Four fired from Kixeye over racism claims

"Examples of embarrassing behavior" discovered at social developer

Four members of staff have been fired from social developer Kixeye after an investigation into claims of institutional racism and abuse.

The charges were levelled at the studio by a contractor who wrote a blog post under the name of Qu33riousity, who claimed that he had suffered racial discrimination and seen it directed at others.

Studio head Will Harbin promised to investigate, telling press that he'd only become aware of the allegations when the blog was posted. Today, Harbin has revealed that those investigations have lead to the firing of a team manager and three of his staff, although he denies that the full list of accusations was accurate.

"Immediately after I learned of these allegations, I personally interviewed members of the team to figure out what this was about," wrote Harbin in a blog posted via Twitter.

"While it's clear that not everything in the blog post was accurate, I did discover examples of embarrassing behavior that I find inappropriate for KIXEYE, or any other work environment. As a result, I immediately terminated the manager of the team in question and then three other employees who violated company standards as well. We have also taken steps to provide harassment training to the other members of the team, given the poor example set by their manager.

"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."

Kixeye has earned renown as a producer of 'core' social titles such as the popular War Commander, stepping into the spotlight with a viral recruitment video which openly mocked major rivals like Zynga. However, it seems that not everyone at Kixeye got the memo about a new dawn of development and inclusivity - something which Harbin is understandably keen to rectify.

"What are we doing to make sure this never happens again in the future," Harbin continues. "Well, even before this incident, we hired a VP of HR who has implemented a sensitivity training program for all employees. He's also introduced processes that have strengthened communication channels between management and the employee base.

"We've also started conducting regular anonymous, company-wide surveys in which we gather and have taken action on feedback, complaints and rumors. Finally, we are in the process of conducting an outside, independent investigation of the allegations made by the contractor to ensure we have all the facts and take whatever continued, appropriate action is necessary to prevent this kind of behavior from occurring again."

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Latest comments (18)

gi biz ;, 7 years ago
lol nice way to toss your career into the crapper :D I can imagine the next HR guy receiving a cv featuring an experience as team leader at Kixeye ended on October 2012 :D
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Tameem Antoniades Creative Director & Co-founder, Ninja Theory Ltd7 years ago
Will Harbin, good job on moving fast
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Quick response, well done Kixeye.
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Show all comments (18)
Tom Keresztes Programmer 7 years ago
Innocent until proven guilty, eh ?
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Tameem Antoniades Creative Director & Co-founder, Ninja Theory Ltd7 years ago
You may disagree on this but in employment law (in UK at least), the employer is guilty until proven innocent.
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Fran Mulhern , Recruit3D7 years ago
Maybe some sensitivity training is needed.

In all seriousness though, hope it all gets dealt with.
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Richard Hill-Whittall Director, Icon Games7 years ago
Seriously can't believe anyone would take seriously allegations of racism from someone that keeps referring to "Dumbwhite**********". The *** were added by Kotaku to replace the original word.

Perhaps they can counter sue him for racism?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Richard Hill-Whittall on 4th October 2012 1:31pm

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@Richard The asterisks were present in the original post actually; I saw it before it was removed. I don't know what Qu33riousity was self-censoring but the whole post read as extremely angry and upset by the treatment he had received.

And by the sounds of it Kixeye didn't just fire a bunch of people due to a mere allegation; they investigated the claim and evidently found it to be true enough to warrant immediate firing. I could believe that Qu33riousity may have exaggerated a little due to his obvious distress about the situation, but he clearly wasn't lying about there being a deeply problematic atmosphere in the office he worked in.
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Tom Keresztes Programmer 7 years ago
Well, the original post was removed, but this is the internet, so here is the original .

Edited 4 times. Last edit by Tom Keresztes on 4th October 2012 2:32pm

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Andrew Animator 7 years ago
Both sides have racial issues it would seem. Sad on both counts.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Andrew on 4th October 2012 3:16pm

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Fran Mulhern , Recruit3D7 years ago
"Despite the material incentives, I couldn’t get past how ethically abject this company is. I would peer out the window from the 18th floor at the reflections of these neoliberal colonizers (read: gentrifiers) buzzing around me."

"he’s a white man with power, of course he did"

"Beyond culture = hipster racism = neoliberal white supremacy"


Edited 1 times. Last edit by Fran Mulhern on 4th October 2012 3:25pm

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Christopher McCraken CEO/Production Director, Double Cluepon Software7 years ago
Seriously can't believe anyone would take seriously allegations of racism from someone that keeps referring to "Dumbwhite**********". The *** were added by Kotaku to replace the original word.
If even 1/4 of the allegations in that post prove true, (and it would seem that some have, as the pink slips would indicate) I would argue that the gentleman in question was rather restrained, considering the environment he was enduring. That's not a validation of his name calling, but I would like to point out that if you beat on anyone long enough, they will eventually fight back if they have nothing left to lose. This guy elected to put his frustrations into a post on tumblr. We have people all over who put their frustrations into the chamber of a Glock and solve their problems that way.

Again, this does not excuse his language, but it does explain it, and maybe even mitigate things a bit. I don't condone the language, but I can understand it though, when taken in context.
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Keldon Alleyne Strategic Keyboard Basher, Avasopht Development7 years ago
Wonder what can be learned from all this

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Keldon Alleyne on 8th October 2012 4:27pm

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Craig Page El Presidente, Awesome Enterprises7 years ago
So after reading the original blog post, it seems this guy never should have been hired as a tester in the first place. He's so angry at the world, and thinks there's a conspiracy to keep him down. What was HR thinking? Do they even consider how well someone will fit in with the current workforce?

If anyone should be suing the company it's Jose.
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Charles Herold Wii Games Guide, about.com7 years ago
Reading the original post, it seems obvious that the guy has a lot of anger directed towards white people. And he does generalize a lot. But I have not experienced life as a black person, and from what I hear, that life is full of what, taken one at a time, could be seen as only small slights. For example, my (white) girlfriend was once in a car with some of her black friends and a cop pulled them over to ask her if she was okay; he apparently thought, since it was a nice car, that she had been carjacked. She was shocked - she'd never been pulled over by a cop before - but her friends weren't even surprised, because they get pulled over by cops all the time. Is being pulled over by a cop once because you're black in a car with a white woman a big deal? Not really. But make it a continual pattern, make being pulled over by cops a regular thing whether there's a white woman in the car or not, and it becomes a big deal.

So my guess would be this guy has been dealing with various slights and veiled insults and low-level abuse for a very long time, and it has made him angry. The truth is, a lot of black people are angry about racism, even the ones who don't generally say anything about it.

So yes, this guy is young and sensitive and full of anger, and maybe he should realize that it is no better to generalize about white people than about black people. But clearly if the company fired several people then there really must have been a pretty pervasive racist atmosphere. I mean, how often do you actually hear of people getting fired for racism? Usually it's no more than a demotion or some sensitivity training, so I've got to conclude that the investigation uncovered a really pernicious situation.

So maybe he was right to be angry, and we all would have been just as angry if we'd been in his shoes.
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Jack Lee7 years ago
@Charles Hear, hear! It's frustrating to see people equate the contractor's admittedly vitriolic and angry response, which could accurately be described as racist, to the actions of the management and society at large. There's no systematic, traditional oppression of white people in America, so to say that the contractor's racial anger is the same thing as people in positions of power being racist is the same thing is laughable. A single person being racist, as terrible as that is, is honestly not that big a deal; it makes them a bad person, but the impact should be limited. Institutional racism, on the other hand, is horrific, and should be dealt with harshly.
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Gary LaRochelle Digital Artist / UI/UX Designer / Game Designer, Flea Ranch Games7 years ago
The very second a racist, sexist, cultural or whatever kind of degrading comment is made, it should be immediately addressed. It shouldn't be swept under the rug with a "jerks will be jerks" attitude. Qu33riousity should of asked commenter to step aside and told him that his comments are out of line. If the commenter continues with his badgering (or has a "so what" attitude), they should both go and have a talk with HR to fix the situation. Problems will only get worse if they are not addressed.

I saw the photo of what Qu33riousity was wearing that was deemed "Thuggish". It was nowhere near Thuggish, he was dressed like every other Hipster in San Francisco (someone in their twenties wearing the same clothes they wore when they were 15).

If Kixeye does have "company standards ", they should be written out and handed to every employee upon hiring.
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Paul Jace Merchandiser 7 years ago
@Charles Herold--Good sir I'd like to elect you as President of the World. Nice to see somebody else "gets it". Cheers.

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Paul Jace on 4th October 2012 10:49pm

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