Blackbird Interactive CEO and founder Rob Cunningham revealed that the studio is investigating if any cases of emotional abuse and manipulation have taken place at the studio. This is in response to the harassment allegations against Jennifer Scheurle, who joined the studio in January 2021.
Last week Scheurle announced that she was stepping down as chair of the IGDA Women in Games Special Interest Group. Her resignation came in the wake of the harassment allegations first leveled against her in 2018 and persisting throughout 2019 and 2020.
Last year, developer Noni Och accused an unnamed “respected woman in game development” of using “abuse tactics.” On September 15, 2021, Och revealed she was talking about Scheurle. The news arrived as Scheurle was nominated in the”Rising Leader” and “Advocate of the Year” categories by GameHERs Awards.
Scheurle responded by announcing her resignation as chair of the IGDA Women in Games. She also asked for her GameHERs Award nomination to be retracted.
IGDA, however, said it had conducted an internal investigation and found no “compelling evidence of wrongdoing.”
Since January 2021, Scheurle has also been working at Blackbird Interactive as lead game designer on Hardspace: Shipbreaker.
In a statement for Game World Observer, Blackbird CEO Rob Cunningham said it has launched its own investigation to establish if Scheurle or anyone else at the studio has been involved in “inappropriate behaviour in all forms.” As for Sheurle’s unconfirmed transgressions as chair of the IGDA Women in Games, Cunningham emphasized they had allegedly taken place prior to her joining Blackbird.
Below is the statement in full:
Blackbird takes harassment very seriously, and we will take action to protect members of our team from inappropriate behaviour in all forms.
We are investigating whether events like the ones discussed on Twitter in the last week have occurred at Blackbird in any capacity, by anyone. We are enlisting the aid of third party services to enable anonymous reporting and investigative processes that are thorough and free of any corporate bias.
Out of consideration for privacy, we will not comment on individual cases, but we will act decisively to support the comfort and safety of all Blackbird employees.
We recognize that the games industry has long been caught in a cycle of silence and abuse, that none of us are above reproach, and that the work to make our industry a better place requires a never-ending effort from us all.
The allegations against Jennifer Scheurle have divided the community, with some supporting her for “taking responsibility” and others questioning her sincerity and even calling for her removal from the Hardspace: Shipbreaker development team. Multiple devs also voice their frustration with IGDA’s ability to investigate harassment and take action against its leaders.