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Star Citizen Devs Slam Kotaku For Clickbaiting on a Tragedy

We have some Star Citizen Drama today with a Kotaku Article “Star Citizen Developers Fed Up After Being Expected To Work During Devastating Texas Snowstorm” 

Let’s give you a little context before we go into the article.

CIG’s creators of Star Citizen and Squadron 42 have a Studio in Texas and last month there was a Dangerous and Disruptive Snow Storm in the area which led to power outages, closed roads and difficulties getting food to some areas.

The Kotaku Article focuses on this and a mixture of “unnamed sources” some of which talk about the company quite favorably others imply that there wasn’t enough help during the crisis.

The Article suggests that CI kept it’s studio open and working throughout and that employees were expected to work IF they couldn’t then they would have to take Paid Time Off. The article goes on to talk about management talking to staff about how are they going to make up for lost time (implying maybe they had to work weekends)

“In a statement to Kotaku was sent the week of the snowstorm, CIG talked about how Austin employees had banded together to provide each other with aid, which employees speaking to Kotaku under the condition of anonymity say is true—because, functionally speaking, CIG had left them high and dry.” 

CI’s statement to Kotaku continued “everyone at CIG has been very understanding and concerned about the situation the Texas team is facing and we’ve stayed in constant communication.” 

But Kotaku said According to six sources who spoke with Kotaku, that part isn’t true.

Communication, all six sources agreed, was the biggest problem. 

The article goes on to imply pretty reasonable statements are the opposite framing them as negatives:

A source said the office manager continued: “Assuming roads are clear we also can manage a few people in the studio. If all else fails then enter PTO for whatever time you cannot make up.”

With Kotaku then saying that Employees were expected to work through the disaster… but someone saying, if you can work please do… you can work from home if you are able… is hardly employees being forced to work… the framing here is just plain odd. 

I don’t know the context of the statement or the laws around time off in America so… I plead ignorance on PTO (Paid Time Off) bit.

And then there are statements from Kotaku’s anonymous sources:

“In response to further expressions of concern, we were told to work directly with our managers for help,” said one source. “Yet, managers were facing the same crisis as the rest of us, and some lacked any method of communication for days.”

Yes… that seems like that could happen in a crisis… doesn’t sound like anyone was being forced to work. The whole framing of this article is… well it’s trying to push a single narrative in my opinion and that is CI were being unreasonable with their staff and forcing them to work in a crisis. 

The article also frames CIG employees helping each other out and giving tips on helping comfort and survival as the management not doing enough to help so they had to rely on each other.

And suggest that CIG upper management didn’t communicate to the rest of the studios how dire the situation was in Texas BUT I don’t see why that is relevant… but just looking at social media you can see that is incorrect anyway. Also that there seemed to be some expectation from Kotaku for the rest of the worldwide studios to somehow actively help with the situation in Texas… which doesn’t seem like a good use of peoples time and effort… as they don’t live in the US, don’t live or work in Texas and aren’t in a position to provide proper assistance remotely… The local studio is obviously a lot more appropriate.

And any social posts, emails or jokes of… you got a snow day… seem to be taken as some form of bullying maybe by Kotaku rather than banter.

The article veers off into climate change and humanity is doomed… but also lays some of that blame it seems at CI’s feet it seems to me.

CIG apparently provided Kotaku with a response to these “allegations”: 

“CIG is saddened to hear these allegations from the anonymous sources,” a company spokesperson said in an email. “Our staff’s safety and well-being are a priority to us at all times. The Austin offices have remained closed to general staff since the beginning of the pandemic, with teams working from home. In the immediate aftermath of the Texas storm, studio leadership reached out to all 100+ Austin employees through their managers and individually to offer support; and continues to do so with actionable assistance for all of those who were affected.”

So Why is this probably Bullsh*t?

Now a lot of these things that the article talks about are important… because a lot of them don’t add up to the experience of the employees in the Austin Texas Office. In fact some of CIG Staff there have called them out on it.

Firstly Chris Roberts had previously sent an email to employees at the Texas Studio saying they would all be fully paid for the period and not to worry.

Kotaku even conceded that they have emails sent to employees:

“safety is of the utmost importance and should continue to be prioritized over everything else.” As well as promising flexible work schedules for staff to suit their situations.

However this is juxtaposed by Kotaku asserting that managers said

”Time off would require use of PTO, and work would continue, in some capacity, despite a statewide emergency.”

Cloud Imperium’s Employees have been putting out a lot of Tweets in the wake of this article… and some are from the Texas Studio:

Zyloh the Star Citizen Community Manager that works from the Texas Office Said:

This is weird to me. No one on my team had to use PTO at all, and I felt that CIG was extremely flexible/understanding. In fact, I just asked a load of people on the team about this and it confused everyone. Unfortunately, I think this is an outright lie.

Everyone I’m checking with was “told to clock in as if they had worked, and to focus on personal safety first, not work.” If legitimate, maybe a localized issue within a single team, which should and was likely already handled. Damn, got to get those clicks though, right?

John Crewe Vehicle Director at Cloud Imperium

Kotaku doing their usual poor job of “reporting” again, to suggest other studios and management wasnt aware of the situation is ludicrous. The situation was discussed daily in meetings I was involved in and there was no expectation of people being available to work in ATX.

Kraiklyn QA Tester at Cloud Imperium

This is also somewhat bewildering to me. I have been with Cloud Imperium Games for 6 years now, and this company has been nothing but supportive and understanding. They have helped me through some tough times in ways no other company has. I don’t think I would be with CIG as ½

long as I have if any of this were ringing true. I had our studio manager even personally reach out to me to check up on me to see if everything was okay. I had my direct managers offering anything I needed and never had to use PTO for the storm. All for clicks though, I am sure.

Gill-CIG a Dev at I don’t actually know what department they are in at Cloud Imperium

This is becoming a legitimate frustrating experience for a some of us at CIG, at least around me. We just want to make a great game. This kind of reporting can seriously make you wonder why you bother getting up in the morning, worse than any delay or upset backer could.

In a way though, it just makes me want to prove them wrong.

JLee Lead Concept Artist at Cloud Imperium

We have been constantly reminded to check in on our employee’s physical, mental, AND emotional safety during the texas snow storm. We take our employee’s safety VERY SERIOUSLY. Clickbaiting on a tragedy that has caused people to lose lives and devastate families is disgusting.

Kraig Cinematic Artist at CI

I honestly don’t recognise the company they described in this article. From putting a roof over my head when my house situation fell through to being their for me when I’ve had health issues, CIG have been the most awesome and caring company I’ve ever worked for. So frustrating.

David Colson Lead Vehicle Programmer at CI

This is a confusing article that annoys me because from everyone I know and work with in Austin it is not the experience that people have had. CIG has been extremely supporting and helpful throughout this and this article is just clickbait

Jake Bradley Community Specialist at CI

Adding my experience here. The studio managers reached out to me several times to check in even though I had told them I still had power, and even though I don’t live in Austin yet! I’ve had jobs that forced me to work in conditions like this, CIG is absolutely not one of them.

Daniel Barker Designer for CI

I’ve not seen or heard anything but the contrary to this. CIG have been extremely supportive and understanding since we all started working from home. I have family and friends in the NHS and health care that haven’t had anywhere near the support we’ve had. Now that’s a problem.

There are dozens more!

I talked to a source at CIG they might as well remain as an Anonymous Source as apparently that’s what you do in Journalism:

When working from home & covid happened Upper Management said:

Everyone’s keeping their jobs

We’ll find something else for you to do if you can’t do your full role from home

Just keep on rocking on

They went onto say:

The article sounds like utter bull.

It was clearly communicated that help was there for the teams in Austin, there was very little fuss, people were checking on each other online… normal human stuff.

The company culture is one of prioritizing employee safety and happiness

The whole Premise that anyone in CIG would be so unreasonable Is just fraudulent.

So that’s where I am too… do I think CIG are the bestest company in the world and do everything perfectly… God No… However they are pretty good with their employees.

I personally think that Kotaku talked to some staff at CI and quoted those pretty reasonable statements, just framing them oddly and sometimes outright misinterpreting them. However some of what was said by “sources” just seems unlikely at best.

Apparently CIG employees receive low pay… that’s probably true in some cases… I haven’t got the data pay vs cost of living… but for example Wages in Manchester in England are lower compared to the South of the Country due to the cheaper house and living costs.

If you put a studio there, you benefit from that.

There was a section of quotes used that I would think are just from randoms on the internet rather than CIG employees… tho it doesn’t state the source of context in the article.

“While I think the company ultimately came to the right decision…CIG’s slow and hesitant response and general lack of communication hit hard for employees that are already low on morale and feel this company doesn’t care about them,” said one source. (them not us?)

 “With all those things on top of a game that feels like it’s coming closer and closer to a gacha for expensive ships and no actual gameplay, useless features being constantly shoved in and removed, where marketing holds absolute power over any other department, employees start to feel disheartened after awhile.” Again that sounds like some external I reckon.