is the entire goal of people like this. When Lab Zero imploded and former employees said their piece on twitter there were a few wackos stalking their tweets screaming "weak snowflakes need to grow skin" and "post proof!" The entire point is to silence victims of harassment by gaslighting people into believing workplace harassment either isn't real or is totally professional and acceptable, likely because they're toxic people themselves.


dematador

9M ago

Nothing like a good ol' cancellin' to get the mood flowin'


enthropy

9M ago

If they can document it all then take it court, don't go on to internet and "call names" since that can actually hurt people who are not involved. Go for the criminal, not the entire team.


jprhino84

9M ago

@enthropy

That’s the thing, there aren’t any true “criminals” here. There are people completely unselfaware who think that their “edgy” way of treating colleagues is what leads to the quality the company prides itself on. In reality, the owners seem to have created a mean-spirited pressure cooker that chews up developers and spits them out.

Having fully read the linked article, this is definitely about more than “learning to take jokes” and I fully agree with the behaviour being publicly called out in order to make the bad actors think twice.


Everything you have just typed is what's wrong with the game industry and western culture in general. I encourage more edgy content and hurt feelings, people who can't take it should leave instead of relying on more mandates and HR enforcement to solve everything, spoiler warnings, it's never enough for them. I'm always happy to see more companies reject that culture and give "woke" people the boot. They'll cry and complain online sure but the more they cry the faster regular people will get tired of them and then the less impact they can make.