Kotaku: Nintendo of America’s female testers faced a “frat house” environment, including sexual harassment

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The workplace environment at Nintendo of America has been recently getting a lot of flack, mainly due to the company’s attempts to keep employees from unionizing. Unfortunately, Kotaku has released a report that it is not just union-busting that Nintendo of America has allegedly been doing. This time, it relates to the company’s game testers.

Although these game testers were contracted through Aerotek, which was later reorganized into Aston Carter, they did their work at Nintendo of America’s headquarters and interacted with Nintendo’s full-time employees. According to Kotaku, “Nintendo’s careers page indicated that roughly 25% of the roles it advertised for its North American headquarters were on a contract basis”.

Unfortunately, multiple female game testers say that certain employees at Nintendo of America, including full-time employees that are not contracted by a third-party in any way, had sexually harassed them in various ways. The complaints include stalking, unwanted and inappropriate comments, as well as inappropriate advances.

Although not everyone accused of this behavior are named, Nintendo of America product testing department head Melvin Forrest and Nintendo of America product tester Eric Bush are both directly mentioned as being among the people that were involved in this behavior. Some of the employees not named also include full-time Nintendo workers and fellow Aerotek contractors. According to a game tester, one unnamed Nintendo of America employee “was constantly making really gross jokes and comments, but he was the friend of everybody there”.

There are also allegations of sexism, with women game testers experiencing lower odds of being brought in to Nintendo of America as a full-time employee compared to men. Women are also not given career advancements One game tester even noted that “after working at Nintendo for nine years, she found out a more junior male contractor in her testing department was making $19 an hour while she was making $16”. Kotaku also says that “one woman said she stayed at the same base wage for six years until she got a higher offer elsewhere and threatened to leave. Another woman was offered double her current pay when at a different company”. One female game tester also complains about there being favoritism and cronyism.

Unfortunately, lesbian game testers received an extra layer of poor treatment. The complaints include inappropriate comments and inappropriate advances even after being told about the victim’s sexuality. A lesbian game tester mentions that “during breaks, she and a fellow female tester she was dating would hold hands. She says an Aerotek supervisor called them into the contracting office and admonished the pair for violating the agency’s ‘no-touching policy,’ which was rarely enforced for straight couples displaying affection in the office”.

This “frat house” environment, which a former game tester that worked on Zelda: Breath Of The Wild described it as, wasn’t a brief thing either. This behavior is reported from various game testers as early as 2009 and as recently as 2020. Nintendo leadership was even sent a letter just this past February by a dozen game testers from Lotcheck, which “conducts the final checks for how games performed on Nintendo’s consoles”, requesting Nintendo leadership “improve the testers’ working conditions”, calling the department an “unsafe and uncomfortable environment for female testers”.

Unfortunately, not only did both Nintendo of America and Aerotek do very little to put a stop to the behavior, if they did anything at all. But it was risky to even report the poor behavior at all because, as one game tester explained, “we didn’t say anything because if you [did], you were called overly sensitive”. The victim of stalking says that the stalker threatened to get them fired if they reported his behavior. Another game tester said that people who would make her feel uncomfortable also “asked me not to go to HR about it because I’d be ‘misinterpreting,’” making me feel guilty about my own discomfort”.

As for the present, it is unknown. A current game tester, via Kotaku, says that “the HR in the building where most of Nintendo’s full-time staff work is actively trying to ‘spearhead diversity and inclusion’ within NOA”. She also acknowledged that “each of the different buildings associated with Nintendo[’s Redmond campus] all are [a] little microcosm…there aren’t as many chances to meet people from other parts of the company”. Kotaku reached out to Nintendo, Aerotek and Aston Carter representatives about all this, but never got any replies.

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