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David Cage and Quantic Dream "shocked" by allegations of unhealthy studio culture

UPDATE: A correction, and QD issues a statement.

UPDATE 15TH JANUARY: This article previously translated a passage of a French report to say Guillaume de Fondaumière was accused of "pushing kisses" on staff at parties, but the translation is incorrect, as de Fondaumière himself later pointed out to me. After further consultation we have a more accurate translation. The accusation revolves around the common French greeting of air-kissing when two people meet. Guillaume de Fondaumière is accused of making more contact with his kisses than is considered appropriate.

Guillaume de Fondaumière went on to tell me: "Please note I categorically refute all allegations, in particular 'hitting on staff'."

Quantic Dream also formerly issued a statement yesterday evening in response to the reports. Guillaume de Fondaumière shared the statement on Twitter.

ORIGINAL STORY 14TH JANUARY: Three separate French reports published this afternoon level serious allegations of unhealthy studio culture at Quantic Dream, developer of Heavy Rain, Beyond: Two Souls and the upcoming PlayStation 4 game Detroit: Become Human.

Quantic Dream leaders David Cage and Guillaume de Fondaumière are accused of inappropriate behaviour, overworking staff and colluding in - or at least turning a blind eye to - a schoolboy culture involving sexist and racist jokes.

For their part, Cage and de Fondaumière fiercely deny all allegations, saying they are "very surprised" and "shocked" by the "rantings" of former employees, according to Le Monde's report.

One particular area of contention is a cache of some 600 controversial photoshopped images dating back to 2013. Canard PC's report (since translated into English by Canard PC, and removed from a behind a paywall) has a header image with some of the photoshopped pictures in. Mediapart's is the third report.

"The most shocking [images] present Quantic Dream's collaborators in sexual positions, adorned with homophobic or sexist slurs, or even made up to look like Nazis," said Le Monde's report, translated by Eurogamer.

The photoshopped images were apparently sent in group emails around the company, including to recipients Cage and de Fondaumière. But it was only in early 2017, when the company's IT manager was the subject of a photoshopped image, the full cache was found and complaints made. Cage and de Fondaumière claimed not to have seen the worst images before then, only ones which "were funny or more or less amusing".

But this cache of controversial images became the jumping off point for a deeper look at life at Quantic Dream - a studio of 180 people, 83 per cent of which are apparently male, and where there is reportedly a picture of a penis with farting testes on the wall.

The controversial Detroit: Become Human trailer aired last autumn. Contains strong content.Watch on YouTube

Cage, particularly, is painted as a figure hard to work with. He is apparently ironically nicknamed "Papa", "God" and "Sun King" for his autocratic approach to working, for demanding long hours and for not listening to others.

Cage is also accused of a lack of consideration for female colleagues, and of making insistent dirty jokes, smutty remarks in the presence of his wife, and inappropriate remarks about actresses in his games.

"David Cage has a very particular viewpoint on how he runs his studio, which in his own words he sees as a private, or a semi-private, space," said one former employee. "He feels he has the right to say whatever he wants, it's his place."

Others have apparently witnessed homophobic or racist jokes. One incident involved a burglary caught on CCTV. After watching, Cage allegedly asked an employee of Tunisian origin, "Is that a cousin of yours?"

Cage said the allegations were "ridiculous, absurd and grotesque".

"You want to talk about homophobia?" he said. "I work with Ellen Page, who fights for LGBT rights. You want to talk about racism? I work with Jesse Williams, who fights for civil rights in the USA... Judge me by my work."

Quantic co-founder Guillaume de Fondaumière is also targeted by former employees for sleazy behaviour, such as allegedly hitting on staff at parties. "I will be extremely clear: it's absolutely false," responded de Fondaumière. "None of any of this happened at any evening event."

The allegations will undermine the upcoming release of Detroit: Become Human, a game which has already stirred high profile controversy for a sequence involving domestic and child abuse.

Detroit: Become Human is due for release this spring.