Quantic Dream has been accused by about fifteen current and former employees of cultivating a toxic and abusive studio culture.
As reported in three separate French journals (Canard PC, Le Monde and Media Part), Paris-based video game studio Quantic Dream and Co-CEOs David de Gruttola (commonly known David Cage) and Guillaume de Fondaumière have been accused of having “a toxic work environment, direction with misplaced attitudes, under-appreciated employees, overwhelming work demands, and questionable contractual practices” as reported in Le Monde and translated by Jelena Vulić.
The reports reference a cache of over 600 photoshopped pictures found by an IT employee at Quantic Dream in late 2017, which prompted the investigation.
The cache contained pictures of other Quantic Dream employees put into racist, sexist, homophobic and anti-Semitic positions and scenes, some without their consent. For example, there are photos of female employees’ faces photoshopped onto bikini model bodies and another of David Cage’s face photoshopped onto a male stripper’s body holding a dildo affixed to a power drill.
Cage and Fondaumière say they hadn’t seen the worse images, only the ones that “were funny or more or less amusing.”
Cage is accused of making racist comments towards non-white employees at his studio. For example, while watching a CCTV news story about a burglary Cage allegedly asked an employee of Tunisian descent “Is that your cousin?”
Cage is also accused of making sexist and demeaning comments towards female employees and about actresses in his games, sometimes in front of his wife.
Fondaumière is accused of hitting on his female colleagues at staff parties, which he strongly refutes in a statement made to Eurogamer.
Quantic Dream, the AAA second-party studio behind critically acclaimed games like Heavy Rain and the upcoming PS4 exclusive Detroit: Become Human, has roughly 180 employees of which 83% are male. Despite this Cage assures that his studio is not a “rugby locker room.”
Employees claim Cage is extremely difficult to work with, having internal nicknames like “Sun King”, “God” and “Papa.” Apparently, Cage is very controlling and works employees for long hours and doesn’t take feedback very well.
“David Cage has a very particular viewpoint on how he runs his studio, which in his own words he sees as a private, or a semi-private, space,” said a former employee. “He feels he has the right to say whatever he wants, it’s his place.”
The report in Le Monde states that five former employees are pursuing legal action against the studio through the Parisian Court.
Cage and Fondaumière deny all allegations. They say they’re “shocked” at the “rantings” of these current and former employees. In an official statement made on Twitter, the studio said, “Inappropriate conduct or practices have no place at Quantic Dream. We have taken and always will take such grievances very seriously.”
“You want to talk about homophobia?” Cage said. “I work with Ellen Page, who fights for LGBT rights. You want to talk about racism? I work with Jesse Williams, who fights for civil rights in the USA… Judge me by my work.”
Cage’s defence here is the classic “I’m not homophobic/racist I worked with a gay person/black person.” As Cage stated previously in an interview with Kotaku, he wanted to work with Page because of how she looked, having compiled hundreds of photos from a year of research. Not because she was an LGBT rights activist.
As Cage wants to be judged by his work, it’s worth noting he has demonstrated a history of putting some creepy nudity into his games. Every Quantic Dream game ever developed includes a nude shower scene with a female character, from multiple angles. In 2013’s Beyond Two Souls players found a completely nude, rendered model of actress Ellen Page in the debug screens, with Ellen Page unaware this existed and pursuing legal action. In 2010’s Heavy Rain a character was forced to strip at gunpoint for another man’s amusement. And of course who can forget when Cage put an Easter Egg of himself grinding on a female lead in 2005’s Fahrenheit while in her underwear.
In that same game, the female lead had sex with a corpse in what can only be described as a painful and gross cutscene.
It’s clear based on Cage’s previous work he has a passion for putting nude female characters in compromising positions, much like how the women at his studio were photoshopped into compromising pictures. This provides a lot of credibility to the claims Cage perpetuates a sexist studio culture.
These allegations come months before the release of Quantic Dream’s upcoming PS4 exclusive Detroit: Become Human which is already under fire in the games media for its representation of domestic abuse.