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HomeTechnologyGadgets'Everything Is a Story' Inside Wyrmwood Gaming's Narcissistic Funhouse

‘Everything Is a Story’ Inside Wyrmwood Gaming’s Narcissistic Funhouse

“Can’t I just say what happened?” A tall man in a flat cap asks, trying across the sparse assembly room. “Isn’t truth an absolute defense?” This is Doug Costello, the CEO of Wyrmwood Gaming. “It is,” says head of HR Bas Antoine, “if you have the whole story.” The two commute, brainstorming a response, Costello repeatedly trying right into a digicam as he dramatically recounts allegations of sexual assault. “The person who was allegedly raped never worked at the company,” he says, eyebrows raised. “I don’t know her name.”

The scene is from a fourteen-minute video titled “Wyrmwood Responds to SA Allegations,” a file of a bunch of males discussing what to do about recently-surfaced allegations of sexual assault at their firm. Throughout the video, Costello makes statements like: “You have to get police involved.” He mentions alcohol as an element within the allegation. In a part of the video, Wyrmwood’s lawyer, Frank E. Biedak, provides the go forward to share the video on their YouTube channel, alongside a written assertion.

Wyrmwood Gaming is an unusually clear firm; whereas its core enterprise is making luxurious wooden merchandise for tabletop avid gamers, together with cube trays, deck packing containers and gaming tables, its executives appear equally involved with the manufacturing of Wyrm Lyfe, a YouTube-based actuality present centered on their each day actions on the firm, filmed with handheld cameras and uploaded two to a few instances per week.

The program has over 100,000 subscribers, and followers normally reply to new movies with reward or earnest questions. But the sexual assault dialogue was not Wyrmwood’s normal content material. Comments on YouTube, Reddit, and Twitter decried the video as a “tone-deaf” and “harmful” method to deal with critical allegations. Several company companions, together with Dispel Dice and the psychological well being group Take This, introduced they might finish their relationships with Wyrmwood. The firm took the video down from YouTube in lower than two days.

In a press release addressing the allegations, Wyrmwood mentioned: “We take any allegation of inappropriate conduct, including, but not limited to, sexual assault, sexual misconduct and safety issues, very seriously. We consider the safety and well-being of our employees a top priority. To that end, we’ve made very significant investments in HR and Safety and will continue to do so.”

But after io9 reviewed a saved copy of the video and commenced to research, it grew to become clear this incident is emblematic of an organization that seems to prioritize the picture and ego of its executives over the individuals who work for it. Over the course of this investigation io9 spoke to almost fifty sources, together with present and former staff, who shared tales that included allegations of rampant misogyny, bullying, harmful working situations, and sexual harassment and assault.

Doug Costello declined to reply to these allegations through cellphone or e mail; he invited io9 to go to one of many firm’s retailers, however we have been unable attributable to time constraints. io9 provided to interview any consultant of the corporate in its place; Costello declined to cross the supply alongside. The solely present government of Wyrmwood Gaming who spoke to io9 on the file for this text was Bas Antoine, head of HR.

While Wyrmwood Gaming needs to persuade audiences that it’s only a cool bunch of goofballs doing their finest, there’s rot on the firm extending deep into the heartwood of its construction. At its heart: co-owner/co-founder and CEO Doug Costello.

What is Wyrmwood Gaming?

Wyrmwood Gaming is a Taunton, Massachusetts-based wooden store and manufacturing firm that produces luxurious gaming furnishings and equipment. Established in 2012 by brothers Doug and Ian Costello, the enterprise was based mostly out of a interest woodshop of their mother and father’ barn, and offered its wares at native gaming shops. Within months, the pair teamed up with native avid gamers and woodworkers Eric Dupuis and Ed Maranville.

In October 2013, Wyrmwood launched its first Kickstarter, to fund the development of handcrafted wood cube vaults. The marketing campaign accomplished after 27 days, having raised $84,460 from 1,423 backers. (To date, Wyrmwood has efficiently accomplished 24 Kickstarter campaigns; its newest, concluded on March 17, raised $1,923,029, with greater than 5,000 backers making $299 deposits for tables that would price anyplace from $1,700 to upwards of $10,000, relying on wooden and configuration.)

Soon after, Wyrmwood expanded to a mid-size store, then to the present location in Taunton, and most just lately by buying Keystone Furniture in Pennsylvania to behave as a end store.

During each development spurt, Wyrmwood skilled rising pains. John Savage, a woodworker who was on the firm for 3 years beginning in 2015, recollects that growing manufacturing to meet Kickstarter orders confirmed a “lack of planning… [management] told us we would be able to make a product in a certain way and then when we tried to bring it to scale, we would find major flaws in the production.”

“Doug is the type of person that throws stuff at the wall, says co-founder Eric Dupuis. “He fundamentally doesn’t believe in competency.” In an episode of Wyrm Lyfe, after Costello boasts that his skillset is in entrepreneurship, not “managing a large company with proper financials,” Wyrmwood social media supervisor turned actuality present producer Bobby Downey chimes in, saying “and we’ve been faking it pretty good.” Nobody contradicts him.

In 2020, Wyrmwood’s Modular Game Table crowdfunding marketing campaign grew to become probably the most profitable fundraisers Kickstarter ever hosted, bringing in practically 9 million {dollars} and massively growing demand on the store. During this era of speedy growth, and whereas coping with the COVID-19 pandemic, the corporate jumped from 50 folks to almost 120, and expanded right into a second store location in Pennsylvania.

It was throughout this transition that Wyrmwood introduced in Mike Saltzman, who started to take over a whole lot of the chief day-to-day operations of the job. Saltzman declined to talk about the issues on the firm attributable to contractual restrictions, however mentioned in a written assertion to io9 that he left shortly after becoming a member of the corporate, following an argument “that highlighted significant professional differences, primarily between Doug [Costello] and myself.”

Despite the high-pressure atmosphere, most of the staff of Wyrmwood–the folks making the cube trays and towers and vaults and tables–mentioned they cherished their jobs. “I wanted to be an owner at one point,” mentioned Savage, talking about how a lot he loved the work. “I still have friends there.”

That angle might be traced, partially, to how Wyrmwood employed a bunch of nerdy avid gamers to make lovely, nerdy gaming merchandise. It’s additionally a results of Wyrmwood recruiting from throughout the prolonged circle of family and friends that already labored on the firm, creating an intimate and tight-knit office.

But staff say that in the present day, that sense of camaraderie has gone lacking. “Working there is like being in a cult,” one former worker mentioned, describing how they felt about their former colleagues. “Pretty much [everyone who works at Wyrmwood] are great people,” acknowledged one other former worker beforehand in center administration, “But let me just be blunt about it. I like everyone at the company except for Doug Costello.”

Bad habits on the highest ranges

The first exterior indication that one thing was improper inside Wyrmwood got here in 2020, when Doug Costello publicly resigned as CEO after a battle over COVID security measures. The incident blew over quick, and Costello returned to the place in 2021.

More troubles grew to become public in early 2023, when accusations of sexual assault on the firm started to floor on Twitter. These accusations went viral in gaming communities, as Wyrmwood Gaming is a recognizable title and so they had simply begun their twenty third Kickstarter. A couple of days later, former worker Andrew Oberbeck said on Twitter he was the whistleblower, and he had been fired by Doug straight. Then Wyrmwood Gaming launched their video concerning the state of affairs.

But this incident is just not the one allegation of misconduct made towards Wyrmwood staff. io9 spoke to a number of individuals who allege they’ve been assaulted or harassed by former and present staff at Wyrmwood Gaming: One of those sources retracted their assertion out of concern of retaliation, however two others attest that head of media Bobby Downey had sexually harassed them whereas they have been both staff of Wyrmwood or concerned in a enterprise partnership the corporate. Downey didn’t reply to io9’s request for remark.

One alleged sufferer, a former worker in Wyrmwood’s woodworking division who requested to not be named, recalled an incident that occurred in 2019 after she’d been casually flirting with Downey, however then determined to interrupt it off: He was her oblique boss, and a part-owner of the corporate, so she didn’t really feel snug pursuing a relationship with him, she mentioned. After just a few days of giving Downey a chilly shoulder, he insisted they meet up. When they have been alone, in keeping with the supply, Downey unzipped his pants and uncovered himself. He took his penis out and requested if she was “going to leave him with blue balls.” When the lady refused, he requested if he may care for it himself. The girl, not understanding what to do, mentioned sure. He masturbated in entrance of her, dropped a used tissue, and left.

Selina Heinen, a model consultant who labored with considered one of Wyrmwood’s enterprise companions, described “barrages of flirty text messages” from Downey, who finally informed them, “I think we should have sex.” Heinen says they informed Downey no, and that they didn’t need to date throughout the business for concern of being judged unfairly by colleagues, however Downey promised that having intercourse with him wouldn’t influence Heinen’s popularity. Heinen refused once more, however felt pressured to maintain a cordial relationship with Downey due to their skilled connections.

Accounts of Downey’s alleged unhealthy habits have been repeated by dozens of sources. “Bobby Downey is the worst person who could be representing our company,” mentioned a present worker who requested anonymity. According to a different supply who has attended conventions with Downey, he ceaselessly will get blackout drunk at business occasions: “I have never felt comfortable around Downey,” they mentioned. And one other former worker acknowledged that they’ve seen Downey use cocaine, and solicited girls for sexual favors at company-sponsored meetups. Another former worker recalled having to “tear him off a woman” that Downey had cornered at a celebration.

The feeling that Wyrmwood is just not a welcoming office for ladies extends past accusations of outright sexual harassment. Bas Antoine, Wyrmwood’s head of HR, mentioned that the corporate employs an “above average” variety of girls and nonbinary folks. Antoine mentioned Wyrmwood employs 23% extra girls than business normal. But you wouldn’t realize it from watching Wyrm Lyfe, the place they have an inclination to seem in occasional cameos. Wyrm Lyfe was underneath Bobby Downey’s direct supervision for years, and extensively thought-about “his vanity project,” in keeping with former and present staff. (Antoine mentioned that Downey has shifted away from the venture.)

“The [lack of women] had been brought to [Downey’s] attention multiple times,” mentioned Ted Bumpus, a former worker at Wyrmwood. According to sources, Downey’s excuses for not together with extra girls embody statements like “women aren’t as funny as men,” and “the women at Wyrmwood are too awkward and aggressive to be on camera.”

“He doesn’t treat women like people if they aren’t attractive to him,” mentioned one former worker. Another worker, a non-binary woodworker named Jamezie, who requested that their final title be withheld from this text, recalled being lower out from movies, and having their phrases repeated once more, to digicam, by chief operations officer Ian Costello.

Sources say girls at Wyrmwood are hardly ever promoted, and lots of have been handed over for promotions in favor of males they helped prepare. “Women have the least vertical movement in the company,” mentioned a present worker. “I saw multiple women fail to move up despite being the best craftspeople,” acknowledged one former worker. Antoine says this solely occurred as soon as that he is aware of of since his tenure started in mid-2021, and cited efficiency points as a trigger for the disparity.

But Costello’s views on gender roles and household life is likely to be another excuse girls aren’t getting promoted. According to Ted Bumpus, Costello has described himself as a “natalist” —a time period referring to an ideology that claims the purpose of human existence is replica, and in recent times, a motion that promotes the concept of enhancing the world by spreading superior genetic materials. What’s extra, Bumpus says, Costello permits these beliefs to affect administration choices.

“He once gave a young man who stated his desire to have a family a massive raise in order to support that,” Bumpus mentioned. “He ended up making more money than his manager at the time. It caused a huge ruckus.”

Another former worker attests that Costello has mentioned that “women should aspire to having children,” and implied that in case you don’t have youngsters, you’re a foul particular person.

John Savage recollects a time when he wished to turn out to be the corporate’s conference supervisor, and approached Costello concerning the emptiness. “He basically said… that because I had a wife and children, he couldn’t in good conscience consider me for that position because of the amount of travel that it would require.” Costello himself has 5 youngsters.

Dupuis recollects an incident with Costello in 2017 that precipitated him to step away from Wyrmwood. “We were at a convention and we had a female employee–who is comfortable having her story shared–and we were not being let in early. The employee voiced her frustrations to the security guard and Doug grabbed her by the arm like she was a child and yelled at her.” The incident disturbed Dupuis sufficient to persuade him to take away himself from an organization he had constructed up for practically 5 years.

He mentioned it was inevitable. “You get to a point where somebody disgusts you as a person. And there is no way you can really have a relationship with them.” Dupuis left Wyrmwood in 2019 and offered his shares.

Former Wyrmwood woodworker Alley Livingston recalled the day earlier than she stop her job on the firm. In late 2022, the identical week that an worker practically burned their finger off on an allegedly faulty machine, Wyrm Lyfe posted a video the place Costello states “safety slows you down,” and disparages OSHA. Livingston quoted the video within the firm Discord–their typical mode of communication. The subsequent day, Costello introduced Livingston and her direct supervisor right into a small workplace.

In the workplace have been a bunch of staff, together with John “Johnny” Paquette (Livingston’s direct supervisor, a cousin of the Costellos, and a partial proprietor), Ian Costello, one other supervisor, an HR consultant, and Doug Costello. “Doug stood maybe four feet in front of me and yelled at me,” Livingston recalled. “He said that if he wanted to have his self-esteem hit he’d go read comments in Wyrm Lyfe.” All Livingston had performed was repeat, verbatim, what Costello had mentioned within the publicly-available video; for that infraction, she was introduced into his workplace and screamed at for ten to twenty minutes, in keeping with a number of sources who overheard the incident.

Livingston mentioned that she didn’t reply to the yelling, which appeared to encourage Costello to proceed berating her. “No one stood up for me. Nobody helped me. Nobody intervened. I sort of shut down… because what else are you going to do?”

When Livingston finally apologized—simply to get out of the workplace, she says Costello instantly stopped. “He’s like, ‘okay, I’m good. Are you good?’ And we shook hands. As if nothing had happened.” Livingston stop the following day. The HR consultant who was close by stop shortly after. One former worker mentioned the consultant was “frustrated by the insurmountable HR problems” that Costello introduced.

Wyrmwood’s board of administrators is presently made up of the three majority house owners; brothers Doug and Ian Costello, and Ed Maranville. Women who is likely to be promoted haven’t any feminine allies among the many higher administration and government workforce, and the sources declare that the top-down misogyny has made it unattainable for center managers and craftspeople to fight sexism, even once they try and elevate or promote girls. Currently, solely 4 girls out of an organization of 170 are in administration positions. There is one girl on the chief workforce, however she shares the title “co-manager of conventions” with a person.

“If you’re a woman at Wyrmwood, you know your place in the company,” mentioned Mary Antanavica, a former woodworker who left after she felt her reported harassment claims weren’t taken critically. “And it’s not on top, or even in the middle.”

Disrespect for craftspeople

Despite the numerous income pushed by Wyrmwood’s record-setting Kickstarter campaigns, staff say the corporate didn’t share the wealth with most staff.

According to documentation reviewed by io9 describing the corporate’s insurance policies for raises, earlier than 2020 Wyrmwood operated on a tier-based system the place staff may evaluation how a lot everybody on the firm made, and see a transparent path for the right way to transfer up within the firm. This modified in 2020, when tiers have been eradicated, and staff have been evaluated and given raises on a person foundation.

While the employees on the store flooring have been barely making a greenback or two extra an hour over minimal wage ($15/hour in Massachusetts), a lot of the exec employees and managers had been making $45-70,000, and eight executives, together with the founders and Bobby Downey, have been making $100,000.

Antoine states that presently, Wyrmwoods craftspeople make round $20 an hour, which quantities to roughly $42,000 yearly. In distinction, the common wage of a union journeyman carpenter in Massachusetts is $66,000.

Raises, once they do happen, are usually applied months after the corporate tells their employees to anticipate them. In 2022, the corporate laid off 23 folks simply earlier than Christmas, some sources suspected, to keep away from paying vacation PTO. Antoine mentioned that these layoffs have been “unfortunate” and that the timing was “super shitty.”

Promotions are additionally laborious to get, in keeping with a number of sources, until you’re considered one of Costello’s “favorites.”

“[Costello] tried to bring me into the inner circle in the beginning. So I got things that a lot of other people at the company didn’t,” Bumpus mentioned. “He rewarded me financially very quickly and helped move me up.”

Accusations of nepotism are widespread, and have even been addressed publicly on an episode of Wyrm Lyfe, the place the media workforce’s numerous connections have been laid out. Antoine informed io9 that the media workforce and firm at massive is much less nepotistic now, however admitted that inside a month of arriving at Wyrmwood in 2021 he was promoted to go of HR, regardless of having no particular {qualifications}. He says this is because of his “work ethic.”

Antoine joined Wyrmwood after what one supply described as a “quarter life crisis” whereas engaged on Wall Street in the course of the pandemic. Antoine acknowledged that he labored on the store flooring for lower than a month in 2021 earlier than getting shortly promoted to the chief workforce. His titles presently are; Head of HR, Chief of Business and Sales Officer, and VP of furnishings, which incorporates overseeing the posh recreation desk manufacturing. He has no earlier woodworking or HR expertise, though he acknowledged that he works with consultants with the intention to assist set up programs for worker administration on the firm.

“Safety slows you down”

In summer season of 2020, in the course of the top of the COVID-19 pandemic, Wyrmwood started requiring staff return to its Massachusetts manufacturing unit. Once on website, staff started to note what they considered as probably harmful lapses in office security concerning COVID precautions and hearth prevention. Soon after, a personnel went to Costello straight and requested about enhancing requirements. Costello mentioned that he wished them to ship a formalized doc with their requested modifications, however added that they higher “make it good” or they might be the primary fired if something went improper.

When staff have been able to current their proposal, 18 folks signed out of the roughly 50 folks working on the plant. According to sources, an estimated 15-20 extra folks wished to signal, however feared retaliation from administration. One supply mentioned that they wished to signal and voiced their assist to the organizers however “didn’t want to end up homeless.”

When introduced with the proposal forward of the agreed-upon assembly time and deadline (throughout which Costello was scheduled to satisfy with a small group of employee representatives), Costello modified the phrases; there could be an announcement, not a gathering.

This announcement was filmed and revealed through Wyrm Lyfe, in a video titled ‘Wyrmwood Goes Corporate.’ In this heavily-edited 17-minute clip, Costello bemoans the employees’ calls for for “safety” and “HR,” saying that such issues are “corporate” and can “take away from fun.” He’s unmasked in the course of the pandemic, yelling at a bunch of masked staff who’ve requested for safer working situations, together with his normal gang of executives, together with Ian Costello and Bobby Downey standing behind him. He ends by stepping down as CEO. Two workshop staff resigned later that week in protest. Doug Costello returned to the CEO place lower than a yr later.

The revealed video solely reveals Costello talking, however io9 obtained a recording of the announcement that had not been edited. The full announcement took half-hour, and staff have been speaking again and pushing towards Costello’s tirade the complete time. One employee stops him, saying that “we wanted a simple meeting and you’ve turned it into a circus. Now you have the shitshow you want.” Another says, “nobody asked for your soapboxing.” Towards the top of the recording, Downey says “we’ve got some editing to do.” An worker might be overheard saying “I bet you do.”

There have been different worker considerations over COVID security. Costello and Jason MacDonald–the present lead designer and CEO throughout Costello’s step again from the place–typically traveled interstate between Wyrmwood retailers and didn’t endure government-recommended quarantine. Mask coverage additionally various relying on the chief workforce’s “personal feelings” concerning the state of the pandemic, in keeping with a number of sources.

Costello claims he’s very involved about security, and has mentioned so a number of instances on Wyrm Lyfe, however typically in the identical breath that he begins to disparage the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as overbearing. He describes OSHA rules as “removing agency and adulthood” from staff.

“OSHA has come through the shop multiple times,” mentioned Livingston. “I was contacted by OSHA after I reported an incident, and they told me that Wyrmwood had been reported so many times that they were going to try to fine them on as many things as they could.”

Wyrmwood has a number of OSHA violations on file. They have obtained five serious safety infractions since 2020, together with violations for noise security and improper operation of a forklift. The firm presently owes or has paid practically $30,000 in fines. Wyrmwood states that it’s presently in compliance with OSHA requirements, and so they work with OSHA consultants to determine security rules on the store.

“The company is determined to do things in a way that maximizes speed,” continued Livingston, “and they do so in a way that violates safety standards.” Multiple sources acknowledged that Wyrmwood doesn’t repair issues until it stands to price them one thing in the event that they don’t repair it.

“I have seen more and more injuries as [Costello] pushes the workers to work faster,” mentioned one present worker. Workplace accidents described to io9 embody easily-avoidable errors brought on by an absence of security gear or coaching. Sources report that no one is sufficiently educated on the gear; staff are employed with little to no woodworking expertise and educated to be “just adequate enough.”

One of the store’s worst accidents occurred in 2022, when an worker was working throughout a suspected energy disruption that precipitated a machine to malfunction and clamp down on the worker’s hand. Because the machine didn’t have an emergency cease, the worker’s hand remained clamped between the machine and the wooden they have been working with for 5 to seven seconds, practically burning their finger off. That worker was rushed to the hospital and needed to endure a number of surgical procedures.

Later within the day, a number of sources say, administration tried to gloss over this occasion in a flooring assembly, and tried guilty the worker for the damage, even supposing this machine had been identified to have this difficulty. “I’ve seen this brand go off for no reason,” mentioned one former worker. “I’ve seen one of the managers run over when this machine was malfunctioning and have to unplug the entire machine in order to stop the pneumatic arms with the brands from going up and down.”

The injured worker was presupposed to return to Wyrmwood for “light work,” however earlier than they might return to work, they have been laid off. This worker is now planning to file a office damage go well with.

Another former worker, Matt King, additionally says he bumped into issues attributable to well being points: A most cancers survivor with a power sickness, King labored in customer support, and alleges that he was denied some lodging that will permit him to work successfully, together with a fifteen-minute buffer for his cellphone line to permit versatile begin time. King finally resigned throughout a gathering with administration due to the perceived lack of assist.

“Equality,” King mentioned, “is not equity. My experience at Wyrmwood showed me that I might not ever be able to pursue an equitable career in my life.”

Other issues of safety embody environmental hazards. Masking is just not at all times enforced in areas with excessive mud and chemical content material. The spray room was straight subsequent to the communal lunch desk, and had one industrial fan serving to flow into the fumes, however that fan was blocked by a sheet of plastic.

In a dusty, wood-filled manufacturing unit, hearth extinguishers have been typically lacking, outdated, or uncharged. This may even be seen in a Wyrm Lyfe video, when a security inspector informs Costello of an out-of-charge extinguisher. Costello appears shocked that you’d have to maintain these updated, and laughs when he assessments them and nothing occurs. This video is from two years in the past, however a number of sources reported that fireplace security remains to be not taken critically. For years, the de facto response when the fireplace alarm went off was to see if “any of the managers” have been leaving the world.

Sources additionally say that drug use at Wyrmwood has been an issue, and that staff would smoke marijuana on breaks, and on firm property. While marijuana use isn’t unlawful in Massachusetts, smoking after which working heavy equipment is an clearly unsafe observe. Several staff described incidents the place Costello would catch folks smoking, and ship them house for the day, however acknowledged that “there were no real consequences for smoking weed at work.” Antoine states that that is not the case on the firm.

What is Wyrm Lyfe?

Wyrm Lyfe, the corporate’s YouTube collection, debuted in September of 2018 as a behind-the-scenes have a look at the workshop, firm tradition, and “occasional drama.” Over the previous 4 years the manufacturing has changed into a intentionally constructed, dramatic actuality present concerning the employees of Wyrmwood Gaming.

“When Wyrm Lyfe first came out I thought it was a little funny,” mentioned Savage. “But it’s not really us. It’s supposed to be the shop, and it became this reality show about a bunch of eccentrics who work in the gaming industry but don’t game.” Multiple sources described Wyrm Lyfe as a conceit venture for Costello and Downey.

In a screenshot from a Wyrm Lyfe video, Bobby Downey (L) and Doug Costello learn feedback on a Wyrm Lyfe video.
Screenshot: Wyrmwood

“Wyrmwood is an entertainment company that occasionally does manufacturing,” mentioned a former worker. “It’s a narcissistic endeavor headed by a raging narcissist who desperately wants to be famous.”

The result’s much less a picture of a goofy firm driving the waves of success and extra of an inside have a look at a enterprise that, in keeping with a former worker, “fails hard and fast, doesn’t know what it’s doing most of the time, and refuses to hire anyone with actual experience running a business of their size.”

Wyrmwood’s media workforce is held to a completely completely different normal than the remainder of the employees, in keeping with worker sources. They are allowed to be late, they receives a commission extra money, and they’re stored separate from the craftspeople; as a result of they act because the de-facto “sales team,” higher administration considers the media workforce the “money makers” of Wyrmwood, which signifies that they get way more leeway than the individuals who truly construct the product.

The devaluation of craftspeople in favor of the media workforce has bred resentment on the firm–“everyone hates the media department,” mentioned a former worker–and has instilled a way of vanity within the media workforce.

Meanwhile, inside communication is so unhealthy at Wyrmwood that the store staff discover out information about Wyrmwood from watching Wyrm Lyfe, in keeping with a number of sources. “It happened all the time,” mentioned Savage.

Topics that weren’t communicated on to the employees embody new merchandise that they might be making, when raises would happen, employees modifications and place shifts, new gear, layoff bulletins, enterprise statuses, and upcoming promotions and Kickstarter campaigns.

“Wyrm Lyfe is highly edited propaganda,” mentioned one former worker. And it has labored. Over 100K folks subscribe to the Wyrm Lyfe channel to tune into the Dougie Costello present thrice per week. The downside is that Wyrm Lyfe, like all propaganda, intentionally crafted and edited to point out solely what they need you to see. “Wyrm Lyfe is a threat,” one former worker mentioned. “They use it to convince people to work here, and they hold their platform over their competition like a gun.”

Ultimately, the gravest difficulty with Wyrm Lyfe could also be that it casts a brilliant highlight on Bobby Downey and Doug Costello, to the purpose that their jobs and enterprise is straight associated to how folks understand them on YouTube.

The absolute focus that Downey has on being well-known is clear in his presence on Wyrm Lyfe, in advertising and merch photos, and his attendance at conventions. “He used to be a nice guy,” mentioned one former worker, “but being in front of the camera so much changed him.” When anybody ties who they’re to what they achieve this intently, they should be held accountable for his or her private habits. And Downey’s private habits is reprehensible.

Wyrmwood has poisoned their very own waters

There are many followers of Wyrmwood Gaming who will defend Doug Costello, Bobby Downey, and their administration of Wyrmwood. Bumpus recollects the love he received from followers, saying that they fall in love with the corporate… “but it’s all in love with the image the company wants you to see. They don’t see how we’re being exploited and how we’re working our asses off. How we’re being told that this company is a family and you need to support your family. But Wyrmwood is not going to take care of you.”

Paul Downs, the proprietor of a Pennsylvania cabinetmaking firm and former author of “You’re The Boss,” a New York Times small enterprise recommendation column, was at one time engaged on a e-book about Wyrmwood; He declined to touch upon Costello’s habits, however defended the correct of the small enterprise proprietor to run his firm any approach that he noticed match.

And whereas that’s true—Costello can run Wyrmwood any approach he likes, even when that features taking part in down security considerations and disrespecting girls—many previous and current staff say that doesn’t make it proper.

It’s not proper, they are saying, that Costello has lied to his staff, promising them raises when none have been forthcoming; it’s not proper, they are saying, that he favors male staff over his feminine ones; it’s not proper, they are saying, that his store has injured craftspeople; it’s not proper, they are saying, that he has determined to fireside staff as a substitute of treating them pretty; it’s not proper, they are saying, that he has used Wyrm Lyfe to construct a cult of character.

At each stage, in keeping with staff, Wyrmwood has did not scale to the calls for of its prospects and in a approach that adequately helps their staff. One present worker emphasised to io9 that whereas they love their coworkers and so they love what they make, administration makes the store a hostile office. “I just want a good place to work,” they mentioned. “But Doug makes that impossible.”

The Wyrmwood prospects who know all this and determine to buy anyway are usually not rebels; they’re merely rewarding unhealthy habits. This machine grinds up hardworking, blue-collar staff and spits them out, bloody and traumatized.

“Everyone who’s ever worked at Wyrmwood, they will tell you they loved their coworkers, and we built this camaraderie together, in spite of Doug Costello,” mentioned Ted Bumpus. “So often our coworkers were our best friends and family. And the management takes advantage of that.”

Correction 3/28/23 10:50 pm ET: Earlier variations of this text misspelled the surnames of Wyrmwood worker and partial proprietor John “Johnny” Paquette, and former worker Andrew Oberbeck.

Want extra io9 information? Check out when to anticipate the newest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s subsequent for the DC Universe on film and TV, and all the things you could find out about the way forward for Doctor Who.



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