David Ballard, a former employee of Naughty Dog has accused their former team lead of sexual harassment. The accuser also alleges Sony HR fired him when hearing of the alleged abuse and even offered a $20K bribe to stay silent on the matter.
Ballard worked for Naughty Dog as an environment artist on Uncharted 2-4 and The Last of Us.
“In late 2015, I was sexually harassed at Naughty Dog by a lead. My work environment became extremely toxic afterward. 1/
In February 2016 I had a mental breakdown at work & Sony Playstation HR became involved. When I told them about the harassment they… 2/
…ended the call and fired me the next day. They cited the company was moving in a different direction and my job was no longer needed. 3/
They tried to silence me by offering $20,000 if I signed a letter agreeing to the termination as well as to not discuss it with anyone. 4/
I declined to sign. I have been unemployed for 17 months since. When interviewers ask why I left Naughty Dog, I say I was burned out… 5/
…by the crunch, ashamed to get to the root of the problem of being sexually harassed. 6/
I’m speaking out now because of the strength I’ve seen in others coming forward about their experiences in the TV/Film industry. 7/
This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I will not let anyone kill my drive or love for the video game industry, my passions or life. /END”
As of this writing, Ballard has not named the accused. Perhaps he’s building a legal case and following the advice of a representative, but we can only speculate at this point.
I wrote earlier about gaming crunch and the pressures game developers face to perform or leave a highly competitive industry. Sexual harassment and other forms of social abuse can be hidden from view by those same pressures of losing a job or even an entire career. One developer could easily feel powerless against multi-billion dollar companies.
If Ballard’s accusations are true than I applaud the fortitude of not taking a bribe and eventually bringing it to light. We can only hope justice will be served and a precedent set for positive work conditions.