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Photo: Gabe Ginsberg/FilmMagic

Steve Gaynor, co-founder of the award-winning independent developer behind "Gone Home," is responsible for fostering a toxic work environment that drove women to leave the beloved studio.

Driving the news: An investigation from Polygon's Nicole Carpenter details how 15 employees have left Fullbright since the onset of development on its latest project, "Open Roads," with 12 confirming directly that they left "at least in part due to Gaynor's behavior toward workers, specifically women on the team."

  • A former employee who held a leadership role compared working for Gaynor to "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."
  • Another employee described their "personal experience of having Steve [Gaynor] as my manager was a toxic and unhealthy dynamic."
  • Gaynor has "stepped back" from his creative lead and manager role, according to a statement released last night. He remains on the project as a writer.

Why it matters: Fullbright is a high-profile indie studio with a rare, positive reputation for telling stories about women, the LGBTQ community, and people of color.

  • Its debut release, "Gone Home," was a story of queer teenage discovery that garnered it widespread praise and accolades.
  • Its current project under Annapurna stars Keri Russell ("The Americans") and Kaitlyn Dever ("Booksmart") as a mother-daughter duo uncovering family secrets.
  • "I want women to not have to fear retaliation from a powerful 'auteur' figure for speaking up," a former employee told Polygon. "I want women to feel safe here. I want women to know that this is not normal. More than anything, I just want [Gaynor] to stop."

Following the story's publication, Gaynor issued a statement on Twitter. "My leadership style was hurtful to people that worked at Fullbright, and for that I truly apologize," Gaynor wrote.

  • "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."

The big picture: Toxic behavior in the video game industry is not relegated to big studios, but is endemic to the entirety of it.

  • Developers from big studios do sometimes go independent, or work on smaller teams; Gaynor previously worked games like "BioShock 2."
  • Activision Blizzard is currently undergoing its own reckoning, as employees come forward to talk about decades of harassment they endured.

Go deeper

Montreal is becoming an even bigger game development hub

A slide from a presentation used to woo game studios to Montreal. Image: Montreal International

The announcement of a new Gearbox studio in Montreal yesterday extends an extraordinary streak of studio openings in what was already one of the global capitals for video game creation.

Driving the news: Since last year, Tencent’s TiMi Studios, 2K, Amazon, Dontnod, New World Interactive, Phoenix Labs, Quantic Dream, Room 8, Deck13, and more have opened studios in Montreal.

Updated 7 hours ago - World

U.S. airstrike kills senior al-Qaeda leader in Syria, DOD says

A displacement camp near the village of Qah in Syria's northwestern Idlib province. Photo: Ahmad Al-Atrash/AFP via Getty Images

A U.S. airstrike in northwest Syria on Friday killed senior al-Qaeda leader Abdul Hamid al-Matar, U.S. Central Command said in a statement.

Why it matters: Syria serves as a "safe haven" for the extremist group to plan external operations, according to U.S. Army Maj. John Rigsbee.

Updated 12 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Giuliani associate Lev Parnas convicted of campaign finance crimes

Lev Parnas, a former associate of then-President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Florida businessman Lev Parnas was convicted Friday on charges of conspiracy to make foreign contributions to political campaigns, according to multiple outlets.

Why it matters: Prosecutors said Parnas, then an associate of former President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, funneled over $150,000 from a Russian businessman into U.S. campaigns as part of an effort to land licenses in the U.S.'s legal cannabis industry.