Fullbright co-founder steps down following report of employee mistreatment

A new report details issues at the Gone Home and Tacoma studio

Fullbright co-founder Steve Gaynor has stepped back from his role as creative lead and manager on Open Roads. This news broke last evening, just ahead of a Polygon report detailing issues at the studio, including complaints of Gaynor’s behavior towards women on the team.

The statement, posted to the Open Roads account last night, says that the team “care deeply about creating games that have a positive impact,” as well as fostering a work environment that is “healthy and collaborative, where we can work with transparency, autonomy, and trust.”

It then announces that Gaynor has stepped back and transitioned into a writer role, handing off his day-to-day responsibilities to the team to finish Open Roads.

The news arrived ahead of a Polygon report, detailing allegations of mistreatment of the Fullbright staff by Gaynor. 12 former employees of Fullbright told Polygon they had left the studio at least in part due to Gaynor’s behavior towards workers, particularly women.

The report describes a workplace culture where employees felt “undermined and demeaned,” where women were “allegedly repeatedly broken down by microaggressions,” and consistent turnover at the studio over the years. The former employees confirm they did not experience or witness sexual harassment, or explicit sexism.

A representative for Fullbright confirmed to Polygon that Gaynor stepped down in March due to a “pattern of women leaving,” and that “more drastic action was needed for the health of the team.” They also noted that Annapurna Interactive, which is publishing Open Roads, is “aware of the situation at Fullbright and has been instrumental in helping the Open Roads team make changes to its structure.” An Annapurna representative told Polygon it supports the Open Roads team.

Gaynor issued a statement, both to Polygon and on social media last night:

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.

Several former employees also told Polygon that they believe there’s “no way” Open Roads, Fullbright’s next game, will be out in 2021. A Fullbright representative confirmed this to the outlet.

You can read the full report over at Polygon.

Eric Van Allen