Over two dozen current and former Bungie employees discussed and criticized the studio's work culture in a new report from IGN, collectively depicting a studio which is now slowly working towards change after tolerating a purportedly toxic environment for many years.
Much of the report focuses on Bungie's narrative department, with many employees claiming that the narrative team was especially prone to burnout due to abrupt changes and rewrites, inadequate funding and employee support, and the leadership of several bad actors who were reportedly protected by the studio's HR department. However, employees from other departments also say they experienced crunch, prejudice, and abuse at Bungie, and that women, people of color, and members of other marginalized groups often suffered the worst of it. The report stresses that this was perpetuated by "rockstar" leaders and senior members who were seemingly immune to consequences and exempt from the studio's stated values.
IGN's story was shared by many current Bungie employees on social media, and studio CEO Pete Parsons released a statement on Bungie's website acknowledging the report and apologizing for the "pain" that these and other employees experienced.
"First, I want to apologize to anyone who has ever experienced anything less than a safe, fair, and professional working environment at Bungie," Parsons says. "I am not here to refute or to challenge the experiences we're seeing shared today by people who have graced our studio with their time and talent. Our actions or, in some cases, inactions, caused these people pain. I apologize personally and on behalf of everyone at Bungie who I know feels a deep sense of empathy and sadness reading through these accounts."
"Speaking with the team at Bungie, reading the stories, and seeing both known and newly surfaced accounts, it is clear we still have work ahead of us," he adds. "I am committed to it. We are not yet the studio we have the potential to become, but we are on our way."
Parson's statement lays out actions Bungie has taken in the past few years to improve its internal culture, including the creation of diversity initiatives, more diverse hiring practices, adjusting release dates to minimize crunch time, and terminating bad actors "without respect to their tenure, seniority, or interpersonal relationships".
These plans line up with the more optimistic accounts from some Bungie employees, who believe that the studio is improving thanks to these and other efforts, many of which have been spearheaded by women and people of color. Several employees also pointed to Bungie's non-Destiny incubation projects as proof that "things can be built differently," and described these projects and their teams as cultural models for the studio as a whole to learn from.
This report has arrived during an industry-wide reckoning largely sparked by the ongoing Activision Blizzard lawsuit.