IGN published an in-depth investigation on December 10 into Bungie’s alleged workplace culture of harassment. A particular focus of the report was the conditions the narrative team worked under, including the “boys club culture” and continual periods of crunch: And now, a popular Destiny content creator who has also spent time as a Bungie contractor has added his tale to the pile.
Myelin Games is considered such an authority on Destiny lore that when Bungie decided it wanted to make some books based around the game’s Grimoire cards, it sought him out to do a major portion of the work.
Bungie initially contracted Myelin to do one Grimoire book. The cards tell Destiny’s lore in a fragmentary fashion, and his job was to collate and curate the existing material in a way that would make sense for readers. In the video below, he recounts his experience working with Bungie on this project, saying that the IGN article had made him realise his experience as a contractor was not unique.
Myelin references some of the article’s claims before telling his own story: Writers getting rewrites at the last moment, sometimes just as lines were about to be recorded, and being told to grow a thicker skin about it; and that “some of Bungie’s old guard were especially precious” about the lore.
After spending several months structuring the book and getting to final proof—the last stage before publications go to the printer—Myelin received an email one week before the book was due to go to press. It told him another individual would be added to the project and give the book a final pass and make suggestions. This individual was a member of the so-called ‘old guard,” who sent Myelin the following email at the time.
“In this final pass my goal is only to make [the book] the best it can be. Given the insight and understanding I have from cultivating the ideas and tending the soils that birthed these tales, I may offer some last minute challenges/changes to make sure it reaches that goal, if you’ll let me.”
Let’s all just pause for a moment to admire that “tending the soils” line. Well, the writer of this email certainly went on to tend Myelin’s soil. “[It was] the old guard making clear that they had more knowledge and experience of Destiny,” Myelin said.
The emailer went on to question Myelin’s work in a fundamental manner: why he’d chosen this particular structure, why the chapters were ordered this way, and so on. Myelin goes on to give examples of how he responded and, at this point, it seems merely annoying rather than awful.
“While it was upsetting to have someone question all the work I’d done a week before deadline, I was annoyed but I understood,” Myelin said. “Unfortunately, it didn’t stop there: The book was finished, done, sent as a PDF to everyone saying ‘its ready to go to print.’ I checked it and noticed my title in the credits had been changed.
“No one spoke to me about it. No one told me it was going to be changed. [My credit] was originally lore curator, because that’s what I did; I curated the lore. Making things worse, the person that was added to the team, the “old guard” that had been around, was given that title, and I was given a different title, lore consultation, which I felt didn’t reflect my role.”
Myelin wrote the following email to the senior leadership involved with the book:
“Hi, all. I am not too sure how to bring this up, and I know this is a sensitive topic, but I would like to talk about how I am credited in the book […]. I feel like ‘lore consultation’ implies that I did not do much work for the volume […]. I feel like I was more active in this project, being involved since it was first presented as an idea. I worked very hard on collating, curating, and deciding on which of the Grimoire cards should be included and what would give lore nerds and non-lore nerds the best experience.
“Hope this doesn’t sound silly, I am well-aware that I am new to Bungie and I am only contracting, however, I still feel ‘Consultation’ doesn’t accurately represent the work I did for the project. I am not sure what the best title would be, but would like to hear your thoughts.”
After the email Myelin organised a phone meeting with his lead on the project, and he began explaining his position and how much work he’d done on the book.
“Literally mid-sentence while I was describing my role and my concerns, the lead cut me off, mid-sentence, and I’ll have to paraphrase this because it’s a phone call and not an email, but when they cut me off mid-sentence, when I was saying how I felt, they said something like this: ‘I’m gonna stop you there. We don’t say “I.” This is a team project.’
“Obviously I was talking about what I did, I was saying “I” […] they then went on this rant about it not being about an individual but rather the team. I was made to feel like I know nothing about the game industry, which I don’t, but also I was made to feel incredibly selfish for bringing up the conversation, for bringing up this talk about how I was credited in the books, like I did something dramatically wrong. I was really mad. I vividly remember exactly where I was when I had this phone call […] I felt like fucking throwing my phone across the road when this person cut me off and gave me this bullshit, generic, corporate, ‘there’s no “I” in team.’ It was—just imagine the most cookie cutter team talk you could ever imagine and then imagine fucking doing that to someone when they’ve been working on a project for months and they’re just saying how they feel.”
It does seem like it would be rather galling to get that exact ‘team talk’ in the context of your credit being downgraded on a project you’d spent months on. As Myelin notes: “I really don’t fucking know how you talk about an issue like credits in a book if you don’t use the word ‘I.'”
Myelin says he was so angry that he just stopped talking. The phone call improved when the Bungie lead realised they’d perhaps gone too far. They tried to backtrack and eventually, they and Myelin came to an agreement on a new title for the credit in the book.
“I got a very small glimpse into how this person usually operates,” Myelin said. “To be very manipulative and to make me feel like an idiot—I feel like that was their true nature, like they naturally slipped into that response so easily, like it had been rehearsed and said many times before. Turns out it probably was.”
The Grimoire project would turn from a one-book idea into three volumes, which as these things go was very successful, enough so that Bungie decided to do a fourth (Myelin had initially sketched-out a plan for a series of six books). But Bungie decided that on this occasion it would not involve Myelin—which he only found out about when the studio announced the other books.
“The first thing that I thought was I got kicked off the team because I wasn’t a team player,” Myelin said. “I got kicked off the team because I complained. I should’ve just kept my mouth shut, and maybe I would’ve been given the opportunity to work on more volumes. I felt like I’d ruined my relationship with Bungie, that I had pissed off the leadership team or this one person, and that I would be shadowbanned from working with them in future.”
Some might look at something like this and say what’s the fuss over a book credit or a misjudged phone call, but the wider context is a contractor getting punished and then frozen-out when they stand up for themselves. The difference between being credited as a lore curator or lore consultationist may seem minor, but it wouldn’t if you’d spent multiple months curating the lore. And everyone should hold the principle that credit should go where credit is due.
“It makes me incredibly sad, and really fucking angry,” Myelin said. “Because I know I only got a tiny snippet of what the narrative team had to put up with. I’m not too sure where to go from here. I’m hoping to provide this information to Bungie. I’m hoping that they will take it seriously. I’m hoping they will take action to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”
The allegations about Bungie’s workplace culture do come with caveats: Many of those who spoke in the original IGN report also had good memories of the studio, and the CEO has acknowledged the problems, apologised, explained what they’re doing, and promised more actions to come. It doesn’t sound like Bungie is an irredeemable place, from the outside: More that it has historical problems and a domineering ‘old guard’ that need a wake-up call about how they treat others.
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