Naughty Dog, the Sony-owned studio behind Uncharted and The Last Of Us, has responded to the claims of sexual harassment from a former employee. In a series of tweets this weekend, David Ballard, who was an environment artist at the studio, alleged that he was “sexually harassed at Naughty Dog by a lead,” whom he did not name.
“My work environment became extremely toxic afterward,” Ballard said, adding that the alleged harassment took place in late 2015. In February 2016, Ballard said he had a “mental breakdown” while at work and at this time PlayStation’s HR department got involved. He said he informed HR about the alleged harassment and they “fired me the next day.”
“They cited the company was moving in a different direction and my job was no longer needed,” Ballard said, adding that he was offered $20,000 from HR if he signed a document agreeing to the layoff and that he would not speak about the terms to anyone.
Ballard said he declined to sign this. He has been out of a job for 17 months. He said he has had interviews for new positions, and when a prospective employer asks why he left Naughty Dog, he allegedly tells them that he was “burned out by the crunch” because he is too ashamed to speak about his claims of sexual harassment.
Ballard went on to say that he’s speaking out now because of the “strength I’ve seen in others coming forward about their experiences in the TV/Film industry,” potentially a reference to the current situation regarding disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.
“This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I will not let anyone kill my drive or love for the video game industry, my passions or life,” Ballard said.
Naughty Dog’s statement goes on to say that, “We have not found any evidence of having received allegations from Mr. Ballard that he was harassed in any way at Naughty Dog or Sony Interactive Entertainment.
It goes on: “Harassment and inappropriate conduct have no place at Naughty Dog and Sony Interactive Entertainment. We have taken and always will take reports of sexual harassment and other workplace grievances very seriously. We value every single person who works at Naughty Dog and Sony interactive Entertainment. It is of utmost importance to us that we maintain a safe, productive workplace environment that allows us all to channel our shared passion for making games.”
Ballard’s LinkedIn page shows that he attended the Art Institute of Houston, earning a BFA in Media Arts and Animation. He worked as a 3D artist for TimeGate Studios from 2007-2008, working on the shooter Section 8. He joined Naughty Dog in February 2009, contributing to Uncharted 2, 3 and 4, as well as The Last of Us. Ballard moved to Ubisoft in 2014 in the position of senior environment artist, before returning to Naughty Dog in May 2015, where he held the title of multiplayer level layout artist.