ESA appoints Stanley Pierre-Louis as CEO amid rumours of a ‘toxic environment’

The Entertainment Software Association has appointed acting CEO Stanley Pierre-Louis permanently into the post.

Pierre-Louis moved temporarily into the position last year when then-ESA president and CEO, Michael Gallagher, stepped down.

Pierre-Louis’ appointment comes in the wake of a damning Variety report that details a “toxic environment rife with internal politics, witch hunts and in-fighting” that has seen half of the association’s leadership quit – either by choice or after being fired – and a survey of member companies depicting “waning faith in the organisation and its efforts”. An internal survey obtained by Variety also indicated “a lack of trust by the general public of the game industry”.

It appears that Gallagher’s split with the ESA came after board members conducted one-on-one interviews with members of his staff at the association’s Washington, D.C. HQ. According to Variety, most employees would only speak to the outlet under conditions of anonymity and over the course of the investigation, the ESA “checked phone records of employees and fired one seemingly without cause, later offering a settlement in exchange for his silence”.

Staff reported concerns about Gallagher’s management style. According to University of California-Irvine professor Constance Steinkuehler, Gallagher offered unsolicited management advice at GDC 2017, reportedly saying: “He said he really learned about how to maximize your workplace [at his previous jobs]. One thing he said was that if you had not burned people out in three years you probably haven’t been working them hard enough. Another was that pitting people against each other competitively was a way to really get the most of them.”

“We are an organisation that looks forward and thinks about how we best benefit industry,” Pierre-Louis told in response to the allegations. “What I see here are people excited about working for our industry, who are focused on the challenges ahead and can meet that challenge through their great skill and expertise in what they do.

“Our members strive to have the best workplaces possible to create the best work possible, and that’s what you see in the products they release, the ecosystems they build, and the devices they make,” he added, reflecting on recent reports that detail toxicity in the workplace, crunch culture, and misogyny. “The specifics of our member companies and their employees really rests with them. But what we know of our industry and our member companies is that they are very focused on creating dynamic workplaces so their teams can produce a high quality of work.”

About Vikki Blake

It took 15 years of civil service monotony for Vikki to crack and switch to writing about games. She has since become an experienced reporter and critic working with a number of specialist and mainstream outlets in both the UK and beyond, including Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, IGN, MTV, and Variety.

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