Chucklefish Founder Called Out for Exploiting Unpaid Workers

Chucklefish Founder Called Out for Exploiting Unpaid Workers

Countless hours of work without giving them a dime.

LizardRock by LizardRock on Aug 30, 2019 @ 10:30 AM (Staff Bios)
Chucklefish, the publisher and development studio best known for games like Starbound, Stardew Valley, and Risk of Rain, is under fire after extensive labor exploitation has come to light.

Damon, an ex-intern for Chucklefish, recently spoke out against the company and the way they exploit their workers without pay. They describe how much time and effort they put in work on Starbound while having never received any money for it.

"i started out my gamedev career working on starbound for almost two years.

i was sixteen.

i worked hundreds of hours and wasn't paid a single cent for it while the company made unbelievable amounts of money off of my labour, and that of around a dozen other unpaid workers.

a couple of them ended up working at the company. it doesn't mean they weren't exploited too.

i spent a long time being very afraid that talking about this would tank my career. but this is indisputable truth, and i am, for now, in a stable and safe position. so there you go."

Damon's role in the game was nothing minor, either. They worked as a writer, proving greater depth to the lore and other game aspects. They were the creator behind the Novakids, a popular playable race, as well.

This prompted other folks who experienced a similar situation to come out and corroborate with Damon, including Undertale developer Toby Fox.

"Management's attitude was 'if you care so much, pay them out of your share', despite the fact that 1) they were earning 5x as much as me and 2) I'd been told at every turn that I wasn't part of the company and had no say in it"



"In 2012 I was brought on to do concept art for Starbound, which turned into doing the weekly/monthly wallpapers. I also did the original concept art for the Floran and Hylotl races.

I put in at least a hundred hours of work, and didn't see any sort of compensation. I was really naive and too afraid to ask to be paid, because anyone who did would be screamed at.

I also witnessed a *lot* of inappropriate behavior, but it happened to other people, and I don't have the right to tell those stories."



"Actually I composed about an hour of WIP music that ended up completely scrapped because I wasn't in the IRC channel enough. I left after that. I completely believe what Clark and everyone else are saying."



"For ages i thought my bad experience working with chucklefish was just because i had no ability to get anywhere in the Games Industry. i was 18 when i joined them in 2011 and was not paid or credited for my work"


"I talked privately about my time with close friends, but I was brought onto Chucklefish and experienced a lot of what folks have been talking about. Starbound's development hurt a lot of people, and some of my closest friends still weigh those scars against their careers."



"i was also one of those starbound contributors. i started when i was 15 and i did a ridiculous amount of work. i sprited the vast majority of the random monster parts (over 350 sprites), all of the hylotl armor, most of the avian armor, a ton of hylotl furniture just to name some"



"I almost did the audio and music for Starbound. Almost, until the director told me that this was going to be unpaid. He revealed that none of the artists or coders were getting paid either, and I said that didn't seem right to me.

He just exploded at me after that.

He launched into this foul-mouthed screed about how entitled I was, and that he would just do the music himself because I was probably bad at my job anyway. All the artists and coders present for it just went silent until he was done. It clearly wasn't the first time.

I spoke to some of the workers afterward. They had all been given promises of future pay, continuing because of all the time and love they had already poured into Starbound. Their passion for games was abused by an industry star. And it wasn't an isolated incident."

@Clark Powell (best known for Homestuck)

This has followed a recent wave of callouts and whistleblowing in the gaming industry. A number of major industry figures, including Elder Scrolls composer Jeremy Soule, for sexual assault, harassment, and other abusive behavior.

This is why unionization is important. Because people like this will abuse their power as much as they can, regardless of who it hurts.

UPDATE: The article has been updated to include new testimonials. Special thanks to Rachel Briggs on Twitter for sourcing.


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