NetherRealm has more to worry about than just the recent controversy about crunch, according to a report that recently appeared in Variety. In the report, both current and former developers for the studio spoke about the company’s internal culture, with some damning examples of workplace toxicity, and a lack of respect for staff.
Stories about heavy levels of crunch were common, with staff pulling anywhere from 70 to 100 hour work weeks since January to get Mortal Kombat 11 ready to ship. One of the causes of the crunch appears to be management not listening to staff who said that the work needed for the MK Day held in January would delay work on the game. The need for the game to look good for MK Day caused staff to be pulled from current projects and causing delays on the actual development of the game itself.
Another member of staff alleges that temporary and contractor workers were lied to about the need for mandatory overtime, claiming that “When we interviewed all of our contractor/temporary employees, my direct manager would tell them, ‘Overtime isn’t mandatory, but everyone is expected to do their fair share.’ Meaning that when we have it — because even before we started interviewing and building up our temp team, we already knew there’s going to come a point where we’re going to start crunching because we’ve been doing this since time immemorial, on every project.”
Some of the stories go back to the development of Injustice 2, with one developer citing a story about NetherRealm’s studio head Shaun Himmerick threatening to fire a group of temp staff over a leak that occurred unless they gave up the name of the staff member behind the leak. It would then be revealed that the leaked information came from outside of the studio, and nobody who was publicly threatened with the loss of their jobs had been at fault.
The report details that sexism, toxic behavior, and transphobia were common at the studio, with some male staff referring to female staff by derogatory nicknames, and regular use of derogatory, gendered language.
In a statement to Variety, NetherRealm had the following to say;
At NetherRealm Studios, we greatly appreciate and respect all of our employees and prioritize creating a positive work experience. As an equal opportunity employer, we encourage diversity and constantly take steps to reduce crunch time for our employees. We are actively looking into all allegations, as we take these matters very seriously and are always working to improve our company environment. There are confidential ways for employees to raise any concerns or issues.
Unfortunately, stories like these are becoming all too common in gaming, with employees seemingly feeling that uncaring companies leave them no choice but the talk about their experiences in the press to raise awareness of the type of environments that can be present in the industry. While it is maybe not the best solution, it could very well be the only tool that staff has at their disposal to try and combat this type of culture in the workplace.