Scavengers Studio has reinstated CEO and co-founder Amelie Lamarche following the outcome of an independent investigation into allegations of harassment and toxicity at the Season developer. Creative director and co-founder Simon Darveau, who was also the subject of a number of allegations, has also been reinstated in a smaller, non-managerial role of their own choosing.
Earlier this year, an extensive report published by GamesIndustry.biz suggested the studio had allowed a toxic culture to take root, and indicated that studio creative director Simon Darveau and others had engaged in demeaning behavior that was ultimately enabled by CEO Amelie Lamarche -- who was Darveau's romantic partner when the pair founded the studio.
The alleged behavior ranged from sexist remarks to physical groping, and Darveau was specifically accused of having an affair with an employee and comparing themselves to "a dog in heat."
A few days after the report was published, Darveau was suspended and Lamarche stepped down temporarily "to ensure a transparent, fair and unbiased" investigation into the allegations.
Following the conclusion of that investigation, which was conducted by external firm Solertia Consulting Group, Scavengers has explained that while there are workplace behaviors that still require improvement, "the audit did not find the presence of systemic sexual or psychological harassment at the studio."
"Nevertheless, the Studio remains committed to improving its workplace experience and to this end Solertia Consulting Group has formulated a three tiered plan: Organizational culture and structure, HR Effectiveness and Communication," it continued.
"Scavengers management had already started focusing on areas to develop, which include these actions: Working sessions to define and clarify the company’s mission, vision and values; clarifying roles and responsibilities of each employee; creating, reviewing, training and communicating the performance management process to employees; and developing a clear path and development plan for employees."
The studio also noted that the 2021 workplace assessment report and action plan has been shared in its entirety with the team and presented to the board by Solertia, resulting in Lamarche being reinstated as CEO and the "conditional reinstatement" of Darveau in a smaller role.
"In the wake of the 2021 media article, there was an independent assessment of the workplace. This audit did not find any evidence of misconduct since 2019. This indicates that the measures taken at the time did have their intended effect," said the studio.
"Simon [Darveau] has been cooperative in the process and accepted responsibility for his actions. As a result, the Board of Directors approved Simon’s conditional reinstatement. Understanding the impact that these allegations had on the team, Simon has chosen a smaller, non managerial role, prototyping a Research and Development project.
Addressing its initial response to the allegations, Scavengers said its "lack of communication" following the publication of the report was "regrettable" and created the impression that nothing had been done to address the situation or that the studio wasn't taking the allegations seriously.
"The details of what happened and the disciplinary actions taken were not communicated to the team until recently when allegations were made in the media," wrote the studio. "It should have been done so at the time of the events, to reinforce the company’s values by sharing clearly with everyone the consequences of this type of behavior. Instead, the lack of transparency created an atmosphere of uncertainty. This was not a small mistake. The confusion and emotional turmoil it caused is something we deeply regret."
Moving forward, newly reinstated CEO Lamarche claimed the company will learn from the past, and suggested Scavengers had "appeared to fail" in certain areas because it neglected to have "important conversations" with its team.
"I appreciate the courage of current and former employees who have come forward to share their experiences of their time at the company," continued Lamarche. "It’s understandable that because the management and systems in place appeared to fail, people raised the issue through the press. While there’s no version of this event where everyone would have agreed on everything, had I been forthcoming at the time, a lot of pain could have been avoided. Important conversations that should have happened in 2019 only happened in 2021."