Revenge Leaks Suck But Here’s Why Employee Mistreatment in Gaming Still Needs Addressing

WARNING: The Last of Us 2 heavy story spoilers have leaked online in video form. Due to this, trolling pieces of shit have started to try and ruin the game for others. 

The Last of Us 2 was originally planned to launch a month from now on May 29 but COVID-19 related problems (on the physical distribution side) meant that The Last of Us 2 was indefinitely delayed with no new release date in sight. 

As of yesterday, April 26, videos leaked online with serious story spoilers. We have not watched and will not detail the leaks at all other than they reportedly look legit. 

Shortly after the leaks, the rumour-mill started swirling on the internet that the leaks are a result of a disgruntled employee taking revenge against Naughty Dog for being mistreated in an apparent pay-dispute. 

This is all unconfirmed as we speak but given the nature of the leak and it’s actual video of the game, it would have needed to have been someone who had intimate access to the game, hence a Naughty Dog employee is feasible. Further, we have received reports that the footage features developer messages or prompts, thus lending even more weight to this rumour.

On top of that, reports have been coming out for years of bad employee treatment at Naughty Dog. Most recently, this year reports emerged from Kotaku detailing how bad the treatment can be at Naughty Dog:

Many who have worked at Naughty Dog over the years describe it as a duality—as a place that can be simultaneously the best and the worst workplace in the world. Working at Naughty Dog means designing beloved, critically acclaimed games alongside artists and engineers who are considered some of the greatest in their fields. But for many of those same people, it also means working 12-hour days (or longer) and even weekends when the studio is in crunch mode, sacrificing their health, relationships, and personal lives at the altar of the game.

Taking these things together it does add a lot of weight to the rumour that this leak came from a mistreated employee. However, we must say this doesn’t seem like the right choice to take revenge as ultimately it’s the fans that suffer. Mistreating employees is a terrible culture, especially in the gaming industry and whilst we disagree with the methods, hopefully this shines more light on this issue.

To think Naughty Dog are alone in these practices is woefully mistaken. This culture is prevalent and dangerous amongst the entire industry. Sure, there are plenty of studios that treat their employees well and that really is fantastic and lucky for those people, but there’s still a lot of studios that make their employees suffer.

Emily Grace Buck formerly of TellTale Games confirms as much:

There’s a belief in the games industry that working in it is a privilege, and that you should be willing to do whatever it takes to stay there,” says Emily Grace Buck, a former narrative designer at Telltale. “The most important thing to remember is that it’s not every single game studio that’s functioning like this, but this is the vast majority, this is normal for this industry.”

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Reports have been emerging for years on mistreatment of employees in the gaming industry. And yet, every year, new reports emerge. What we see then is an issue not being addressed enough by people who can tackle this culture.

This is a culture that needs to be addressed by greater unionisation to protect game workers rights. Earlier this year, one of America’s biggest unions, the Communications Workers of America (CWA), stood by video game workers.

“Companies in the technology and game industries have gotten away with avoiding accountability for far too long, Workers in these industries are exposing the reality behind the rhetoric. This initiative will help tech and game workers reach the next level in their efforts to exercise their right to join together and demand change.”

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CWA announced its initiative to help unionize workers in the gaming industry, dubbed the Campaign to Organize Digital Employees, or CODE. CODE covers a range of industries in the digital sector. This is a step in the right direction but the culture is far from solved and even greater, more focused union representation is still required to protect workers facing unhealthy hours and work cultures.

Unions have proved adjusting to the new world order has been a challenging time.

By 2017, union membership was half the level it was in the late 1970s and it became apparent that many unions were unsure of how to respond to the waves of technological, social and economic changes that were sweeping the UK.

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It’s important the Unions evolve and recognise the modern-day issues workers in industries such as the video game industry suffer. Layoffs can be understood but the systemic mistreatment of employees, disregard for their health and livelihoods, must come to an end.

Having a video game leaked is a shitty thing. Especially one that has so many fans yearning to play it. Whilst we disagree with the methods, there can be no shying away from the issue of employee mistreatment and how there’s still a lot to do to address it. It’s possible that in spite of all the signs pointing to this coming from a Naughty Dog employee, this might have in fact originated from elsewhere but regardless this is a conversation that needs to keep happening until more is done.

Written by
Head writer and PR guy for @TGGamingReviews. Business Inquries: charlesoakley@thisgengaming.co.uk

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