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Gender Discrimination, Bullying Pervasive Across Paradox Interactive, Report Claims

"Offensive treatment is a systematic and far too common problem at Paradox," a report concludes.

Crusader Kings

Swedish game publisher Paradox Interactive, the company behind such popular PC strategy hits as Crusader Kings III and BattleTech, has a pervasive “culture of silence” defined by bullying and gender discrimination, according to a survey carried out by Unionen and Sveriges Ingenjörer, two Swedish union organizations.

At Paradox Interactive, the parent company of developer Paradox Development Studio, 44 percent of 133 surveyed employees claimed they experienced some form of “mistreatment” at the company’s Swedish locations. Just over a quarter of those respondents were women, of which 69 percent said they had experienced abuse in the workplace. Over 400 employees work at Paradox’s various Swedish offices, according to GamesIndustry.biz.

“Mistreatment is a systemic and far too common issue at Paradox,” the unions’ report concludes.

The union survey only recorded experiences from employees working in Sweden. Paradox also has offices in Seattle, Berkeley, Barcelona, and Paris. It remains unclear how work conditions compare in non-Swedish workplaces.

The publisher is currently developing a “comprehensive employee survey” amid the report’s release, vowing in a company email to bring “an external, neutral company to conduct a thorough review of our process.”

Last week, Paradox’s CEO Ebba Ljungerud stepped down from the company amid “differing views on the company’s strategy going forward.” Paradox’s new CEO Fredrik Wester told Swedish news outlet Breakit that Ljungerud’s departure is unrelated.

Employees’ allegations against Paradox follow just one month after Activision Blizzard was struck with a California anti-discrimination lawsuit regarding intense sexual harassment at the company. The case sparked a larger conversation in the gaming industry about misogyny and workplace exploitation across game development studios large and small.

Update Sept. 6 9:54am CT: When reached for comment, Paradox Interactive PR Manager Jesse Henning told We Got This Covered that the company is aware of the original Breakit article, the employee survey, and its results, which he called “obviously not satisfactory.”

“The management team wants to ensure this data is acted upon, but taking immediate, direct action is legally difficult thanks to the informal nature of the survey (and thanks to the results being shared just before we underwent this CEO change, which has been fairly busy for us),” Henning said. “We are currently working to reconcile the informal survey with our own internal research, and are eager to take action.”

Henning also confirmed that Paradox is bringing in a firm to audit the company’s processes and conduct an internal survey. “This will help us advance our efforts towards all of the subjects that we’ve worked to improve in recent years—harassment and abuse will be paramount among these, but we’ll also be examining subjects like unbiased hiring and compensation, ongoing bias awareness, inclusion, and more,” he said.

Update Sept. 6 10:15am CT: Magne Skjæran, a SACO and Unionen boards representative at Paradox, clarified to We Got This Covered that the union report only surveyed Swedish employees, and that survey conductors do not know “how the Swedish offices compare to the non-Swedish ones.” Additional context has been added to the report above.

Skjæran also provided a correction to a mistranslated quote above regarding systemic mistreatment at Paradox. Both errors were attributed to GamesIndustry.biz’s original report.

“Beyond that, we would also like to highlight that we’re not aware of any connection between our survey and the change in CEO,” Skjæran told We Got This Covered.

About the author

Ana Valens

Ana Valens is the former managing editor for We Got This Covered. She is a reporter and published author best known for her work on internet subcultures and sexuality. Alongside her work at WGTC, she has previously contributed to the Daily Dot, Vice, Allure, Fanbyte, Polygon, and Autostraddle.