The International Game Developers Association’s (IGDA) chair of its Women in Games (WIG) Special Interest Group (SIG) has stepped down following allegations of abuse.
Victims claimed that “multiple informal complaints” had been filed to IGDA regarding Jennifer Scheurle (also lead game designer at Black Bird Interactive) following by formal complaints being lodged in 2019 and 2020. There were apparently over 120 pages of statements and evidence.
Last night (September 16), Scheurle issued a statement via Twitter to announce that she would be stepping down from her role as IGDA WIG SIG chair immediately.
I’m sorry this took so long. I wanted to make adequate time to consider everyone affected by the situation. pic.twitter.com/4Rdd7xxtrS
— Jennifer Scheurle (@Gaohmee) September 16, 2021
While the complaints made internally to IGDA date back a few years, it appears the allegations surfaced publicly following the GameHers Awards, which recognises “women and femme identifying people of marginalised genders in all aspects of gaming”. The program announced its nominations earlier this week (September 13), where Scheurle was a nominee in categories including ‘Rising Leader’ and ‘Advocate of the Year’.
“Jennifer Scheurle should not be nominated for anything let alone a ‘Rising Leader’ award,” tweeted Noni Och, a developer who came forward with the allegations, having previously shared her experience of being “manipulated and essentially groomed” by Scheurle.
The woman I’m talking about here is Jennifer Scheurle https://t.co/BTNrREvFfp
— noni och (@NinNons) September 15, 2021
“I have always tried to embody the value of believing victims and this does not change with the accused being myself,” Scheurle said in her statement. “Many people I love are hurting and I wish to not bring any more harm to any of you. I’m sorry for any harm I have caused Noni and others, both past and present.”
She has also stated that she will retract all nominations for awards, upcoming speaking and writing gigs, and will also refrain from advocacy work.
Prior to Scheurle’s resignation, IGDA released a statement regarding the allegations, confirming “After thorough investigation, the submitter of the complaint was informed there was not [sic] compelling evidence of wrongdoing. They were also invited to submit additional materials in the future to have the investigation reopened.”
Rob Cunningham, CEO of Blackbird Interactive, has shared the following statement with NME:
“Blackbird takes harassment very seriously, and we will take action to protect members of our team from inappropriate behaviour in all forms. We are investigating whether events like the ones discussed on Twitter in the last week have occurred at Blackbird in any capacity, by anyone.”
“We are enlisting the aid of third party services to enable anonymous reporting and investigative processes that are thorough and free of any corporate bias. Out of consideration for privacy, we will not comment on individual cases, but we will act decisively to support the comfort and safety of all Blackbird employees.”
“We recognize that the games industry has long been caught in a cycle of silence and abuse, that none of us are above reproach, and that the work to make our industry a better place requires a never-ending effort from us all.”
Elsewhere, images of what the Steam Deck’s UI looks like on a desktop have surfaced online.