In a report by GamesBeat, Moon Studios employees said their experience in the workplace was far less magical than the world they created in the Ori games.
GamesBeat’s report included interviews with current and former employees of the company, many of whom felt the workplace culture was “oppressive” and that Moon Studios founders Thomas Mahler and Gennadiy Korol were the sources of that feeling.
Employees said that Mahler and Korol made many unprofessional and offensive comments during their time there. Many of the comments were made in the company’s work chat, which meant that anyone in the chat could read what was being said.
“Tyler is the only person who is aware of my devious plans to kill the Jews by making them work to death through game development,” Mahler said in one of those reported chats. Other alleged instances of problematic work chat conversations included using inappropriate words or making insensitive statements to staff.
“It’s an oppressive workplace, for sure. But it’s hard to pinpoint one thing because, in isolation, all of these incidents, if they happen once, you would think they are small things,” one developer told GamesBeat. “When you’re dealing with that for [multiple] years, you’re going to see the decline of people’s mental health. I can say that for myself, personally, I was properly messed up after we finished. I’ve never been depressed until that moment. I lost my passion for my job because they drummed it out of me.”
Developers also said that praise was hard to come by, and language was used that could be interpreted as sexist, racist, anti-semitic, and more. Some developers took it as a bad sense of humor, while others believed they truly held those beliefs.
The alleged oppression wasn’t a sudden or shocking development to the team, but it was described by employees as a slow burn on their mental health. One developer said the aggression put forth by the founders caused many to be fearful of speaking out. According to former employees, Mahler and Korol would often scream at each other in meetings and berate people in front of others.
Many of the developers that worked at Moon Studios said the saving grace was seeing players’ reactions to their game, although allegedly poor management, toxic work environment, and founders that were aggressive and condescending, started to weigh on them the longer time went on.
Microsoft worked with Moon Studios for both releases of the Ori games, but developers said that the relationship with them was strained. Microsoft recently stopped working with Moon Studios, which is working on a new game that Microsoft will not work on.
Mahler and Korol responded GamesBeat‘s report, claiming they did not “believe the experiences suggested by your questions are representative of the more than 80 Moon Studios team members who are thriving and doing great work every day.” The founders also said that “if at times [they] are brutally direct in [their] critiques and challenges, [they] are also genuine and vocal in [their] praise.”