Video game quality assurance testers at Keywords Studios report they have been pressured to work on-site as upper management works from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an investigative report from RankandFile.ca published Sunday.
QA testers at the Montreal location detailed under cover of anonymity a workplace in which there is inadequate preventative supplies like hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes, and, additionally in which QA testers must share certain devices to complete their tasks.
“We still share devices. By devices I mean like, phones,” one tester told RankandFile.ca. “A lot of us work in mobile. The only thing we have is wipes and they’re telling us to be diligent with them. The VR headsets are definitely being shared. The only thing they’re saying is to wipe them down before they use them, but that’s it.”
The company sent memos from March 15 to 19 to its employees and contractors detailing social distancing measures taken to help prevent spread of the coronavirus which mostly allow certain employees, including upper management, to work from home. Due to the non-disclosure agreement complications that arise from testing games under wraps, QA testers were allegedly not given the option to work from home.
A memo from the company dated March 17 is offering employees free coffee for the next two weeks, but allegedly nothing in the way of other supplies. Memos released to Keywords Studios workers reminded them to wash their hands frequently and to clean devices thoroughly, despite alleged inadequate resources to clean devices. Multiple hand sanitizing stations were even physically removed from the building, according to one employee. According to one employee, testers in a Japan facility for the company are being provided with more preventative measures and care than the Montreal studio.
“It just feels like they care more about them than us,” he said.
Leaked internal memos leaked reveal a company concerned with its bottom line.
“By shutting down,” a March 17 document stated, “The Studio would simply not have any revenue stream coming, making paying salaries almost impossible.”
The company has in place certain policies to prevent spread of the coronavirus, including a mandatory two week stay-at-home period for workers who have traveled outside of Canada to “affected areas,” according to a March 13 document detailing “Health and Safety Precautions.” However, testers still report that they feel measures the company has taken are inadequate. Additionally, there is the fear that penalization for falling short of expected work quotas will drive some to continue coming into work, even if symptomatic.
“If someone doesn’t have the sick days and can’t afford to not work for two weeks, they’re going to go in,” one tester said. “I can guarantee that there are going to be people who, simply because there’s a lack of compensation, cannot afford not to work for two weeks. I can’t afford not to work for two weeks. If I get sick I am pretty much screwed.”
As of publication time, Keywords Studios did not respond to a request for comment.
Do you work in the games industry? Reach out to me with details of how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted you at lizlanierwrites at gmail.com.