Fullbright co-founder Steve Gaynor is stepping back on his role in the development of Open Roads, the company’s next narrative title. The news comes right as Polygon reports that Gaynor has faced complaints from employees for years for fostering a toxic work environment.
The news first dropped by way of a cryptic statement on the Open Roads Twitter account, which did not spell out the reason for Gaynor’s role shift but did say it was in the name of “fostering a work environment that is healthy and collaborative, where we can work with transparency, autonomy, and trust.”
Shortly after this was tweeted, the Polygon report emerged stating that Gaynor’s step back actually occurred in March, and followed years of allegedly creating a toxic, “controlling” work environment.
Polygon’s report stressed that Gaynor is not accused of outright sexual harassment or sexism. Instead, former employees allege that the studio used a “veneer of inclusivity” to hide a toxic culture driven by microagressions.
“This is going to sound like a joke, but I’m completely serious: Working for him often felt like working for a high school mean girl," one source told Polygon. “His go-to weapon was to laugh at people’s opinions and embarrass them in front of other people.”
Gaynor is apparently still employed at Fullbright, transitioning from his role as creative lead and manager to working as a writer, though Polygon states that Gaynor "has no day-to-day collaboration with the rest of the team." Publisher Annapurna Interactive is apparently acting as a "mediator" between Fullbright and Gaynor.
You can see Fullbright’s full statement in the tweet below, and read Polygon's full report here
UPDATE 08/05 - 14:35 BST: Gaynor has directly addressed his decision to step back from Fullbright in a statement posted to Twitter. In a series of tweets uploaded last night, the studio co-founder acknowledged his leadership style was hurtful to colleagues, and apologized for directly engaging in toxic behavior.
Although he didn't address any specific allegations, Gaynor conceded he must learn how to more effectively work as part of a team, and suggested his role at the company will need to change moving forward.
"Hi all. I have a statement to share about my role at Fullbright. Earlier this year, I stepped back from my role as creative lead on Open Roads. My leadership style was hurtful to people that worked at Fullbright, and for that I truly apologize," he wrote.
"Stepping back has given me space and perspective to see how my role needs to change and how I need to learn and improve as part of a team, including working with an expert management consultant, and rethinking my relationship to the work at Fullbright.
"I care deeply about Open Roads and the Fullbright team. I’m sad to have stepped back from day-to-day development of Open Roads, but it’s been the right thing to do. The Open Roads team has my full faith and support as they bring the game to completion."
If you would like to share your story with Gamasutra, you can do so with confidentiality by contacting us here.