Update Sep 16, 7:04 PM Eastern: Jennifer Scheurle posted a response to the allegations on Twitter, announcing that she is resigning from her position as the IGDA Women in Gaming chair. She also added that she will be refraining from any advocacy work.
I’m sorry this took so long. I wanted to make adequate time to consider everyone affected by the situation. pic.twitter.com/4Rdd7xxtrS— Jennifer Scheurle (@Gaohmee) September 16, 2021
The original story follows below.
Jennifer Scheurle, the lead designer at Blackbird Interactive and chair for IGDA Women in Games, is facing a wave of accusations that allege she mistreated her peers. Some of her accusers also claim that IGDA purposefully ignored their complaints against her despite overwhelming evidence.
Halfway through 2020, Twitter user @NinNons wrote a thread describing a well-respected woman in game development who manipulated her and used many of the abuse tactics she preached against. Yesterday morning, while in the hospital for a fever and tonsolitis, NinNons revealed that this woman was Jennifer Scheurle (and clarified that "grooming" was the best word that had for the coercion and manipulation, as opposed to anything sexual.) Shortly afterward, many others came forward with their own stories about what Jennifer did, stories that have been shared among whisper networks. In addition, others have pointed out IGDA's inaction towards taking action against Jennifer, with one user claiming that they provided statements from over ten people. The second time they complained reportedly had the statements and evidence cover over 120 pages. IGDA LA chapter leader Miranda Due added that she, as an IDGA chair, never heard about this brought up to her or her fellow chapter leaders.
We already have. Twice. Multiple informal complaints made in 2018; formal complaints lodged in 2019 and again in 2020. Both times they included statements from 10+ people; the second time the statements and evidence was over 120+ pages long.— Anna Brandberg 💙 (@annabrandberg) September 15, 2021
The IGDA has been aware for years. pic.twitter.com/HNEwzpgMkH
News about these accusations has already resulted in repercussions for Jennifer Scheurle. Game Designer Elaine Gómez asked Future Class and The Game Awards to pull Jennifer from the initiative, and her request was accepted. However, another user known as Calliope Ryder claims that Future Class was told about the allegations before and ultimately didn't take action. "It's mind blowing that organizations this big still have to wait for public momentum," she remarks.
We contacted IGDA and they provided the following statement:
It has come to our attention that there has been public concern about the IGDA’s internal investigation process. The IGDA investigates all complaints in compliance with our IGDA Policy for Responding to Harassment Complaints.
Part of this process requires anonymity to protect both the person who issued the complaint and the accused, but given the public nature of these allegations, we will confirm a complaint was received and a formal investigation was launched. After thorough investigation, the submitter of the complaint was informed there was not compelling evidence of wrongdoing. They were also invited to submit additional materials in the future to have the investigation reopened.
While details about investigations are never shared outside of the Ethics Committee unless the Committee determines there has been a violation of the IGDA Code of Ethics or Code of Conduction, the findings of the Ethics Committee in this situation were unanimous.
The IGDA has a zero-tolerance policy towards all forms of harassment and violence. We will not stand for harassment from any IGDA Board or staff member, volunteer leader, or at any IGDA-affiliated event. Still, we must abide by an anonymous investigation process and determine disciplinary action based on evidence.
Any IGDA investigation can and will be reopened when additional requests are received. We ask that you send us any concerns, information, statements, or other materials to assist us with our investigation process to ensure the accurate resolution can take place.
If you ever experience any harassment from an IGDA leader or at an IGDA event, please contact us. We also have harassment resources available to assist anyone. It is our mission to support and empower all game developers around the world in achieving a fulfilling and sustainable career. We can only properly pursue this mission if our own communities are positive, inclusive, and harassment-free.
If you have questions about this investigation process or recommendations for improvements, please let us know.