Gamasutra: The Art & Business of Making Gamesspacer
View All     RSS
April 19, 2014
arrowPress Releases
April 19, 2014
PR Newswire
View All





If you enjoy reading this site, you might also want to check out these UBM TechWeb sites:


Kixeye CEO responds to racism claims, fires four staff
Kixeye CEO responds to racism claims, fires four staff
October 4, 2012 | By Mike Rose

October 4, 2012 | By Mike Rose
Comments
    29 comments
More: Social/Online, Business/Marketing



Following allegations of racial abuse by a former contractor at social game studio Kixeye, the company has now fired four staff members, including the team manager.

The contractor claimed that he had been subjected to numerous racial comments while working at the company over the summer, as reported by Kotaku. Today, Kixeye CEO Will Harbin took to Twitter to explain that he had not been aware of these issues before now, and that he has taken action on those involved.

"I immediately terminated the manager of the team in question and then three other employees who violated company standards as well," he noted.

"I am doing my best to create a company where our employees love to work, with a culture of openness and tolerance to different points of view, styles, races, gender, orientation, religion and cultures. It turns out that a few bad apples weren't living up to the standards that the rest of us have set for our company."


Related Jobs

Treyarch / Activision
Treyarch / Activision — Santa Monica, California, United States
[04.19.14]

Associate Art Director - Treyarch
Treyarch / Activision
Treyarch / Activision — Santa Monica, California, United States
[04.19.14]

Associate Animator (temporary) - Treyarch
Activision Publishing
Activision Publishing — Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
[04.19.14]

Principal Graphics Programmer
Activision Publishing
Activision Publishing — Santa Monica, California, United States
[04.19.14]

Executive Producer-Skylanders










Comments


Michael Joseph
profile image
From his tweet (linked to above in the article) Mr Harbin seems to be doing everything right. He didn't try to side with the employees who were engaged in misconduct and cover things up.

From his tweet:
"Well, even before this incident, we hired a VP of HR who has implemented a sensitivity training program for all employees. "

I'm curious if anyone has been through one of these "sensitivity training" programs and what exactly do they instruct? Somehow I doubt they're teaching sensitivity :) I'm just inclined to believe it's a politically correct title and what they actually do is instruct employees about what constitutes misconduct so that there is less wiggle room later on when they do screw up and you need to kick'em to the curb. Or i'm just too cynical these days :P

Aaron Casillas
profile image
What blows me away is that there is a certain demographic that believes this type of attitude and behaviour constitutes professional demeanor in the work force. Most often they would never behave like this outside of the workplace, but because they might feel empowered by the corporate structure either real or not, they act out...over the years I've heard and seen some incredible racist remarks directed at co-workers and myself. The biggest concern is that some of these people have moved on to other companies and now hold higher wage positions and or are managing other people. Hopefully they've grown, or they'll leave a wake of destruction behind them, not only damaging people but becoming a business liability.

Andrew Traviss
profile image
Those things are a gigantic waste of time and money. If you don't care about how your words and actions affect people, you aren't going to start because of some seminar, and if you do care you won't need a seminar to teach you to do it.

Alex Boccia
profile image
It's true.

Doug Poston
profile image
@Andrew: These seminars aren't about making people better, but explaining the rules.

If you're a jerk, but you can play by the rules, then okay (but you're still a jerk).

If you're a jerk, and you can't following the rules, then you can't claim "Nobody told me that was wrong" when they throw your ass out.

Joe Wreschnig
profile image
The main problem is that it's completely possible to be (and act) bigoted within the bounds set by the rules those programs teach. Sure, you won't get away with "wetback dictionary" but no one's going to get fired or even formally reprimanded for dog whistling or "gay" as a pejorative or referring to a trans woman as a transvestite or etc.

For a certain class of people, those seminars are just teaching "here's what you can't get away with, go ahead with everything else."

Doug Poston
profile image
@Joe: True, seminars are far from a perfect solution. My point is that they *can* be helpful. Especially when it's been shown that some people (in this case, a team manager) are not following the rules.

As for dealing with "a certain class of people" that can dance around those rules, you either need better rules or a "no asshole" policy (the later can be hard to implement, but it's great when it works ;)).

Kellam Templeton-Smith
profile image
It makes it a lot easier to fire people if you can state that they had an exceptional understanding of the rules they were breaking.

Kevin Nolan
profile image
Some people act like bigots because they really are ignorant that their actions are so offensive. They will knock it off if they're told to stop and will feel ashamed about it, but if they don't then sensitivity training is a good way to show the company means business and isn't going to let the issue slide, and may indeed help someone who doesn't know what he's doing is wrong.

Of course, some people won't change or are knowingly, maliciously racist but they can be shown the door.

Dave Smith
profile image
they are not meant to tell people what to think (nor should they be), but how to act in the workplace.

Peter Christiansen
profile image
It's certainly good that Kixeye acted quickly and decisively rather than trying to sweep this whole mess under the rug. However, based on the description of the problems in question, it seems clear that this problem is much more widespread than "a few bad apples" (although I could see how there might only have been four with documented offenses severe enough to warrant immediate termination). Sensitivity training is certainly one way of addressing these broader issues, but as several people have noted above, its effectiveness can be questionable, especially depending on how serious it is taken by the employees.

Hopefully Kixeye sees this as an ongoing problem in their company culture that needs to be addressed, rather than simply calling it good after sacking the chief offenders.

Ramin Shokrizade
profile image
I was impressed by just how much play this topic has been getting on Kotaku. Having received race-related death threats as a journalist back in 2001, this is a subject I am sensitive to. It does not escape me that our industry is so racially and sexually homogeneous. I lose track of how many studios I visit that are 100% white male. Sometimes they have a white female working the front desk. The directors sometimes ask me, especially if they are working on a Facebook game (where most consumers are women), "should we hire some women?".... Facepalm

The whole "brogrammer" movement just seems to be a glorification of this culture.

Justin Sawchuk
profile image
Fired because the world is overly politically correct, thats sad.

Adam Bishop
profile image
Yeah, how dare gay people, black people, women, etc. want to be able to do their job without being subject to bigotry? The nerve of those people who just want to be treated with respect in their workplace!

Michael Joseph
profile image
@Justin sawchuk

I don't think you understand the meaning of the phrase "politically correct." I doubt you know know Will Harbin or the people involved in this story and without that knowledge I don't see how you could conclude it's political correctness.... unless you don't understand what political correctness is.

Real political correctness is a disingenuous act or a lie told by individuals or groups of individuals (eg politicians, businesses) because speaking the truth would result in a loss of votes/support/sales/business/etc.

But when individuals or groups of individuals are acting true to themselves and following their conscience and doing what they feel is right, then that cannot be politically correct action.

If I am polite, if I don't insult and degrade people, if I treat people with respect, if I fire people who can't show respect for their co-workers, it's not because I'm being politically correct. It's because I'm not a ____.

Duong Nguyen
profile image
Lol, I can speak from personal experience, racists being the weak minded people that they are, whenever the same form of "humor" turned on them, they break like twigs. I guess it's all fun and games when your throwing the "humorous" epitaphs but when it somehow comes back 2 u or ur put in a reverse situation, oh no it's "reverse-racism"! They get so angry? Why so angry bro? "Politically Correct" sure call it whatever, I call "Common Human Decency", whatever lets you sleep at night.

Adam Bishop
profile image
Sad to say but I definitely witnessed this kind of behaviour when I used to work in the game industry, found the same lack of desire from management to address the problems, and heard the same excuses about people needing to find another industry to work in if they didn't like it.

Rodolfo Rosini
profile image
Training first and foremost shields you from lawsuits. Well in fact it's the only reason why you would employ such a structured response. Every company has its DNA that comes from the top, have a look at the Stanford Prison Experiment to see how this kind of reprehensible behavior spawns.

Adam Culberson
profile image
Racism should be considered a mental disorder because you'd have to be really strange to think that because someone is different it makes them less then you.

Luis Blondet
profile image
I do not like bigots either, but was there an investigation? The contractor is also Human and Humans are capable of all sorts of shenanigans. I would have done the same thing, move for immediate termination, just as soon as i found some sort of proof like an email or chat logs or something, otherwise it might as well be Spectral Evidence.

Joe Wreschnig
profile image
"I do not like bigots either, but was there an investigation?"

In your rush to concern troll, you appear to have skipped reading the article. Here, I'll help: "I personally interviewed members of the team... I did discover examples of embarrassing behavior that I find inappropriate for KIXEYE, or any other work environment."

John Zucarelli
profile image
In your rush to condemn you seem to have conflated 'embarrassing behavior' with the ludicrous made-up conversation posted on the blog.

Mikhail Mukin
profile image
I guess we will not know the details, but I think there might be a problem with overall sensitivity of people in US.

Many years ago, when I first came to US, I sent e-mail "Congrats! We finally did the asset naming convention!" (or similar). I was called to HR and was told that some artists might be offended by "finally", and it is likely I don't quite understand English yet so I did not really mean it. Well - I actually meant it. Artists (and their lead) messed up. For more then a year there was no naming convention at all. Some new guy taking the lead sent some rules and rearranged some names. He did what should have been done before. If some artist did not like it - well, sorry but don't make noob mistakes in the first place... The company is pretty much no more...

Years later, in a different company after a game was shipped and got mixed reviews... I send e-mail with copy/paste of some paragraphs from reviews of our game from Gamespot, IGN etc. I should have sent it to our "politically incorrect group of friends" but by accident it went to the team... I was not on that team ;/ Our director called me and asked - maybe I should sent some clarification that this was not supposed to go wide. I did... but if Gamespot says "AI in this game is dumb", maybe we should focus on making AI not dumb, and not being scared to offend some AI engineer/designer? This company (and this franchise) are no more...

To me the most important thing is intent. If the intent was to offend a specific person based on race, gender, "IQ level" - yep, this is bad, should be punished. If the intent is to have fun or to focus attention on something that is not working, offer ways to improve it - this is normal. Make a joke back, don't be oversensitive. I got vodka-based jokes all the time for being from Russia - no problem.

John Zucarelli
profile image
You're close. It is a Western culture problem, because it's infesting Europe as well (look to the case of the white worker in Europe who heard a siren, turned to a friend and said 'better run mate!' - the same joke we all use - and ended up being fired and prosecuted for racial offense because the friend is black. Note that the friend didn't file the complaint, a bystander did. The guy later committed suicide).

It simply amazes me how someone can bring this stuff up, if they're a member of the 'approved victim groups', and instantly be believed and supported. More than that, it amazes me that we have raised so many generations of ninnies that people believe the proper response is to call in the government and the lawyers and hire the 'sensitivity trainers'. Western society is doomed.

John Zucarelli
profile image
So ... someone makes some highly dubious claims about racism (read those blog excerpts on Kotaku and ask yourself if that sounds like an actual human conversation) and everyone believes them?

And the fact that Kixeye responded by firing people and instituting 'sensitivity training' (what a laugh) is no proof of guilt. It's what everybody does when they're accused of this kind of stuff, particularly a San Francisco office. You get in front of it as best you can because you know this is EXACTLY the type of reaction the mouth-breathing Internet will have.

The only part of that transcribed 'conversation' I believe is that the guy showed up to work dressed like a thug (which people of all races do in this industry) and it was mentioned to him. The rest sounds made up. The proper response to this, for Kixeye and all involved, would be to define and enforce a professional dress code. But no, heaven forbid we cultivate a professional work environment or hold people up to a standard. Instead, instantly buy into any tale of victimhood.

John Zucarelli
profile image
It's also worth pointing out that even if any of the accusations were true, it's still not racism. Saying someone is dressed like a thug is not racist. Nor are any of the laughable follow-up 'quotes'. The person complaining is black, however, which means everything immediately becomes 'racist'. Kind of like how calling a failed president a failure is 'racist' when he's black. It's really a crazy world we've created.

Ian Uniacke
profile image
Actually it is absolutely racism. If the dress code (which I imagine) is casual dress, the fact that the person in question dressed in clothes common for his culture was called into question is not acceptable. Labeling his clothes as "thuggish" falls under the very definition of racism. You're implying that because he dresses in a manner that is common to black people he is therefore a thug. Racism doesn't have to be overt for it to be racist.

John Zucarelli
profile image
"Racism doesn't have to be overt for it to be racist"

This is a laughable statement. If something is not overt then it's subjective. If you remove objectivity you remove the possibility for justice. This is why real crimes have to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt: to declare the subjective objective.

It becomes even more problematic when you begin discussing behavioral issues. Which is why many people are against things like 'hate crimes'. The entire basis of our legal system is that we are all equal before the law.

And it's humorous that you state that it's both non-overt and absolute. Quite a trick.

"You're implying that because he dresses in a manner that is common to black people he is therefore a thug."

No, I'm stating that if he is dressed as a thug, it is reasonable to say so. Can race alter your perception of thuggish appearance? Certainly. But so can weight, gender, height, etc. And what I find offensive here is that so many people presume to know the entirety of the accused's thought process.

But what really strikes me is your statement implying that black people basically all dress as thugs. Is that 'non-overt' racism?

Troy Walker
profile image
for all we know, the guy/gal could have been harrassed on a daily basis for something.. we will never know.

would be interesting though if along with "sensitivity" training, we had to have "de-sensitivity" training to balance things out.

i once got repremanded for changing/highlighting email in red to emphasis the importance of "do not do something in particular"... ya, because someone might get offended by it. seriously true.


none
 
Comment: