Moon Studios, the creator of the acclaimed Ori and the Blind Forest and its follow-up Ori and the Will of the Wisps, has been hit with allegations of creating a work environment that at least one developer has called oppressive. That's according to an interview by GamesBeat with both current and former employees.
The allegations made throughout the course of the interviews were mostly directed toward the studio's leadership, particularly toward founders Thomas Mahler and Gennadiy Korol. To summarize, interviewees reported that the two criticize employee's work on public chatlines, while praise was a rarity. It is also alleged that that the two routinely made sexist, racist and anti-Semitic jokes on team chatlines that were openly available for anyone on the team to read, and that they would often make jokes about their penis sizes.
Other allegations made were that the studio (which operates all-remotely) created crunch conditions through poor management. Interviewees stated that Mahler and Korol are both micromanagers, a problem which is exacerbated by the fact that the two would often be at odds over a project's direction. On some occasions the two would scream at each other during audio meetings – meetings which included others.
As one developer put it, “I remember there’s one meeting where they argued for a full hour. It was a particular call to get to the bottom of some problems. The whole team was there, just listening. And then eventually, everyone was like, we’re tired and you’re wasting our time. We are leaving. Nothing got accomplished. It affected everybody’s morale.”
Despite its beautiful Ori games, Moon Studio is called an ‘oppressive’ place to work https://t.co/A95PDjToU4
— GamesBeat (@GamesBeat) March 18, 2022
Mahler and Korol have staunchly refuted the allegations (despite screen captures that show some pretty questionable chat behavior), saying in part, “We don’t believe the experiences suggested by your questions are representative of the more than 80 Moon Studios team members who are thriving and doing great work every day."
Nonetheless, many of those questioned in the GamesBeat interviews have said that their mental health took a toll while working at the studio.
Sad to say, the apparent situation at Moon Studios seems to be just a part of an overarching problem in the industry. One developer said in his interview, "I want to see this industry improve, I want to see it mature, I want everybody who works in the game industry, regardless of who you are, what you are, to feel comfortable.”
People speaking out about their experiences is the first step, because only when the problem is out in the open can it be addressed.