The Chinese Room, who you may know from PC ventures Dear Esther and Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs, as well as recent PS4 exclusive smash hit Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture, have lost one of their studio heads. Jessica Curry announced on their official blog that she would be stepping down in her role, though will remain as a Company Director in terms of the boardroom. She said the decision came down to three factors: her health, how she felt the company had been treated by Sony and the nigh-endless sexism she had experienced in the role.
On the first, Jessica said she is suffering from a degenerative disease that no amount of treatment is going to fix. She also admitted to pushing herself far too hard while working on Rapture, “I thought if I kept running then I could always keep the disease just out of reach. I was so wrong. In June I got very ill. I was in LA working on the final mix of the game and I got so poorly that I genuinely thought I was going to be brought home in a coffin.” This lead to her decision to, for the good of herself and her family and friends, step back from work.
Jessica also cited stressful circumstances surrounding the relationship with Sony during the development of Rapture. She doesn’t go into specifics due to The Chinese Room’s still-active partnership with the Playstation owner, and makes it clear that she is only speaking for herself when she says that “I look back at the way we were treated and it still makes me shake my head with disbelief. Big business and the creation of art have always been extremely uncomfortable bedfellows and making Rapture proved to be no exception for me. I don’t want to do this anymore- in fact I can’t do it. I want to surround myself with honest, open people whom I can trust.”
She goes on to give something of a call to arms, responding to claims that this is just the way the industry is with “What I would say to that is while we all keep accepting this, while we are so afraid to challenge this behaviour then it won’t change and we all deserve nothing but the meager crumbs we are thrown.”
Her criticism of the industry doesn’t stop there, with a final point going into detail about the sexism she has faced from peers, the media and others:
“On a personal level I look back at my huge contribution to the games that we’ve made and I have had to watch Dan [Pinchbeck, husband and fellow Chinese Room Studio Head] get the credit time and time again. I’ve had journalists assuming I’m Dan’s PA, I have been referenced as “Dan Pinchbeck’s wife” in articles, publishers on first meeting have automatically assumed that my producer is my boss just because he’s a man, one magazine would only feature Dan as Studio Head and wouldn’t include me. When Dan has said “Jess is the brains of the operation” people have knowingly chuckled and cooed that it’s nice of a husband to be so kind about his wife. I don’t have enough paper to write down all of the indignities that I’ve faced.”
In stepping away, she calls it a rejection of “the society that still can’t cope with the fact that a woman might just be as talented as the man she shares her life with.” Jessica will be working on independent projects, though still writing music for The Chinese Room’s games. Her office will remain in their new building for the forseeable future.
The full blog post is frank, powerful and more than a little sad. I’d recommend reading it, and good luck to Jessica in everything she does next.