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Steve Gaynor apologises for "hurtful leadership style" having stepped back as Open Roads lead

Fulbright co-founder still working as writer as report emerges of his microaggressions nd demeaning behaviour towards women

Steve Gaynor, co-founder of Gone Home developer Fullbright, is no longer the lead on the studio's next title, Open Roads, following complaints about his leadership and treatment of women, but remains as a writer.

Gaynor actually stepped from his role back in March. He still works on the upcoming narrative game, but with no day-to-day interaction with the team. Instead, the title's publisher Annapurna Interactive is acting as a mediator between Gaynor and the studio.

The decision follows a series of ongoing complaints against Gaynor and his behaviour, which Polygon reports has led to the departure of 15 employees since work on Open Roads started in 2019 -- ten of which were women.

Many who left told the site that Gaynor's behaviour towards employees -- especially women -- was a key factor in their decision to leave. The co-founder has been described as a "controlling" and "demeaning presence," breaking down women at the studio with various microaggressions.

Examples include women in leadership positions claiming they had to get even the smallest details approved by Gaynor, who they said constantly micromanaged their work.

He is also said to have disparaged and discredited the contributions by women on the team, laughing at other people's opinions and embarrassing staff in front of other people. He would assert control over Open Road, declaring it to be his game, not the team's.

It is specified in the report that former employees say they did not witness or experience explicit sexism or sexual harassment, nor have any claims of physical misconduct been made against Gaynor.

With no dedicated HR team, other than an occasional third-party consultant, some tried to discuss Gaynor's behaviour with him directly.

One former employee claimed she noticed parallels between him and Scavengers Studio's Simon Darveau following a GamesIndustry.biz report on the latter's misconduct -- again, no claims of sexual harassment have been made against Gaynor. The employee warned Gaynor similar reports could emerge about him, but he ultimately dismissed her concerns.

There are now six members left at Fullbright, including Gaynor in his capacity as writer.

A studio representative told Polygon that Annapurna Interactive "is aware of the situation at Fullbright and has been instrumental in helping the Open Roads team make changes to its structure."

Gaynor has since made a statement on Twitter, confirming his change in role earlier this year, and apologising for his behaviour.

"My leadership style was hurtful to people that worked at Fullbright, and for that I truly apologise," he wrote.

"Stepping back has given me space and perspective to see how my role needs to change and how I need to learn and improve as part of a team, including working with an expert management consultant, and rethinking my relationship to the work at Fullbright.

"I care deeply about Open Roads and the Fullbright team. I'm sad to have stepped back from day-to-day development of Open Roads, but it's been the right thing to do. The Open Roads team has my full faith and support as they bring the game to completion."

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James Batchelor

Editor-in-Chief

James Batchelor has been a journalist in the games industry since 2006, joining GamesIndustry in 2016, and also runs Non-Violent Game of the Day (@NVGOTD). He does play violent games, but always on Story/Easy mode.

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