Since the release of Mortal Kombat 11, there have been a number of reports with a focus on crunch culture at NetherRealm Studios, with current and former employees alike indicating that work weeks exceeding 80 hours have been commonplace at the company for several years. However, a new report suggests that there may be more going on at NetherRealm, and it is filled with allegations of gender discrimination and toxicity.
In this new report, Variety has again spoken with current and former employees and contractors, and these sources paint a grim picture of the treatment of women at NetherRealm Studios, including those that worked on Mortal Kombat 11. While some of these sources have chosen to remain anonymous, others have allowed their names to be published by Variety.
For instance, Rebecca Rothschild, a former QA analyst that worked on Mortal Kombat X and Injustice 2, indicates in this report that she has “never been more aware of [her] gender and insignificance at a workplace.” Rothschild expands on this statement by not only pointing to the “small amount of women” that have full-time positions at NetherRealm, but she also indicates that she was “given a disgusting nickname… by a set of co-workers [she] never spoke to.”
Rothschild is not the only one to make mention of inappropriate nicknames directed towards women at NetherRealm. Indeed, a former female employee, speaking anonymously, addresses it directly, stating:
I heard from multiple people that a cabal of male [developers] had nicknames for all of the women in the office, including ‘Silver Fox’, ‘DB’/’Dyke Bitch’ and ‘Morph,’ in reference to a trans employee. A co-worker once jokingly called an ‘Injustice Mobile’ character who did bleeding damage over time ‘Time-of-the-Month Wonder Woman’ in the presence of two leads, and referring to women as ‘bitches’ was commonplace.
Furthermore, the report contains descriptions of specific incidents that have been cited as leaving female employees feeling uncomfortable preceding the Mortal Kombat 11 release date. For example, one anonymous female source tells the story of a co-worker taking food from her desk. When she, apparently jokingly, suggested that her co-worker need ask before doing so, a nearby associate producer allegedly said, “He doesn’t need to ask permission; he’s a man. He can take what he wants from you.”
The source suggests that the associate producer then attempted to give her a high-five, at which time she expressed that she felt his comment to be inappropriate. The associate producer’s alleged response was to indicate that it was “just a joke.”
To note, these types of incidents were not left fully unaddressed by NetherRealm Studios’ female employees, as a number of sources indicate that perceived harassment was taken to Human Resources and the higher ups at the company. However, these sources suggest that the efforts were often dismissed.
One source expands on this idea, stating that HR had dismissed indications of harassment from a number of women with a suggestion akin to “not everyone has to get along.” These types of responses led this source to be wary of speaking with NetherRealm Studios’ HR at all, though she did so following “one particularly egregious rape joke that was emailed out.” The source indicates that there was no action on this aside from HR stating that they would “look into it.”
Additionally, the report contains statements from women that feel as though they had been passed over for opportunities due to their gender. As an example, one female source, who had been working in the industry for three years, recounts a job that she had applied for being given to a man without any prior experience as a game developer. Another source indicates that raises and promotions were hard to come by for women working at the company.
All of this said, some current employees suggest that things have improved at the studio over time, and that their personal experiences have been generally positive. Certainly, the games the studio has been releasing have been well received, as reflected in the recent Mortal Kombat 11 reviews. However, the other statements in the report indicate that there is indeed work to be done to correct the culture at NetherRealm Studios.
Mortal Kombat 11 is available now for Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.