Former Mortal Kombat and Injustice Developers Speak of Horrible Crunch at NetherRealm Studios

Recently surfaced accounts from former members of the staff paint a bleak picture of the studio’s inner workings.

Posted By | On 29th, Apr. 2019 Under News

netherrealm studios

Systemic issues with AAA development in the video games industry have come to the surface with greater force than ever before in recent times. From the likes or Riot Games and BioWare to others like Rockstar and Epic Games, issues with the internal workings of several studios have come to light, and said surfacing of issues has blessedly empowered other members of the industry to speak out about their own experiences.

Recently, several former employees and contractors who worked with NetherRealm Studios on several projects, including Mortal Kombat and Injustice, have taken to Twitter to speak about the issues at the studio, and their accounts paint a bleak picture, from crunch to harassment to poor working conditions.

James Longstreet, former programmer at NetherRealm Studios, spoke about his work on Mortal Kombat 9, where he described overbearing crunch conditions, which saw crunch not as something voluntary that employees would volunteer for, but something that was mandatory. “This was not a wink-wink-nudge-nudge ‘passionate hardworking’ thing,” he wrote. “This was a mandate.”

Longstreet says that the Mortal Kombat team sees crunch as necessary, and as something that has always worked for them in the past, in light of which they see it as “clearly the right thing to do”. He also describes poor working conditions for contractors, saying the studio hires “as many contractors and interns as they can, pay them s**t (much less than I started at 12 years ago), and work them to death”.

Beck Hallstedt, a contractor concept artist who worked on Injustice 2, also recounts her own experiences during the five months she spent working at the studio, calling their practices “predatory and abusive”. She describes poor infrastructural issues and a culture of harassment, such as contractors being stuffed into small workspaces with not enough room to work, female contractors being paid less than the usual rates, female employees not being allowed into certain meetings, contractors getting treated poorly and blamed for several issues by the higher-up employees, and them not getting credited with the nature of the work they are doing.

Her accounts are backed up by former QA analyst Rebecca Rothschild, who says she can “confirm everything” described by Hallstedt, before saying there are “lots of amazing people work at NRS [NetherRealm Studios], but there are serious, systemic issues that need to be addressed.”

You can read the aforementioned accounts in the tweets below. One can only hope that with such issues having come to light, NetherRealm Studios will be forced to take action and get to work on fixing these internal issues, which are clearly not sustainable or healthy in any way. Accounts don’t mention whether similar issues have persisted with the development of their most recent project, Mortal Kombat 11, but in the absence of evidence to the contrary, in light of what’s surfaced, it would be hard to assume that anything has changed- not until change is forced, at the very least.

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