Things seemed good for Florida-based indie game studio Trendy Entertainment. Founded in 2009, they had a smash hit with Dungeon Defenders and received an 18.2 million investment in 2012.
The Gainsville Sun: August 1, 2012: Trendy Entertainment lands $18.2 million investment
Then, on June 7, 2013, Jason Schreier, writing for Kotaku, broke a story about the working conditions of the team making Dungeon Defenders II. The style of the report is similar to the whistleblowing piece written by Andrew McMillen about the making of LA Noire. The piece reports on first hand accounts from multiple sources at Trendy as well as emails and chat logs. It discusses extreme disorganization, excessive crunch, as well as sexism and gender discrimination in hiring and compensation. Much of the blame is placed on the shoulders of the company President Jeremy Stieglitz.
Kotaku: June 7, 2013: Investigation: A Video Game Studio From Hell
The article was updated twice: once to include a statement by the International Game Developers Association Executive Director Kate Edwards and once to report that Stieglitz would no longer be overseeing the team working on Dungeon Defenders II. Further detail on the apparent reassignment of Stieglitz was reported separately on Kotaku the next day.
Kotaku: June 8, 2013: Shake Up At Studio From Hell
The story and the IGDA statement were picked up in other media outlets:
- Gamespot: June 7, 2013: Dungeon Defenders workplace claims 'unacceptable,' says IGDA
- Game Politics: June 7, 2013: Welcome to Hell_ Employees Describe Hellacious Work Environment at Trendy Entertainment _ GamePolitics
- examiner.com: June 7, 2013: The hidden toxicity of the gaming industry (Updated)
- IGN: June 7, 2013: Caught My Eye 6.7.13: Game dev studio Trendy Entertainment – You probably shouldn’t work there.
- VG 24/7: June 8, 2013: Trendy Entertainment exposé claims studio is a harsh, mismanaged, sexist, work environment
- Games Industry International: June 10, 2013: Investigation into Trendy Entertainment reports mismanagement, sexism
Readers of the story were skeptical of the seeming instant turn-around with the removal of Stieglitz, stating that it seemed like another case of a studio making short-term appeasements to save face. However, four months later Schreier published a follow-up story. In it, he describes meeting with the Trendy Entertainment senior staff at their behest for a seemingly candid conversation about what went wrong and what management was trying to work on for the future.
October 17, 2013: Kotaku: The Video Game Studio From Hell: Four Months Later