Ex-Nintendo testers speak out against a culture of sexism and harassment

Nintendo of America (NoA) contractors have made allegations describing a corporate culture where sexism is common. A new report from Kotaku details how several employees, some of whom have existed from the Nintendo WiiU era through to the current generation of Nintendo Switch, have had their own experiences of sexism and harassment within the company.

An anonymous employee, going by the name “Hannah”, informed Kotaku of an incident involving a male translator making inappropriate sexual comments with explicit details. By escalating the situation with Aerotek management, he would have been told to be less candid and his work friends would have blamed him for reporting the incident. Hannah further stated that after the translator remained employed and only faced sexual harassment training, she left the company.

Nintendo uses several recruitment companies to recruit its staff, and one of them is Aerotek, which has since reorganized into Aston Carter.

The translator was one of many experiments with sexist culture at Nintendo, according to Hannah. “There was one full-time male employee who constantly made really rude jokes and comments, but he was everyone’s friend there,” she recalled. She and other employees felt uncomfortable hearing the employees’ jokes, but did not talk about them for fear of retaliation. “Everyone loved him, […] we didn’t say anything because if you did, you were called too sensitive.

Several employees explicitly named product tester Melvin Forrest as someone they had uncomfortable experiences with, alleging he made inappropriate advances to them. According to former contract tester Chris Ollis, the associates warned each other to stay away from Forrest’s office, and former tester Valerie Allison added that many thought they should stay on Forrest’s good side.

Image via Nintendo Careers website.

“If you were friends with him, you’re more likely to be brought back sooner or less likely to be fired,” Allision said. Forrest’s employment status, whose credits include Mario Kart: Double Dash!! and Metroid Prime, is currently unknown.

Full-time Nintendo employees not suitable for contractors would be common. In one instance, a lead tester allegedly stalked a former contractor between the summer of 2011 and February 2012. This tester sent calls and text messages to his phone, deemed “disturbing” by a witness, and the contractor had frequently had panic attacks and cried. at her office. “He said verbatim that he would get me fired if I reported him,” she told Kotaku.

Hannah and other entrepreneurs have also recounted instances of queerphobia while employed at Nintendo. When she started working at the company in 2012, Hannah was hit on by a substitute coordinator described by Kotaku as “much older” and expressed dismay at learning she was a lesbian. Other male employees allegedly ignored her repeated statements of disliking men and asked if she was “sure”.

Another queer employee was reprimanded by Aerotek for holding hands with a tester she was dating at the time during their shared lunch break. According to her, she had violated the company’s “no-touching policy”, although she maintained that heterosexual couples never seemed to receive the same warning when engaging in public displays of affection.

Nintendo and Aston Carter’s problems with the NLRB

Recently, Aerotek (now Aston Carter) was explicitly mentioned in two worker complaints to the National Labor Relations Board. In both complaints, Aston Carter and NoA were accused by anonymous employees of retaliating against contract employees attempting to discuss wages and allegedly fired an employee for attempting to unionize.

In 2021, following reports of sexism and harassment at Activision Blizzard, Nintendo’s Doug Bowser criticized the company’s actions. “I find these accounts distressing and disturbing. They go against my values ​​as well as Nintendo’s beliefs, values ​​and policies,” Bowser wrote in a company-wide email. ‘era.

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Several contractors have also notified Kotaku of alleged contractor pay inequities. Hannah said she had worked at Nintendo for nearly a decade, earning $16/hr, while a male contractor earned $19/hr. It wasn’t until several weeks of looking for a raise that she reached $18/hr.

A former product tester for Nintendo alleged that the chances of going from contractor to full-time employee were slim for female employees. “It’s usually the guys who get promoted,” the anonymous employee said. “They’re usually all friends. They watch the Super Bowl together.”

Allison had asked her managers at Aerotek how she could be promoted to full-time status, but the answers provided were more about worker relationships than worker production. “It was things like, ‘You need to have more time with this guy. I’m going to take you out to lunch, you know, with so-and-so. Make sure you talk about that stuff,'” she said. declared. “Nothing that was work specific.”

An anonymous entrepreneur who tested Nintendo 3DS and WiiU titles said working at Nintendo was “a lot of favouritism, cronyism. The assumption was that if a woman was okay, it was because she was friends with the right people. people”.

A former tester who worked on Nintendo Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild said that staying with the company and his various experiences there showed him that loyalty to a company can only go so far. “You are just a disposable product,” she said. “And we remind you that if you’re not ready to do something…someone else would like to take your place.”

Reading the feedback from Nintendo of America contractors reminds us that the gaming industry still has some way to go in creating a better working environment for employees of all stripes. There was no shortage of stories last summer about the successful formation of unions and studios claiming to have ended their pay disparities. But there’s clearly still work to be done, especially for the biggest publishers in the industry.

Game Developer has reached out to Nintendo for comment and will update this story when the company responds.

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