Naughty Dog, the video game development company, has been embroiled in a string of controversies in recent years. The controversies span from the company’s workplace culture to the treatment of its employees. The company was founded in 1984 and has gained a reputation for developing award-winning games such as The Last of Us and the Uncharted series. Despite its success, the company has been plagued by controversies, and here are some of them.
One of the most significant controversies surrounding Naughty Dog is the crunch culture that it allegedly fosters. Crunch is a term used in the video game industry to describe mandatory overtime where employees work long hours, weekends, and during holidays. According to reports, Naughty Dog’s employees are expected to work 12-hour days and six-day weeks in the final stages of game development. This practice is not unique to Naughty Dog, as many other game development companies also embrace crunch culture. However, Naughty Dog has come under fire for it because of the extreme demands that it places on its employees.
Several former employees of Naughty Dog have spoken out against the company, claiming that their experiences were less than ideal. One of the most high-profile cases is that of David Ballard, a former employee who claimed in 2019 that he was discriminated against, harassed, and ultimately fired for going against the company’s culture. Ballard’s claims were supported by several public figures in the gaming industry, including Anita Sarkeesian, who called out Naughty Dog for its toxic work environment.
Another former Naughty Dog employee, Jonathan Cooper, also spoke out about the company’s treatment of its employees. Cooper, who worked on Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End as an animator, tweeted in 2019 that he witnessed coworkers being yelled at, locked out of their workstations, and forced to labor in stressful and unhealthy conditions. Cooper condemned Naughty Dog’s management in his tweets, saying they were callous and lacked empathy for their employees.
Gustavo Santaolalla’s Controversy
In 2020, Naughty Dog was also embroiled in another controversy involving acclaimed composer Gustavo Santaolalla. Santaolalla had composed the music for The Last of Us Part II, but some fans of the game were confused and angered by the fact that the musician had used music from the trailer for The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. The similarity in lyrics and melody prompted some fans to accuse Santaolalla of plagiarizing the LOTR soundtrack.
In response to the accusations, Naughty Dog explained that Santaolalla had consulted with Howard Shore, composer for the Lord of the Rings movies, who had given him permission to use the music. However, some fans were still unconvinced and demanded that Santaolalla be removed from the project.
Naughty Dog’s controversies have created a pattern of discontent among some of its employees and the gaming community. The crunch culture, disgruntled employees, and Gustavo Santaolalla controversy are just a few examples of the company’s problems. While Naughty Dog continues to produce critically acclaimed games, its workplace culture and treatment of employees remain under scrutiny. For the company to continue its success, it has to address these controversies and work towards creating a better and healthier work environment.