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Current and former Quantic Dream employees denounce working conditions, toxic atmosphere

Oct 27, 2017
753
#1
THE FOLLOWING LINK CONTAINS VERY GRAPHIC AND NSFW PICTURES, PLEASE PROCEED WITH CAUTION

Canard PC: Strange atmosphere at Quantic Dream

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Story originally published today by three French outlets (paywalls):

- Canard PC (Authors: Sébastien Delahaye and Maria Kalash)
- Mediapart (Authors: Mathilde Goanec and Dan Israel)
- Le Monde (Author: William Audureau)


English websites covering the story:
-Eurogamer: David Cage and Quantic Dream "shocked" by allegations of unhealthy studio culture
-Kotaku: David Cage's Quantic Dream accused of being a toxic workplace
-PlayStation Lifestyle: David Cage’s response to Quantic Dream mistreatment allegations is embarrassing
-Polygon: Workplace harassment charges jolt Quantic Dream, maker of Detroit: Become Human


QUANTIC DREAM's official response:



SONY France gave a statement to Gameblog:

As an independent development studio, Quantic Dream is responsible for their social and salary policies. More generally, we expect our suppliers and partners to comply with the laws and practices in force in their country. We have no other comment.

See also: Le Monde journalist who reported the Quantic Dream scandal says he got blacklisted by Sony [read OP]


Two Quantic Dream employees defend the studio and call lies on these allegation.


Small update from Le Monde (bottom of the article):

According to our informations, the labor court case that opposed Quantic Dream and two form employees dismissed both parties. Two other former employees are still awaiting judgment. A staff delegate resigned from his position. A preliminary investigation for harassment and discrimination is still ongoing.

The (recently formed) French union of workers of the video game industry (Syndicat des Travailleurs et Travailleuses du Jeu Vidéo "STJV") gave an official statement today. They also affirm that some QD employees who talked to the journalists consulted them for advices.

About the recent scandal at Quantic Dream

After seeing some of the reactions that this case has provoked, it seems necessary for us to intervene and state our point of view as a union of workers.

The STJV was solicited by some of the people who gave interviews. We provided them with advices and support and remained discreet about the conflits they had with their employer. As a result, we have been aware of many of these elements for quite some time. Working ourselves in the industry, and knowing the relative respect of the labor code in it, it immediately seemed very clear to us that these accusations should be taken seriously.

The questions of sexism have been widely treated, we will simply add that in an environment where the proportion of women is estimated at 17%, no lightness of treatment is acceptable.

We think it is important to remember that in terms of employee protection, the employer has an obligation of result. In other words, its obligation is not to try to protect employees from physical or mental risks, but to do so.

In addition, we deplore the way in which some of the employees were treated in the light of these testimonies. The way it describes the crunch, the methods of dismissal and the pressure on the employees is worrying.

Quantic Dream say that all charges against them are unfounded. On our side, we are able to estimate how difficult it is to testify about our difficulties. Those who do so do not find themselves in this situation with pleasure. The threats of blacklisting and career sabotage are indeed common, when we do not internalize them, without even having to be pronounced. Therefore we believe that these testimonials deserve serious attention.

Some studios are more virtuous than others, we know, but it is clear that a lot of us have to complain about our working conditions.

In our industry, we are often seen as a variable of adjustment under the excuse of our passion. The almost systematic practice of crunch is one of the most obvious aspects, but it is not the only one. Sexual harassment, discounted wages, being marginalized or even moral harassment for the protesters are all symptoms that, if they may not be generalized, are at least recurrent.

For the moment, we do not have precise numbers to go forward, but we are working on it (see our survey: https://framaforms.org/enquete-stjv-novembre-2017-1508581061). We can simply say that these problems exist. The end of the omerta [code of silence] in effect in our industry is the sine qua non condition for this problem to be addressed and resolved.

One thing is certain: it is not by brute-force crushing those who speak, nor burying our head in the sand, ignoring the problems, that the situation can improve overall.

For our part, it is also our passion for this profession that guides us in the process of defending the workers of our industry, because we are convinced that poor manufacturing conditions ultimately bring video games of a lower quality.

A video game studio, a company, and Quantic Dream is no exception to that, is not a fuzzy and homogeneous entity, but a human collective effort, made of people working together. This is not an awesome leader eclipsing little hands. Refusing to listen to the words of the workers, even to discredit them, is an attack to the studio and an attack to its productions.

If we want to improve the quality of the games we make, we will have to be able to look at the problems in the face when they come up. This "we" is all the actors in the field, from studios to players, from publishers to journalists.
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Some bits from Le Monde's article translated:

But behind success, the reality is less glowing. Quantic Dream, a Parisian creative studio specialized in cinematographic adventure games, is described by about 15 current and former employees interviewed by Le Monde as a company characterized by a toxic corporate culture, a management with inappropriate words and behaviors, under-considered employees, overwhelming workload and dubious contractual practices.
Its President and Founder David de Gruttola (aka David Cage), Legion of Honor in 2014 (French high distinction), and its General Manager, Guillaume Juppin de Fondaumière, Medal of the Order of Merit in 2008 and also Co-Founder and former President of the National Syndicate of Video Games, say they are "very surprised", "shocked" and "outraged" by these accusations. After long interviews in early January inside the company, the two leaders evoke the "rant" of former and "frustrated" employees" who have told them about these issues. Close to management, theStaff representatives describe a well-organized, functional company where employees can thrive.
Extra bits thanks to Oscar Lemaire :

Some employees denounced racist or homophobic jokes inside the teams or even inside the top management. One of them describes a scene where, after watching a video of a recorded robbery, David Cage jokingly asked an employee from Tunisia "Is this a cousin of yours?". David Cage responded "You want to talk homophobia? We work with Ellen Page who is fighting for LGBT rights. You want to talk racism? We are working with Jesse Williams on civil rights in the USA. Judge my work."
Guillaume Juppin de Fondaumière is described as someone imbued with his power and borderline with women (uncomfortable kisses, inappropriate words). He has been accused of flirting with insistence, asking women to drink to content of his personal bottles. The Co-Founder tells he is "very angry" and is firmly denying the accusations. "Let me be clear: This is absolutely false [...] none of that happened during these evenings".

Other are talking about his demoralizing management and constant pressure on the teams. During a day of National Solidarity (extra day of work for funding the autonomy of old and handicapped people) he sent a collective email that Le Monde consulted: "I have received a demand from staff delegates that left me wondering. I am asked If we have to work as an usual day or we can stop working after 7 hours today. For people jealous of civil servants, I inform you 4.000 jobs of jail guards are available."

Guillaume Juppin de Fondaumière defended himself by saying that this mail shouldn’t be taken out of context.
Some employees, with medical certificate as proof, talk about burn out and depression. In 2015 and 2016, 50 employees left Quantic Dream, including high profiles recruited from foreign countries. One year and an half later, they don’t want to hear again about Quantic Dream.
https://twitter.com/Willvs/status/952557963717292032

As the article states, a preliminary investigation for harassment and discrimination has been opened by the Paris public prosecutor's office.
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Sources: http://www.lemonde.fr/pixels/articl...de-management-contestees_5241506_4408996.html
https://www.mediapart.fr/journal/ec...ents-douteux-titre-les-errements-d-une-pepite

Articles are behind a paywall but here's what the free part of Le Monde's article says:

Insulting photoshopped pictures, 60-hour work weeks, pressing management... multiple former employees denounce the excesses of David Cage's studio.

Behind the studio's success, the day-to-day reality is less appealing. Quantic Dream - a parisian studio specialized in cinematic adventures- is described by about 15 current and former employees contacted by Le Monde, as a company characterized by a toxic company culture, a maangement with inappropriate words and bejavior, lack of consideration for the employees, overwhelming workloads and dubious contractual practices.

The CEO and founder David de Gruttola, known as David Cage, awarded with the Legion of Honor in 2014, and the co-CEO, Guillaume Juppin de Fondaumière (...), who's also co-founder and former President of the SELL (Syndicat des éditeurs de logiciels de loisirs) said they were 'very surprised', 'shocked' and 'outraged' by those accusations. When questioned at length about those, in the company's premises in early January, the two leaders mentioned 'wild imaginings' from former, 'frustrated' employees who never reported their problems. Employee representatives -close to the management- talked about a well-organized, functional company, where employees thrive.

According to Le Monde's info (also obtained by Mediapart and Canard PC), five former employees filed a complaint in spring 2017 against Quantic Dream and one of its employees for insulting photoshopped pictures. The Paris bar explored the constituent elements for 'non-public insults towards an individual'...
"David Cage is nicknamed "Daddy" ironically, "God" or "Sun King". "David does not listen, change plannings and ways to proceed at the last minute." says a former amployee. If his work capacity is respected, everyone despise his affective management, his autarctic way of decisionning, his leadership without vision, making planning unsustainable. A former employee talks about 15 hours days, weekends at work, 90 hours work weeks."


"David Cage is described by many witnesses as "not very subtile". Grievous jokes, lack of consideration for female coworkers, gritty allusions in presence of his wife, or misplaced remarks for female actress of his games... "David has his own point of view about how managing a studio, which is from his own words a private place, or semi-private place says a former female employee. He can do whatever he wants, he's at home."
The best part :
In the meeting room where Le Monde met with David Cage two times, he assures that "Quantic is not a rugby cloakroom". Just behind him, on a board, a dick with testicules farting was drawn.
:'D
A couple of the images they Photoshopped of employees as a "gag" and passed around the office.




There are some NSFW images, too.
Mediapart draws an interesting portrayal of David Cage, a bit more qualified than you'd expect (depending on who's talking, obviously)

https://www.mediapart.fr/journal/ec...tre-les-errements-d-une-pepite?page_article=3

Did a quick translation:
Indeed, most of the company's life revolves around the game maker [David Cage], who is a majority shareholder (he owns more than 60% of the capital) and who, as the main author, takes the big decisions regarding their games. Many former employees describe David Cage as inhabited by his projects, to the point that he sometimes forgets the human beings working around him. "To him, people are just tools, not individuals, and their talent is not regarded as a benefit. This is exhausting. They [the QD employees] are depressed", says Elise [they changed the names of some speakers]. The word "tyrannic" comes up often when describing his professional behavior, and just as often opposed to his open and friendly character whenever the topic is not video game creation.

Obviously this portrayal doesn't please the one concerned. "If I wanted to work like that, I could: I'm a majority shareholder in this company, I'm the president, I've directed games for twenty years, the publishers we are working with are there because they are interested in my work. But it's ridiculous. I'm working with a group of people of all origins, and the team takes collegiate decisions. Intellectually speaking, I cannot take hundreds of decisions alone", he insists. He, however, admits taking "strategic decisions, directions" on his own: "If there are things to do or not do in the game, it's my role, my responsibility to say it."

Staff representatives agree with their CEO: "We can confirm the fact that the company works according to the direction given by David Cage. But it would be false to say that managers or leads have no decision-making power, if only in terms of recruitment, where David Cage almost never steps in, unless for specific directing or artistic positions. He is not in charge of human management within the services", they explain.

It is, however, hard to deny that not everyone can work with him. When development started on the Detroit game, in 2012 and 2013, his company hired several "stars" from the industry, some of them from other countries. It didn't work out. "These people, these major leads... It couldn't work", an employee recalls. "For David, it's impossible to work with people with a strong personality. He absolutely needs to be in control." The memory of the turbulent, short-lived presence of one veteran director left traces: "It ended badly because this director knew what he wanted, and he was experienced in motion capture. And we had the feeling that David had his baby taken away from him. He rejected a lot of things." The director didn't stay, and he wasn't the only one.
A thing a lot of people (including english websites) did not reported is that the guy doing the photoshops is a veteran of the studio, the head of the logic team and an employee representative. For people not knowing this, in France an employee representative is there to help his fellow coworkers by talking to the direction when there are problems. He is not supposed to have any sort of bonus or privilege for doing this. In the Canard PC article the man is described as close to the direction, which means it's a problem to start reporting problems in the first place and that he might side with Cage and others.

Also nobody talked about that since they didn't translate the Canard PC article but the human ressources of the studio seems to be shaddy as fuck. They created a strange kind of contract where an employee has to pay for his unpaid overtime hours if he decides to leave. They also do illegal contract termination by creating bullshit mutual agreement departure so they avoid paying taxes. Guillaume de Fondaumière actually fired himself to touch a 100k bonus and rehired himself the next day to change his status, so he would be allowed to have the french unemployment pay that is mandatory for all ex-employees, but not for directors or independants.

There are others things here and here, english websites should really deep a little more than just scratching the surface.
 
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Oct 28, 2017
10,880
#2
David Cage responded "You want to talk homophobia?We work with Ellen Page who is fighting for LGBT rights. We are working with Jesse Williams about civil rights in the USA? Judge my work."
Oh my god. He can't possibly be this stupid
 
Oct 25, 2017
1,286
Netherlands
#6
Some employees denounced racist or homophobic jokes inside the teams or even insie the top management. One of them describe a scene where, after watching a video of a recorded robbery, David Cage jokingly asked an employee from Tunisia "Are they one of your cousins?". David Cage responded "You want to talk homophobia?We work with Ellen Page who is fighting for LGBT rights. We are working with Jesse Williams about civil rights in the USA? Judge my work."
"I can't be homophobic. I have a neigbour who is gay and who I consider my friend"

Will this have any consequences for Quantic Dream as a company? It doesn't paint a pretty picture for them at all.
 
Oct 27, 2017
7,296
#12
Sources: http://www.lemonde.fr/pixels/articl...de-management-contestees_5241506_4408996.html
https://www.mediapart.fr/journal/ec...ents-douteux-titre-les-errements-d-une-pepite

Articles are behind a paywall but here's what the free part of Le Monde's article says:

Insulting photoshopped pictures, 60-hour work weeks, pressing management... multiple former employees denounce the excesses of David Cage's studio.

Behind the studio's success, the day-to-day reality is less appealing. Quantic Dream - a parisian studio specialized in cinematic adventures- is described by about 15 current and former employees contacted by Le Monde, as a company characterized by a toxic company culture, a maangement with inappropriate words and bejavior, lack of consideration for the employees, overwhelming workloads and dubious contractual practices.

The CEO and founder David de Gruttola, known as David Cage, awarded with the Legion of Honor in 2014, and the co-CEO, Guillaume Juppin de Fondaumière (...), who's also co-founder and former President of the SELL (Syndicat des éditeurs de logiciels de loisirs) said they were 'very surprised', 'shocked' and 'outraged' by those accusations. When questioned at length about those, in the company's premises in early January, the two leaders mentioned 'wild imaginings' from former, 'frustrated' employees who never reported their problems. Employee representatives -close to the management- talked about a well-organized, functional company, where employees thrive.

According to Le Monde's info (also obtained by Mediapart and Canard PC), five former employees filed a complaint in spring 2017 against Quantic Dream and one of its employees for insulting photoshopped pictures. The Paris bar explored the constituent elements for 'non-public insults towards an individual'...
 
Last edited:
Oct 26, 2017
29
#15
"David Cage is nicknamed "Daddy" ironically, "God" or "Sun King". "David does not listen, change plannings and ways to proceed at the last minute." says a former amployee. If his work capacity is respected, everyone despise his affective management, his autarctic way of decisionning, his leadership without vision, making planning unsustainable. A former employee talks about 15 hours days, weekends at work, 90 hours work weeks."


"David Cage is described by many witnesses as "not very subtile". Grievous jokes, lack of consideration for female coworkers, gritty allusions in presence of his wife, or misplaced remarks for female actress of his games... "David has his own point of view about how managing a studio, which is from his own words a private place, or semi-private place says a former female employee. He can do whatever he wants, he's at home."
 
Oct 25, 2017
59
#21
Oh my god. He can't possibly be this stupid
His “defense” here seems to have the same amount of logic as his script writing.

Using others you’ve hired in the past as a shield for alleged toxic behavior is a pathetic, useless way to defend yourself against those allegations.
 

ZhugeEX

诸葛亮 - 卧龙
Administrator
Oct 24, 2017
2,589
#26
I just got to the part where they photoshopped their colleagues in sexual positions.

What the actual fuck.

Les plus choquants présentent les collaborateurs de Quantic Dream dans des positions sexuelles, affublés de codes homophobes ou sexistes, ou encore grimés en nazis.
 
Oct 26, 2017
1,244
Paris
#28
I can only tell a story i heard directly from someone who worked there. But it's more about workload and work mood.

At the end of Heavy Rain development, they were super late etc.. of course, and Cage kinda gave them a big pressure boost by telling telling all the open space that well, basically the bosses would remember who was doing overtime or not. That created a super toxic ambiance until the end of the dev and a lot of people quit after that.

Then there is the random anarchic creator thing to. But that's more funny than important i guess At some point on Heavy Rain he wanted every character to have a different shader, a different type of render etc.. His teams told him it would be a bad idea but he insisted and they worked 2 weeks on a demo but of course it was a bad idea. There was also problems with the script he was writing. Basically the dev suffered a lot from his randomness sometimes.
 
Oct 25, 2017
2,364
The Ocean
#30
Well. That’s another studio that might well have a poisoned soul. David Cage has always been a disingenuous individual who never understood why people challenged his work. He’s on the hot plate now.

I’m guessing that because of their working investment here we’ll hear from Sony soon enough. Hopefully they will not just handwave this away as “disaffected former employees” like they did Naughty Dog and sexual harassment claims.
 
Oct 25, 2017
2,032
#32
I said this before when those other comments of his came out, the guy is his own PR nightmare. Just stop talking to the press he makes everything worse when he does.
 
Oct 27, 2017
1,185
California
#38
Man, Sony has some environmental issues that they need to help their studios with.

Edit:
Please, don't buy QD's "games".

They are not owned by Sony, QB is a private company. Sony only funds their games.
Thanks for correcting me. I was wrong to state that this is a Sony owned studio.
 
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Oct 25, 2017
1,286
Netherlands
#41
I can only tell a story i heard directly from someone who worked there. But it's more about workload and work mood.

At the end of Heavy Rain development, they were super late etc.. of course, and Cage kinda gave them a big pressure boost by telling telling all the open space that well, basically the bosses would remember who was doing overtime or not. That created a super toxic ambiance until the end of the dev and a lot of people quit after that.

Then there is the random anarchic creator thing to. But that's more funny than important i guess At some point on Heavy Rain he wanted every character to have a different shader, a different type of render etc.. His teams told him it would be a bad idea but he insisted and they worked 2 weeks on a demo but of course it was a bad idea. There was also problems with the script he was writing. Basically the dev suffered a lot from his randomness sometimes.
Reading this I have to say, that it's quite interesting how David Cage keeps his company afloat making decisions like that. It's like he doesn't know what he's doing at all and his employees come to his rescue constantly.
 
Oct 25, 2017
2,518
#42
Reading through this and it just gets worse, what the fuck is seriously wrong with the management and Cage. I wonder how Sony is going to treat this, they are not a first party studio.
 
Oct 26, 2017
29
#47
The best part :
In the meeting room where Le Monde met with David Cage two times, he assures that "Quantic is not a rugby cloakroom". Just behind him, on a board, a dick with testicules farting was drawn.
:'D
 
Oct 27, 2017
479
#49
A studio with 170 employees, it's just impossibile to make everyone happy.
We read this stories from some developers, but unless you are an indie developer, if you work in a big studios with a lot of people, it's quite obvious you'll make some enemies.
So if this stories are true, any medium and big studios will face the same issue, even Nintendo, even Valve, even ND. Everyone. It's just a matter of time.