Steve Gaynor, the co-founder of Gone Home developers Fullbright, has left his position as creative lead and manager on their latest game Open Roads following allegations he fostered a “toxic” work environment.
Earlier today, Open Roads’ Twitter account posted the following message, saying only that “We are...fervent believers in fostering a work environment that is healthy and collaborative”, and that Gaynor had “stepped back from his role as creative lead and manager”.
Shortly afterwards, Polygon reported the departure in much greater detail, saying that since development of Open Roads began in 2019 fifteen staff had left the studio, while twelve of those who had left spoke with the site and “said their departure was at least in part due to Gaynor’s behavior toward workers, specifically women on the team”.
The report also says 10 of the 12 employees who have left have been women, and that Gaynor had actually left his role back in March, “after it became clear that the steps that were already being taken to improve his interactions with the team were only yielding temporary results.” One former employee “in a leadership position” told Polygon that “Working for him often felt like working for a high school mean girl. His go-to weapon was to laugh at people’s opinions and embarrass them in front of other people.”
While the allegations—and revelation that there had already been steps being taken to “improve his interactions with the team”—are substantial, Gaynor has not left the company, or even development on the game. Instead he will “transition to a role as a writer”, where he will remain as one of a reported six people still at Fullbright working on the game.
Fullbright released the critically-acclaimed Gone Home in 2014, and followed it up with Tacoma in 2017. Open Roads had been due for release in 2021.
Update 08/04/2021 9:37 p.m. ET: Gaynor has issued a statement that reads:
Hi all. I have a statement to share about my role at Fullbright. Earlier this year, I stepped back from my role as creative lead on Open Roads. My leadership style was hurtful to people that worked at Fullbright, and for that I truly apologize.
Stepping back has given me space and perspective to see how my role needs to change and how I need to learn and improve as part of a team, including working with an expert management consultant, and rethinking my relationship to the work at Fullbright.
I care deeply about Open Roads and the Fullbright team. I’m sad to have stepped back from day-to-day development of Open Roads, but it’s been the right thing to do. The Open Roads team has my full faith and support as they bring the game to completion.