Earlier this week, a report was published by Gamesindustry.biz which detailed accounts of sexual harassment and abuse allegations that allegedly fostered a toxic work environment within Scavenger Studios, the developers behind Darwin Project, and the upcoming Season. These things were reportedly done by the studio’s co-founders: Creative Director Simon Darveau and his romantic partner at the time of the studio’s founding, CEO Amélie Lamarche. Now, Scavengers Studio has released an official statement regarding the situation and has announced that they have suspended Simon Darveau and Amélie Lamarche has temporarily stepped down from her role as CEO following an audit of the studio’s culture and practices.
The report is comprised of accounts from nine current and former employees who have worked with the company. All described Scavenger Studios as a “company largely composed of talented people working on projects they deeply cared about across both Darwin Project and Season. However, they also said that the excitement and creativity surrounding both games was tainted by a toxic work environment…” Almost every source that spoke to Gamesindustry.biz described Scavengers as an environment hostile to women. Several said that women were allegedly frequently degraded by male employees including Darveau and treated as if they didn’t know what they were talking about even if they were in positions of expertise with their work. According to the report, this happened in casual conversations, public team meetings, and on the studio’s work slack. Furthermore, several sources also said that women were beyond being degraded and were victims of alleged sexist remarks and behaviors, both from Darveau and from a handful of other male employees. Those who spoke believed that this environment became the way that it was because much of the alleged sexist conduct was either instigated by Darveau or a handful of employees he favored. Those who had to deal with these issues could not go to HR because there was no dedicated HR. Since it’s a small studio, Amélie Lamarche was the person employees had to go to.
This happened even if (as it was in many) cases that conflict was with Darveau. Every source said that she was in a romantic relationship with Darveau until the last few years. Everyone believed that there was a conflict of interest and that it impacted Lamarche’s ability to be impartial when issues arose. Some people didn’t even report issues because of this. The issues don’t just stop with female employees. Many employees said that Darveau allegedly saw most employees as “disposable” and he would frequently degrade the work of others. While he treated most as “disposable”, according to the report, he had a group that he favored called “commandos.” Those part of this group wouldn’t get harrassed like the others. One source described this group as toxic people who are “always enabled and protected by Simon.” Another said that they were frequently rude or disparaging. Another source said that this group was the source of the many sexist comments around the studio.
Almost everyone Gamesindustry.biz spoke to emphasized that all the problems at Scavengers were Darveau, Lamarche, and the handful of favorites that they enabled. Many had praise for the teams they worked with, the friendships they made, and their collective accomplishments on both Darwin Project and Season. However, ultimately they said that the alleged toxic work environment that the leadership created made it challenging to create something successful. A former employee described it as their “worst experience ever in the gaming industry.” Another employee said “if half of what [I know of Season] is true then the game is going to be great, and I do not want to remove that from all my friends who are working on it. But I also do not feel comfortable with Scavengers being praised as a fun, cool, indie, inclusive place.”
Following the release of the report, Scavengers Studio released an official statement written by Amélie Lamarche saying “following the toxic workplace allegations brought forward in the media, Scavengers Studio wishes to apologize for the harm caused. Allegations such as these are serious, and we are committed to doing better for our employees, our fans and partners.” The studio held an emergency Board of Directors meeting and discussed the best course of action to take. Effective immediately, Simon Darveau is indefinitely suspended from all responsibilities within the company and from the Board of Directors. An external auditing firm will conduct an independent workplace assessment and audit of the culture and practice at Scavengers Studio. For the duration of the audit, Lamarche will temporarily step down from her role but will remain available to support the studio’s normal course of business. The current Director of Operations, Daisy Lily Best, is appointed as Chief Operating Officer and will report directly to the Board of Directors for the remainder of the audit to ensure complete transparency. Daisy Lily Best will also present to the Board the audit report for further actions to be taken; the report will also be shared in its entirety with the Scavengers Studio team.