Ex-Far Cry Dev’s New Game Studio Is 4.7% Women, Ready For More

Ex-Far Cry Dev’s New Game Studio Is 4.7% Women, Ready For More
Screenshot: Raccoon Logic

Assassin’s Creed III director and former Stadia developer Alex Hutchinson is back with a new studio called Raccoon Logic, as well as some old excuses about its lack of diversity. A picture included in a press release showed the new studio’s staff standing on an outdoor staircase. Of the 20 people present, all are men, though Hutchinson later clarified that there is one woman on staff as a project lead. When social media started criticising this breakdown, he called it “trolling.”

Raccoon Logic is rising from the ashes of Typhoon Studios, which Hutchinson — who is no stranger to saying really absurd stuff — founded in 2017 after leaving Ubisoft. The following year, the studio announced the resource-harvesting sim Journey to the Savage Planet, and in 2019 Google bought the studio to bolster the first-party lineup for its streaming platform, Stadia.

Savage Planet came out in 2020 on almost every platform but Stadia due to an existing publishing agreement with 505 Games. It didn’t make it to Google’s platform until earlier this year, only for the tech company to announce it was shutting down all internal production weeks later. In the months since, Hutchinson, along with Typhoon’s other leads, managed to buy back their IP rights from Google and 505 Games and get a minority investment from Chinese conglomerate Tencent to form Raccoon Logic.

Photo: Raccoon Logic Photo: Raccoon Logic

In a sense, it seems like things have come full circle, with Hutchison once again heading up a fledgling new studio. But in the years since Typhoon Studios originally opened, the gaming industry has been forced to reckon more often and more openly with its history of misogyny. While people have been able to see the lack of diversity in games since the industry’s inception, it’s only more recently that some of the worst consequences of the status quo at some of the biggest companies have come out on social media, in reporting, and through lawsuits. In 2018 it was Riot Games. Last year it was Ubisoft. And now it’s Activision Blizzard.

Maybe that’s why Reid Schneider, Raccoon Logic studio head and previously executive producer on Batman: Arkham Knight, mentioned work life in his interview with GamesIndustry.biz. “What I’d like to do moving forward is to really ensure that people are enjoying the ride more,” he said. “I mean, it’s work, it’s never going to be day camp, but we want to make sure people are enjoying their time.”

In a phone call with Kotaku, Hutchinson and Schneider said crunch — extended overtime during game development — didn’t happen on Journey to the Savage Planet (which was criticised for playing into colonialist stereotypes.) Crunch wouldn’t be a feature of their upcoming projects either. The two had vaguer answers on what they were doing to make the studio more diverse. Did they interview any women or people of colour for open roles? Hutchinson wasn’t sure, but said that most of the starting hires were people they’d called directly.

“It’s challenging to find women in engineering roles, which was a lot of the hires that we made,” Schneider told Kotaku. “We very clearly made a point when we said, ‘OK, you know, if we have roles that we are able to have more diverse candidates and the production is one of those areas, then we should make that a priority.’ And fortunately, it worked out. We were able to find a great person to join the team who worked with us.”

“The focus is fairly on gender just in this one photo, but there are so many parts to this,” Hutchinson said. “There’s the compensation that we’re paying people. That’s the amount of holidays to get there, what tasks we ask them to do and whether we force them to perform overtime days. If everyone’s opinion is allowed to be heard, if people are invested in their work and can actually meaningfully make decisions. And I think we’re doing really well at all of those things and then clearly poorly on the gender side. So I feel like there’s a lot of success on one hand so far. And yes. Something we need to improve on.”

It’s not a shocker that a bunch of veteran white guys in game development happened to know a bunch of other white guys in game development. What’s more surprising is that in 2021, mid industry-wide reflection about working conditions and sexual harassment, anyone with meaningful experience and recognition would start a new studio with such an imbalance in worker diversity. It’s much easier to create a poor working environment for marginalised workers when they are treated as an afterthought that will be “improved on” later. And attempting to fix those demographics as you go risks tokenizing the future hires you do make. Without a total rework of developer demographics, especially at the leadership level, marginalised hires face an uphill battle at studios composed of primarily white dudes.

Hutchinson was at Ubisoft for seven years. He was creative director on Assassin’s Creed III, Far Cry 4, and later on the cancelled, unannounced sci-fi game Pioneer. As Kotaku reported in 2019, Hutchinson was eventually removed from that project in 2016 following tensions with the staff, and in 2017 he left to form Typhoon Studios. (Pioneer, meanwhile, was reborn and rebooted until it turned into Rainbow Six Extraction.) Ubisoft Montreal was at the centre of a number of allegations of sexual misconduct and toxic workplace issues last year. Did Hutchinson witness anything during his high-profile time there or learn any important lessons?

“There’s nothing specific on my side,” he said. “And as someone who wasn’t involved, luckily, in any of the nasty stuff there so it doesn’t feel useful to have my opinion on it.”

Hutchinson hasn’t seemed very contrite about re-launching a nearly all-white male game studio either. Going through his replies to the dozens of people asking him questions online yesterday you’d be hard-pressed to find anything resembling an apology or even a simple acknowledgement that, yeah, it sucks. “Another day, another case of “How the heck do these people get funding?” tweeted one person. “20+ years of making people millions of dollars,” Hutchinson responded.

Following Kotaku’s interview with Hutchinson and Schneider, Raccoon Logic PR sent a follow-up statement by Schneider clarifying that the studio interviewed multiple women for its production leadership position and “also interviewed BIPOC people for our other open positions, and look forward to hiring more.”

On Twitter Hutchisnon added an open call for CVs as the studio continues hiring. In other words, if you know of any people who aren’t white men making games in the tiny flyover town of Montreal, let Raccoon Logic know.

Comments

  • I agree that the lack of diversity in game development is a problem, but I’m not sure aggressive hitpieces like this are actually helping anything.

    • Calling articles that discuss a lack of diversity an “aggressive hitpiece” says all that anyone needs to know about your real attitude to the subject, regardless of what concern trolling you claim to “agree” on.

      • Caring about an issue doesn’t require me to uncritically think every article about it is good. I read Kotaku because I generally appreciate stories like this. I used to make a habit of arguing with CHUDs who got mad about every story on social justice issues before I realised it was largely pointless a few years ago.

        But to be more specific about why I don’t like this particular article – it keeps getting close to actually discussing the systemic issues at play, but then veers back into pointlessly dunking on the subjects. It reads like the worst, most unproductive threads in leftist twitter that devolve into an effort to score points rather than actually say anything.

        Hiring your mates when you start a new company is a pretty normal thing to do, for instance. The relevant fact is the systemic issue that all of their existing contacts in game dev were male, apparently. The comment about not getting many female applicants for engineering roles, also a pertinent detail.

        Both of the subjects acknowledged that there was a problem and that they needed to do better. Since that’s pretty much all they can do at this point (being unable to go back in time and hire more women in the past), the sane thing to do would be to move on to discussing the systemic issues at play. Instead the article flips back to landing “gotchas” on people who already admitted to their failure. What’s the point?

  • The quote where he attributes not being involved in sexual harrassment allegations and toxic workplace issues to luck is telling.

  • I’ve already said it before in great detail and won’t bother again, but this kind of article is dumb as shit. The majority of hires are men because the majority of those qualified and experienced are men. You can’t force diversity by making bad hiring decisions to the potential detriment of your studio, particularly a small one. What’s between someone’s legs doesn’t mean a damn thing, if you want more women etc in game development then focus on getting more women to study in be interested in studying those qualifications. If only 10% of those studying game development related qualifications are women then it would be stupid to expect anything more than 10% of hires to be women. Ridiculously stupid. Enormously stupid. Kotaku gender-themed-article stupid.

  • This article is a joke, And only exists because Jason Schreier decided to chuck a sooky la la at a photo and imply nefarious things. The same Jason Schreier who sat on the allegations of sexual abuse coming out of Blizzard and didn’t say anything.

    Diversity hires for the sake of diversity to please journalists having a sook is peak stupidity.

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