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Workplace harassment charges jolt Quantic Dream, maker of Detroit: Become Human (update)

Studio founder David Cage accused of tolerating racist, sexist behavior

Detroit: Become Human - Connor on rooftop
Detroit: Become Human, launching this year.
Quantic Dream/Sony Interactive Entertainment

Reports in three different French-language publications portray Quantic Dream, developer of the forthcoming Detroit: Become Human for PlayStation 4, as a hostile workplace rife with racist and sexist humor. David Cage, the studio’s founder, vehemently disputed those allegations.

The accusations came in reports published by Le Monde, the Parisian newspaper of record; Mediapart, an investigative journal founded by a former editor of Le Monde; and Canard PC, a bimonthly magazine for PC gaming culture and news. Eurogamer translated and reported on them this morning.

The stories accuse Cage and executive producer Guillaume de Fondaumière of either tolerating or negligently managing a workplace riven by inappropriate humor. Le Monde’s report centers on a cache of 600 altered images, called homophobic and sexist by those who saw them, that were brought to Cage’s attention after an employee discovered they had been put in one. Canard PC’s report includes some of the images. In one, Cage’s face was placed on that of a male stripper holding a power tool with a sex toy for an attachment.

Le Monde’s report says that Cage and de Fondaumière said they had not known of the worst images until they were brought to their attention. Other employees alleged that some of the images had been printed out and displayed around the Quantic Dream offices. Cage was also accused of making a racist comment to an employee after viewing security camera footage of a burglary, and de Fondaumière was alleged to have forced himself on staff at company social events, among other sexual misconduct.

De Fondaumière flatly denied the allegations. “This is absolutely false,” he told Le Monde. “On no evening did any of this happen.”

Cage called the allegations “ridiculous, absurd and grotesque” and went on to invoke notable relationships as proof he does not tolerate racism or sexism in the workplace.

“You want to talk about homophobia? I work with Ellen Page, who fights for LGBT rights,” he told Le Monde. Page, who came out as gay in 2014, is the star of 2013’s Beyond: Two Souls, which was made by Quantic Dream.

“You want to talk about racism? I work with Jesse Williams, who fights for civil rights in the United States,” Cage went on. “Judge my work.” Williams is an actor in Detroit: Become Human. He is on the board of directors of The Advancement Project, an advocacy organization devoted to racial justice issues.

Notably, Le Monde’s report touched on an earlier controversy surrounding Cage and Quantic Dream: a scene involving domestic violence in a trailer for Detroit: Become Human, which is due to launch this year. Le Monde reported that employees tried to warn Cage of the objectionable nature of the scene; Cage, they said, ignored their concerns.

Other accounts depict Quantic Dream as suffering from the kind of work overload, long hours and pay irregularities that have been alleged at other top-flight game studios over the years. Large turnover episodes going back to 2015 are said to be symptomatic of a tense and autocratic workplace.

Le Monde’s report says that of Quantic Dream’s staff of 180, 83 percent are male. Cage, who met with journalists from Le Monde, told the newspaper that the studio “is not a rugby locker room.” Current and former employees acknowledge that the studio is known for a very informal workplace culture, which supporters say is meant to be good-natured and others say veers into the inappropriate.

Update (Jan. 15): In an official statement published yesterday, Quantic Dream echoed comments by its executives denying accusations of workplace misconduct.

Articles published today level various allegations against Quantic Dream, its management and employees.

We categorically deny all of these allegations. Quantic Dream filed a complaint several months ago and further complaints will follow.

We invite interested parties to read the responses of our Employee Representatives and Health & Security Committee to questions submitted by the journalists prior to publication.

Inappropriate conduct or practices have no place at Quantic Dream. We have taken and always will take such grievances very seriously.

We value every single person who works at Quantic Dream. It is of utmost importance to us that we maintain a safe environment that allows us all to channel our shared passion for making video games.

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