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Polish developer apologises following criticism for naked sauna job requirement

"One needs to understand [the] assignment."

Spectrum Studios logo
Image credit: Spectrum Studios

A Polish developer has come under fire for expecting employees to agree to mandatory sauna sessions.

In a now viral LinkedIn exchange, Spectrum Studio creative director Jacek Piórkowski approached narrative designer and writer Aleksandra Wolna about working for his studio. Wolna replied to state Piórkowski had previously approached her about a job, and she had declined as it required her to agree to mandatory and reportedly naked sauna sessions.

"Jacek started a conversation with me under a post about me looking for a job. I did my research on him and his studio and politely declined because of the sauna thing," Wolna told Eurogamer. "I later posted about the situation about All In Games employees that weren't getting paid and are now looking for a job, since I am also owed a lot of money by this company. Suddenly, Jacek appeared offering me a job again."

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"I reminded him that I declined and told him why, which can be seen on those viral screenshots," Wolna continued. "Jacek then started to convince me and others that there is nothing wrong with what he's expecting of his employees."

Reportedly, publisher All In Games hasn't paid its employees for half a year, as a result of its "temporary" financial crisis.

Piórkowski has amended a number of his comments on LinkedIn in the time since his initial post to Wolna, but still defends the decision to ask employees to participate in sauna sessions, stating the requirement is in place because it is what the studio's game is about. "I don't want to waste my time to explain what's the difference between Ruska Bania or Dry Sauna. You have to feel it," Piórkowski wrote.

A job listing for the game Piórkowski is referring to reads as follows:

"Spectrum Studio is working on new groundbreaking game: mix of Life is Strange (Narrative), Final Fantasy (story, characters), Heart of Darkness (adventure levels with dog), The Turyst (exploration and questing) and THPS2 (tricks and specials).

"Main character will be saunamaster and will be in charge of performing in various saunas (smells, music, choreography, everything)."

The studio then lists the position's requirements, and it is here mandatory sauna sessions are specified (there is no mention of nudity here). Spectrum Studio also said it would provide "plannings in sauna, free of charge" within this post.

On a separate LinkedIn thread, Piórkowski said this mandate "is not about getting naked", but rather experiencing different kinds of saunas. The developer said the "wetness" level inside certain saunas can get very high, and if someone was using a towel it "may result with fungal infection", which is why there are times participants are recommended to go in nude.

In a further comment, Piórkowski asked Wolna if she would hire an engineer to build an aeroplane if they didn't understand the mechanics that make a plane fly. This is something, Piórkowski said, he would not do. "One needs to understand [the] assignment and that one is very specific..." he wrote. Wolna pointed out there is a big difference between making sure a candidate is suitable for any given job and an employer expecting its staff to be naked during work-related activities.

"You had a lot of time to prove me wrong. To write [a] scene in [a] sauna without being in sauna... Instead, we are wasting time on social media," Piorkowski replied. "My Narrative girls had to go to [the] sauna with me to come up with [an] amazing script for proof of concept... Technically, it's possible to do it without it, but I absolutely adore the fact that they could use their sauna experience to write awesome scenes."

Piórkowski has now released a full statement regarding Spectrum Studio's sauna mandate. In a video shared on the studio's LinkedIn page, he apologised to Wolna. "I didn't intend to embarrass, hurt, offend, or show disrespect towards Ms Wolna. My choice of words was bad. I didn't state my intentions clearly. I didn't explain why taking a sauna is so important and practically essential for me," he said (thank you to Magdalena Kluj for translating).

"I wasn't expecting that it would be received as pretentious and cause negative connotations." He noted his use of "narrative girls" was wrong, and meant only to convey the narrative team at that time was all female.

Piórkowski further spoke of how "passionate" he is about the sauna experience. "In recruiting, I took an iron rule about talking saunas and people's openness to this experience," he stated. "I am looking for people equally passionate about the culture of taking saunas and open to experiences that are part of that culture. I believe that personal experience of a subject helps with understanding the sauna culture."

Piórkowski continued: "I agree that the words I chose could be perceived that it was encouraging to take a sauna session with the company boss; it was not my intention. I proposed and am still proposing candidates to [experience] the sauna session female only and male only, as long it reflects the real sauna experience."

Piórkowski said he will be "more careful with the choice of [his] words in the future to avoid embarrassment and doubts about [his] intentions". He stated he has also started "consulting with an HR specialist regarding this case".

"Once again, I'd like to apologise to Miss Aleksandra," he concluded.

Reflecting on this ordeal, Wolna told Eurogamer she is "a bit regretful that this is the only thing that went viral, while it all started with a post mentioning the recent situation with All In Games employees not getting paid". However, she is "glad the sauna man got called out and the situation started an important discussion about awful recruitment practices". Wolna said she has accepted the apology.

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