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It’s a lightning rod time for issues of labor and working conditions across the entire gaming industry – including at Nintendo of America, where two different complaints have been lodged with the National Labor Relations Board this year (one just a few days ago). But months after IGN reported on a company culture where contract workers are treated like second-class citizens, Sisi Jiang of Kotaku published a new exposé detailing experiences of sexual harassment and disenfranchisement among the women of the company’s testing departments.

The full piece is detailed and well worth your time, documenting a number of allegations from former and current testers who were (or are) contracted under NoA’s partner hiring firm Aerotek, now Aston Carter (a company also named in the aforementioned labor complaints). Male coworkers would make sexual comments about fictional characters or other coworkers, including asking to see underwear. At least one case reports a notable wage gap between a male and a female tester doing the same work. And the opportunities to advance from contract work to full-time were especially difficult for the women in the department.

Power imbalances were exacerbated by the dynamic of contract workers and “red-badges,” a.k.a. full-time Nintendo employees. It was/is much harder to report harassment from full-time employees if you’re a contractor, leading to many women remaining silent for fear of losing their jobs or facing some other retribution. The article even explicitly names two full-time senior Nintendo testers, Melvin Forrest and Eric Bush, who reportedly conducted reprehensible acts of harassment. Bush is still employed by the company and there’s a chance Forrest is as well.

There were also increased difficulties for queer women at the company. One worker, a lesbian, reported having to keep turning down men who made sexual advances on her despite knowing her sexuality (saying, among other things, that she was “just playing hard to get” or “it’s kind of sad.”) Another pair of wlw were reprimanded for holding hands at the workplace against policy, despite such policy usually not being enforced for straight couples.

Despite the mountain of accusations, Nintendo and Aston Carter replied to essentially none of Kotaku’s many requests for comment. Doug Bowser stated in the wake of all the Activision Blizzard reports that the company would strive to hire more female managers, but did not outline how it would do so when asked. While testers are only one slice of the proverbial pie that makes a video game developer, they are a critical one, and it’s damning to see more and more reports of ill-treatment to workers of any level. We can only hope that Nintendo acknowledges these reports and strives to improve them for the betterment of the people who make the games we love. 


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Written by Amelia Fruzzetti

A writer and Nintendo fan based in Seattle, Washington. When not working for NinWire, she can be found eating pasta, writing stories, and wondering about when Mother 3 is finally going to get an official localization.