Fullbright's co-founder Steve Gaynor has stepped down as creative lead on Open Roads. Having previously brought us Gone Home and Tacoma, the developers announced that rather than step down from the company entirely, Gaynor's taking up a writing position instead.
Making an announcement via Twitter, the news came moments before a Polygon report surfaced, cited allegations of a "toxic culture". Speaking with 12 former Fullbright employees - 10 of whom were women - they revealed that only 6 staff members currently remain on Open Roads, an upcoming Annapurna Interactive published game about a mother and daughter.
Fullbright Co-Founder Steps Down As "Toxic Culture" Allegations Emerge
Amidst this studio exodus, several employees told Polygon that Gaynor had a "controlling" and "demeaning presence". Alleging his micromanagement had fostered a toxic culture, they were careful to note that this didn't extend into sexism or sexual harassment. One former employee, corroborated by six others, stated:
This is going to sound like a joke, but I'm completely serious: 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.
It's worth reading the full report for further details, which was amended post-publication to include a response from Steve Gaynor, stating:
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.
Sadly, several of these former employees confirmed they've now left the industry entirely as a result of these actions. Because of this exodus, Annapurna Interactive are now acting as mediators between Open Roads' remaining staff and Gaynor.