Indie studio Funomena closes doors after reports of toxicity

ORIGINAL STORY, 3/30/2022, 8:42 AM: In the wake of a scathing expose about toxic workplace leadership, indie studio Funomena is reportedly shutting down. People Make Games producer Chris Bratt broke the news on Tuesday, March 29, in a short tweet thread, with employees apparently caught by surprise by the news, and contractors paid off as the studio shuts down at the end of the month.

UPDATE, 3/30/2022, 1:42 PM: About three hours after the news broke, Funomena has since tweeted that they have been seeking venture funding, and had almost inked a deal before GDC. Unspoken is the implication that their funding quest is not going well. Funomena has told employees that if the search fails, then the studio will close down.

ORIGINAL STORY CONTINUES: Funomena, which was responsible for Luna and Wattam, projected an image of being a diverse and supportive workplace for those looking to enter the indie game sphere. Studio head Robin Hunicke was particularly known for being something of an industry activist, renowned for her efforts to promote gender equality and a less bigoted and more diverse games industry and gaming culture.

However, behind the scenes, Hunicke seems to have done the exact opposite of cultivating the supportive work environment that she preached. On March 18, People Make Games released a hard-hitting video detailing emotional abuse and toxic workplace behavior by senior figures at three well-regarded indie game studios, Mountains, Fullbright, and Funomena from 2019 onwards.

Robin Hunicke, co-founder and executive producer at Funomena

The PMG video was an indictment of the cult of the auteur designer and the culture of big name dev hotshots combined with a fuzzy and friendly indie reputation that made it exceedingly difficult for employees to stand up to emotionally abusive behavior by studio leaders. Florence developers Mountains shut down in 2021, and now Funomena appears to be the latest casualty.

While numerous sources have picked up on the report, there has been no official word from Funomena or Robin Hunicke. Last week, Hunicke issued a vaguely worded apology via Twitter, in which she alluded to but did not directly mention those controversial revelations. “Leadership is a journey, and often a difficult one,” tweeted Hunicke. “It saddens me to know people are hurting from mistakes I’ve made. I am truly sorry. Right now I’m taking time to talk to people, focus on the feedback everyone is sharing, and figure out next steps.”