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Fulbright co-creator Steve Gaynor, best known for his work creating indie adventure Gone Home, has stepped back from his role as creative lead on the upcoming Open Roads game amid reports of a toxic work culture.
Gaynor’s job change was announced on the Open Roads Twitter account (below), which stated that he had “stepped back from his role as creative lead and manager”, and that he was now working as a writer without “day-to-day responsibilities” on the project. Gaynor himself confirmed that the role change was because “my leadership style was hurtful to the people who worked at Fulbright”.
— Open Roads (@OpenRoadsGame) August 5, 2021
Talk to Polygon, 12 former employees of the company are said to have said that their decision to leave was finally partly due to Gaynor’s behavior towards staff and, in particular, towards the women on the team.
In the article, Polygon reports that staff spoke out anonymously for fear of retaliation, describing the work environment at Fulbright as “controlling” with workers feeling “undermined and belittled by Gaynor”. Former staff said they had not experienced or witnessed sexual harassment or explicit sexism, but that hidden behind a ‘veneer of inclusivity’, team members were subjected to the toxic culture of the studio, with women “repeatedly broken down by microaggressions”. .”
A Fulbright representative confirmed that “Steve stepped down in March 2021 after it became clear that the steps that were already being taken to improve his interactions with the team were only yielding temporary results.”
Hi everyone. I have a statement to share about my role at Fulbright.
Earlier this year, I took a step back from my role as Creative Lead on Open Roads. My leadership style was hurtful to the people who worked at Fulbright, and for that I truly apologize.
—Steve Gaynor (@SteveGaynorPDX) August 5, 2021
Gaynor’s Twitter thread on the subject said stepping back from his role has given him “the space and perspective” to see how his role needs to change and how he needs to “learn and improve as a member of a team”. He then concluded his statement by saying that taking a step back from the day-to-day development of Open Roads was “the right thing to do”.
Open Roads is a narrative adventure about a mother and her daughter (played by Keri Russel and Kaitlyn Dever) who embark on a roadtrip “to discover what has been left behind in evocative places forgotten by time”.
Jared Moore is a freelance writer for IGN.