This week, Sonic Speed Simulator developer Gamefam has reached a settlement with the National Labor Relations Board regarding an early 2023 complaint. GamesIndustry.biz reports Gamefam put developer Joshua DeBoer on leave after DeBoer discussed the studio’s salaries with other employees to identify if Gamefam payed below industry expectations for the duties involved.
DeBoer explains, CEO Joe Ferencz reacted strongly to DeBoer asking others about salaries and insinuated that DeBoer was not being a team player. Polygon quotes DeBoer, “He was like, ‘Do you think it’s good to go among your colleagues and spread dissafaction? You need to be seen as a leader if you want to stay here long.’” The NLRB settlement compensates DeBoer $5,000 for previously unpaid bonuses, and Gamefam was required to post employees notification of their rights to discuss pay with each other.
Gamefam lists a broad stable of games, brand integration partnerships, and special events across Roblox, Minecraft, and Fortnite. Gamefam's website even touts Sonic Speed Simulator, an officially licensed Sonic game, as "the biggest standalone branded game launch in Roblox history"; however, the studio previously faced accusations in December from two former employees for poor communication, lower-than-average pay, overloading responsibilities, and encouraging a crunch culture among developers.
This pattern of behavior has drawn ire from fans, who previously pushed the tag "#SonicSweatshopSimulator" on Twitter, and now the Sonic the Hedgehog Subreddit has placed a permanent ban on Speed Simulator content. While some have grouped Gamefam's issues with the broader child labor and low compensation issues associated with the Roblox platform as a whole, it's worth highlighting that Gamefam is a professional development studio outside of the Roblox Corporation. The company partners with license holders to create branded experiences, and job listings expect significant education and experience in game development. One would expect (or hope) a developer presenting itself as Gamefam does understands industry standards of pay, and the legal rights of employees.
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