IGN editorial team downed tools until sexual harassment issues were commented on

Popular gaming media website IGN faced a tumultuous Monday. Last week, IGN was rocked with scandal following accusations of sexual harassment and a poor company response. With the news spreading across the industry, yesterday saw the editorial team refuse to work as a protest to the company’s handling of the accusations.

The news of the stand of solidarity came yesterday from IGN’s Daily Fix host Alanah Pearce via Twitter. Pearce announced that there would be no Daily Fix that day as “a large group of IGN employees” refused to push out content until a statement or apology was released regarding Kallie Plagge.

Kallie Plagge was a former IGN employee who currently works at GameSpot. Plagge made waves last week Friday when she revealed how she was sexually harassed whilst working at IGN. Plagge took to Twitter to share her past experiences of sexual harassment and assault. It was another instance of a person coming forward as part of the #MeToo campaign, which sees women and men share stories of how they faced sexual harassment and misconduct in their past.

In the Twitter post, Plagge went into detail about her experience of harassment during her time at IGN. She recounted how then editor Vincent Ingenito made inappropriate comments to her and a fellow female employee. While she saw Ingenito as a mentor, he began to make comments she found deeply inappropriate. She referred to the comments at times being “manipulative and abusive” while others were “overtly sexual” in nature.

Yet Plagge’s accusations were not only focused on Ingenito, but included her failed attempt to seek help. After Ingenito’s comments, within the same year, Plagge took her concerns to the Human Resources department of IGN. She recalls that during the first meeting the representative found fault in Plagge’s associations and how this was a case of “inappropriate flirtation”. The blame was placed on Plagge herself for Ingenito’s comments.

She continued to seek help by approaching her then boss (who is not specifically named in her post) only to meet a similar dismissive response. Plagge was told that with regards to the entire harassment issue, they “just wanted the unpleasantness to be over”. There were further issues with HR continuing to push the narrative that Plagge herself provoked the comments from Ingenito through her body. She was then forced to sign a document “admitting” to her flirtatious actions and that she too, was at fault. Should she behave inappropriately again, there could be grounds for her dismissal.

Kotaku was able to acquire the document that Plagge and the other unnamed female employee signed. The document states: “With regards to the investigation of harassment, evidence was presented to show a lack of professionalism in your part as well as others. Communication between you and Vince were both inappropriate, unprofessional, and violated our harassment policy.”

Plagge told Kotaku that the biggest mistake she made was contacting HR. She referred to the handling of her case as “an absolutely traumatic experience for me.” Plagge would eventually leave IGN at the end of 2016 to take a new position of Associate Editor at GameSpot. Ingenito would remain at IGN until being released in March of 2017.

Ingenito did respond to Plagge’s accusations across fifteen Tweets an hour after the initial post by Plagge. Ingenito apologised for his behaviour and noted how it came from a place of misunderstanding in their relationship. He saw himself as a friend of Plagge instead of a mentor, believing she was comfortable with the more personal and open comments. Ingenito denies making any inappropriate or “lewd” comments about her body. He also denies making any sexual advances and describes all discussions of a sexual nature between them as “voluntary”.

With the story breaking late Friday, Monday morning found the IGN staff standing by Plagge in a show of solidarity. IGN had yet to release a statement by the time Pearce tweeted the news of the protest. The show of unity was due to what many felt was a gross mishandling of the matter by the HR department.

Hours following Pearce’s announcement, a statement was released by IGN. It came directly from the content team prefacing the write-up with “not by management or legal or anyone else”. The statement directly states that the protest originated from the failure of the Human Resource department. It was important for the team to stand behind one another to prevent occurrences of a similar nature in the future. The statement goes on to say that the previous HR representative that handled Plagge’s matter is no longer with the company. The replacement has already taken steps for greater transparency and has started to work alongside the staff. Even the tweet sharing the statement addresses the company as having failed two female employees.

IGN’s general manager and Vice-president Mitch Galbraith e-mailed the staff regarding the protest and the HR investigation. The email can be found within the Kotaku story, since it was not been directly published. Galbraith noted that IGN “must do better delivering on our commitment to a safe and harassment-free work environment for employees.” The e-mail also announces the initiation of an investigation to examine the initial reports by the HR department and any failures in Plagge’s case. He also promised the staff that the entire HR department would have a stronger presence going forward. The email ended with Galbraith stating: “I’m not going to reiterate IGN’s commitment to a safe and harassment free work environment. Instead I am going to work with all of you to prove it with our actions and results from here on out.”

This is not the only case within the last month of protest, following sexual harassment claims. In October, popular message board NeoGAF saw a mass exodus following revelations of the owner’s sexual misconduct. As the days go on, more women and men are being empowered to share their stories to create awareness of the prevalent issues. Plagge is not likely the only person to face harassment within the video game media, and likely her openness about it will lead others to come forward.

Credit to Kotaku for further information on the story.

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