Scavengers Studio co-founders Simon Darveau and Amélie Lamarche have been accused of abusive behavior over the course of 2+ years by nine anonymous employees.
Founded in 2015, Scavengers Studio is an independent game developer that first launched Darwin Project three years after it was founded. That game faced quite the uphill battle in a saturated market; the developers eventually decided to halt any future updates for the game in mid-2020 and move on to other projects.
Since then, the company has announced a new game titled Season; this narrative-focused adventure would see a young woman taking a cross-country bicycle trip and uncovering a grand mystery of an unspecified disaster that has caused the world to stagnate. Now, a number of anonymous employees have come forward and detailed a number of problems at this fledgling indie studio.
Scavengers Studio Co-Founder Darveau Categorized as 'Childish' and 'Erratic' by Anonymous Staffers
A number of problems at Scavengers Studio — some small, some serious — were described by nine current and former employees of the company in a lengthy and detailed piece over at GamesIndustry.biz.
One of the less serious issues mentioned by the staffers was a tendency for studio Co-Founder Simon Darveau to yell at people. One such example involved a representative from Xbox — Darveau was angered by the inability to secure floor space for ten gaming PCs at an event to accommodate a full 5v5 match of The Darwin Project.
Other accusations, however, are much more serious. Darveau was alleged to have inappropriately groped or touched several female employees over the years and he also allegedly engaged in an affair with one subordinate. Some of these incidents were fueled by the availability of alcohol at company functions; alcohol has subsequently been banned at these events. Two of these employees are said to have left shortly following these sorts of incidents.
"[The studio co-founders] said, 'You can talk to us,' but in the end everybody knows you can't really say anything against the founders, otherwise you're f***ed." – Anonymous Scavengers Studio employee
Adding to the trouble was the lack of an H.R. department. Complaints were to be directed to the other co-founder Amélie Lamarche, but a conflict of interest existed in this case: Lamarche was Darveau's romantic partner at the time of the studio's founding.
Darveau is described as "charismatic" and "energetic" by several employees — certainly a strength for a studio head that needs to pitch games to publishers. His energetic behavior, however, has also caused its fair share of problems aside from the ones mentioned in the preceding paragraphs.
One particularly troublesome example is reporting that several cut features from the studio's upcoming game Season were promised to a publisher, obligating the developers to create portions of the game that they had no intention of doing in the first place.
"Now I don't even know what's been announced [for Season] because it's so different from what we had planned," one of the anonymous employees said. "I don't even recognize the game."
Scavengers Studio told GamesIndustry.biz that "certain elements in [the article] are false, somewhat blown out of proportion or lacking important pieces." However, it declined to specify which elements of the story were inaccurate, citing privacy concerns.
As these issues emerged, Scavengers Studio created anti-harassment policies — apparently based on a government-provided model created by Quebec — in an effort to combat these ongoing problems. However, none of the employees GamesIndustry.biz spoke to feel that these actions have fully resolved the company's troubles.