A project lead at Naughty Dog might have been more than naughty two years ago with a video game designer speaking out now. Image: Naughty Dog

On Saturday, a former video game designer working for Naughty Dog sent out a series of tweets describing how he was sexually harassed at the company. David Ballard, who worked in franchises like The Last of Us and Uncharted, says he gathered the strength to confess after seeing Hollywood’s reaction to the Harvey Weinstein scandal.

The film producer has been at the center of several sexual harassment accusations by people in the show business, both big and small. Some of the allegations go as far as painting Weinstein as a rapist, for which he has been sacked from his own production company and rallied a large part of Hollywood against him.

Video games are a distant cousin of the film business but are still part of the entertainment industry. Naughty Dog and Sony Interactive Entertainment have responded with an official statement, but the consequences of opening this debate again in the gaming community are already in motion.

What happened to David Ballard?

According to Ballard, a project lead sexually harassed him in late 2015, and by February 2016, he had a mental breakdown strong enough to involve Sony Interactive Entertainment’s human resources department. Next day, he was fired and he has been unemployed since then.

The video game developer worked at Naughty Dog as an environment artist and multiplayer level designer for six years before he was sacked. He also had a brief stay at Ubisoft, but ultimately came back to the studio owned by Sony.

Ballard says he was offered $20,000 to leave the company quietly, but he refused and he has since been unable to find a job. He described how his workplace turned “extremely toxic” after the harassment began, which suggests the perpetrator might have done so in repeated instances or that other people knew about it.

Sexual harassment in the gaming industry is no game

David Ballard’s tweets have been shared over a thousand times, and it has gained enough attention to make Naughty Dog and Sony quickly distance themselves from any such behaviors. However, this has also prompted a wave of support for the designer, and the surfacing of some other allegations.

A woman replied to Ballard on late Saturday saying she had also been a victim of harassment “back in the day” at the studio. She identified the person as someone who now works for Niantic, and the tweet has since been deleted.

Accusations such as this open a can full of worms in the gaming industry because there are serious precedents in the community. Gamergate is probably the first thing that comes to mind, as a conflict that sparked controversy for months on end at the time.

Source: Naughty Dog