In February, Texas faced a winter storm that left much of the state without power. Many residents experienced frozen and burst water pipes, a lack of water treatment, difficulty finding food, and no running water for days amid frigid temperatures. Unsurprisingly this includes some employees of Cloud Imperium Games, developer of Star Citizen, which has an office in Austin, Texas.
Speaking to Kotaku, several anonymous CIG employees criticized upper management at Cloud Imperium Games for showing a lack of support and understanding during the crisis and for not suspending operations during a state-wide emergency that left dozens of Texas residents dead. Kotaku's sources also say CIG management failed to communicate the severity of the winter storms to the rest of the company (which has offices in the UK and Germany) and that employees were instructed to use paid time off (PTO, or vacation time) for missed days of work in the aftermath of the storm.
According to Kotaku's report, a manager at Austin's CIG office told employees, some of whom had no electricity due to the Texas power grid failure, to plan how they would make up for lost work time, since CIG's operations remained up and running during the storm. “Assuming roads are clear we also can manage a few people in the studio," the manager reportedly said. "If all else fails then enter PTO for whatever time you cannot make up."
"Losing power and internet was not a ‘snow day’-type break," a source at CIG told Kotaku. "It brought on stress of how to survive, keep babies and pets alive, and was by no means an enjoyable break for anyone who couldn’t work.”
“In response to further expressions of concern, we were told to work directly with our managers for help,” one source said. "Yet, managers were facing the same crisis as the rest of us, and some lacked any method of communication for days." A source also told Kotaku that when employees asked why CIG wasn't completely suspending operations, as many Texas game studios were (including EA), they did not receive an answer from CIG management.
“I have nothing but nice things to say about my coworkers here in Austin," said one of Kotaku's sources. "The amount of care we have for one another is phenomenal. My issue solely stems with upper management’s handling of the situation.”
Another issue cited by sources was that CIG employees and management at other offices seemed completely unaware of how dire the situation in Texas was. "Head leadership for the company never appeared to acknowledge that we even faced a natural disaster and seemed to completely neglect to communicate our situation to other studios," said a source. Some employees at other studios seemed to think the crisis involved tornadoes, while some reportedly thought employees in Austin just wanted a "snow day" off work.
It appears CIG has reversed its stance on having employees use PTO to make up for missed work days. Kotaku's report says CIG's director, Chris Roberts, has since sent out an email telling employees they would be paid in full for work days missed during the Texas weather emergency.
“While I think the company ultimately came to the right decision," a source told Kotaku. "CIG’s slow and hesitant response and general lack of communication hit hard for employees that are already low on morale and feel this company doesn’t care about them."