New report details work culture and harassment at Undead Labs

A new investigation report from Kotaku includes allegations of sexism, harassment, bullying and other allegations within the Undead labs. It’s one of the latest investigations from a major gaming studio detailing some of these types of allegations. Undead Labs is the studio behind it state of decay, and is currently owned by Microsoft. Microsoft itself is awaiting approval for a nearly $70 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard, a company that has also faced a string of similar allegations.

Undead Labs was founded by Jeff Strain, ArenaNet co-founder and former executive producer and programmer Guild Wars. He founded Undead Labs in 2009 and left the company in late 2021 after employees said he was checked out, but Strain says he has less pure time with his relocation to New Orleans and frequent travel to and from his family. Undead Labs entered into a multi-year agreement with Microsoft to publish on Xbox and was later acquired in 2018.

The investigation focuses on interviews with a dozen current and former employees, and many describe that Microsoft’s more or less low-key attitude has allowed some of the harassment and abuse to continue. A former employee said: “We were afraid they would come and change our culture, but our breakdown was from within and we could have used it [Microsoft’s] Help.”

When Kotaku reached out to him for comment, Strain himself decided to compose his own answer so that it could be read in full and not embedded in an investigative article. According to Strain’s blog:

“At both ArenaNet and Undead Labs, in a very complex and troubled industry, I have tried very hard to reduce and then de-bottleneck, offer generous vacation and PTO benefits, pay well, extend strong supportive parental leave and to provide world-class health care, and I care deeply about my colleagues and create a positive environment for everyone. None of these efforts have been perfect, but these issues remain high, meaningful priorities for me, even for my current studios.”

Philip Holt, the studio head of Undead Labs, responded to the Kotaku investigation about Microsoft:

“Since our acquisition by Microsoft in 2018, Undead Labs has been focused on increasing the quality and ambition of State of Decay and increasing the diversity and inclusivity of our studio culture. Building an inclusive and supportive environment is central to our vision of our culture, how we enable our teams to do their best work, and how we make the best games. I acknowledge that some of our employees, current and former, have shared that their experiences at the Lab have not always been positive. Our previous culture is not an example of who we are now, nor who we want to become.”

Holt goes on to refer to actions they have taken to improve workplace culture. While some employees said there has been improvement in recent months, there is still a long way to go.

To learn more, visit Kotaku for the full investigation article. New report details work culture and harassment at Undead Labs

Fry Electronics Team

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