Nintendo is famous for having a family—friendly image and game that people of all ages can enjoy. But a report by Kotaku paints the picture of a company that’s not so different from other gaming giants that had previously been accused of fostering a “frat boy” workplace culture. The publication talked to several female game testers who recounted how they were harassed by colleagues and how they were paid less than their male counterparts.
One of Kotaku’s main sources is a former game tester called Hannah, who was allegedly told to be less outspoken after she reported the inappropriate behavior of a full-time Nintendo employee in a workplace group chat. The employee reportedly posted a copy of a Reddit post detailing why Vaporeon was the best Pokémon to have sex with and justified why it was OK to be sexually attracted to Paimon, a Genshin Impact NPC with a child-like appearance.
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Hannah, who was a contractor, also found that she was being paid $3 less than a junior male tester and struggled to get her contracting agency to agree to a pay increase. As a queer worker, she was subjected to inappropriate comments by male colleagues whose advances she’d rejected, as well. “Oh, you’re a lesbian. That’s kind of sad,” a significantly older colleague told her shortly after starting to work at the company.
Hannah’s experiences are similar to what many of the other female testers Kotaku had interviewed went through. Some of them talked about how Melvin Forrest, a product testing lead at Nintendo of America, “went after all the associate girls” and frequently commented on their weight and appearance. They said Forrest was in charge of deciding on contractors’ schedules and on who gets to return after a project, so female testers were forced to get along with him. Another contractor was stalked by a more senior tester for months, but the well-connected perpetrator threatened to get her fired if she reports him.
One common complaint between the sources was the lack of advancement opportunities. “Your chance [of being converted to full time] was probably worse as a girl. It’s usually guys [who get promoted]. They’re usually all friends. They watch the Super Bowl together,” one product tester who worked on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild said.
As Kotaku notes, one of the main reasons why these problems persist is that women are underrepresented in the company. Sources believe that the percentage of female contractors testing games for Nintendo is only around 10 percent, and it’s not often that they’re transitioned into full-time employees. The company’s data also shows that female employees only make up around 37 percent of all full-time workers at Nintendo of America.
While the gaming giant didn’t respond to Kotaku’s questions, company chief Doug Bowser previously addressed reports about Activision Blizzard’s sexist “frat boy” culture in an internal memo. “Along with all of you, I’ve been following the latest developments with Activision Blizzard and the ongoing reports of sexual harassment and toxicity at the company. I find these accounts distressing and disturbing. They run counter to my values as well as Nintendo’s beliefs, values and policies,” he said.
The testers who talked to the publication for this particular report are just some of contractors who’ve recently decided to speak out against the company. Two former workers even filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, accusing Nintendo of America of retaliation, surveillance and coercion. We’ve reached out to the company for a statement, and we’ll update this story if we hear back.