Star Citizen QA tester is out of a job after pushing back against the company’s return-to-office policy [Updated]

    
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“Today, I lost my job at Cloud Imperium Games for standing up for my fellow coworkers,” opens a LinkedIn post by a former employee for Star Citizen.

Kiplan Case, a QA tester who worked at CIG’s Austin, Texas, office, writes in the post that he argued in support of workers who are “being forced to return to office after they made the decision to get rid of their vaccine policy,” additionally alleging that those who have at-risk family members or who are immunocompromised themselves were given “a small extension of time before being required to Return to Office (RTO).” He was out of a job sometime after the matter, with no direct context about whether he was fired or quit in protest.

According to Case, the matter is being exacerbated by the cost of living in the Austin area, which is suffering from high gas prices that are affecting all of the US, while many of his former co-workers have reportedly had to move back in with family after being kicked out of their homes due to missed rent. “No one who works in the fastest growing form of media in the industry – video games – should be unable to afford a home at some point in their career,” he writes.

Chris Roberts himself has gone on record as saying that work from home requirements caused by COVID have delayed feature releases to Star Citizen, and CIG has been building a new Manchester, UK, office, so this drive to return to an office life is likely without dispute. It also goes against the evolving reality of office work in a pandemic world, particularly since companies like Bungie, ArenaNet, Cryptic, and even ABK have either gone fully remote or offer in-office and WFH hybrid options for their devs.

This also isn’t the first time the Austin office has been in the headlines, as devs there were reportedly mistreated during the Texas snowstorm of last year.

source: LinkedIn, thanks to Mazty for the tip!
Longtime MMORPG gamers will know that Star Citizen was originally Kickstarted for over $2M back in 2012 with a planned launch for 2014. As of 2022, it still lingers in an incomplete but playable alpha, having raised over $450M from gamers over years of continuing crowdfunding and sales of in-game ships and other assets. It is currently the highest-crowdfunded video game ever and has endured both indefatigable loyalty from advocates and immense skepticism from critics. A co-developed single-player title, Squadron 42, has also been repeatedly delayed.
Update 6/24
A source inside CIG has now provided additional clarity on the situation for MassivelyOP, including emails from the worker as well as from management.

The source notes that Case had worked with CIG four months and relocated to Austin for the position. According to the documents shared with us, Case sent a company-wide declaration to CIG on June 7th that essentially makes similar claims as in the Linkedin post: that CIG employees were being forced back to work without a vaccination requirement in place, that workers who asked for extensions were not given adequate review, that CIG had not followed through on commute considerations, that bonuses are being reduced for cost of living adjustments, and that CIG was retaliating against workers who spoke up. “I refuse to work until mandatory RTO is lifted [and] our pay meets the demand of today’s economy,” Case concludes.

CIG Chief People Officer Eric Kieron Davis then responded to the email, diplomatically and at length on the same day. According to the copy provided to MOP, Davis says that return-to-office is being staggered by department, that “no one has been ordered to RTO a mandatory 5 days a week,” and that extension requests are continuing to be considered. “For recent hires such as yourself, who were told that we would RTO as soon as it was safe to do so, you would have negotiated at the time of your hiring any full of hybrid RTO approach that meets your needs on the road to working in person again,” he says. Davis further rebuts the claims about stipends and COLA (which he says were “disproportionately beneficial to [CIG’s] lower-paid staff”), though they did not apply to the newest staff who again could negotiate during their hire. Ultimately, while Davis encourages employees to speak to their managers or to him about this topic (or speak up during the company town halls), he does concur that anyone refusing to work will be fired, which seems to be Case’s fate.

Ultimately, several of Case’s claims seem to be misunderstandings or mischaracterizations of the overall situation within CIG. However, it does appear to be true that CIG has dropped its vaccine mandate and is gradually compelling workers back into the office, just not all in one fell swoop, and not without consideration for the health and finances of workers (as the worker implied).

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