Reacting swiftly to allegations of racism from an African-American contractor who worked at the company during the summer, social game developer, Kixeye, fired four employees yesterday. The terminated personnel include the former contractor’s team manager and three other unnamed staff members.
Kixeye is a developer of online strategy and combat games with over five million monthly active users. The company’s popular titles include Backyard Monsters, Battle Pirates, and War Commander. Kixeye expects to generate more than $100 million in revenue in 2012.
Speaking about the growing scandal, Kixeye CEO, Will Harbin, made the company’s position clear on Twitter:
“I immediately terminated the manager of the team in question and then three other employees who violated company standards as well.”
“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.”
The uproar began when the former contractor published his comments on Tumbler (subsequently removed) earlier this week, complaining of racial abuse at Kixeye. The post, made under the name of Qu33riousity, is quite long and passionately angry It contained disturbing details of what the contractor felt was a pervasive pattern of behavior at the company. Here is an excerpt:
“The company occupies three floors of a swank office building on Bush St. All three floors are filled with white men: straight, young, and tech savvy. In start up fashion, there is much overindulgence, much money thrown to the wind to keep workers docile and loyal to the company. Coffees, teas, snacks everywhere. And not snacks from the corner store: luna bars, lara bars, cliff bars, other organic “healthy” snack bars, organic chips, PIRATE BOOTY, vitamin water, organic coconut water, every kind of soda, expensive flavored fizzy water, cereals, nuts, yogurt, string cheese, red bulls, peanut butter filled pretzels, those starbucks frap drinks, bananas, apples, peaches, and to top it off catered lunch twice a week for the entire office of 200+ employees. The last day I worked there the entire office ate fried chicken and waffles, grits, macaroni & cheese, two kinds of soup, and salad.”
“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. They laugh and make bad jokes about dicks and tits. They say the word “bro” every other sentence. They poke at the young Mexican boy Jose a few seats down, and he laughs. He takes it all, smiling. I would wonder whether or not he goes home everyday with a head full of jagged frustration. I didn’t know what thought was more unsettling: him going home everyday with muscles forever tense and a memory that can never totally clear its cache of verbal stabbings by older, taller, arrogant white men, or the thought of him going home feeling that all is well and normal in his workplace. Later, Jose jokes about beating his wife in a group chat on Skype. He is 22 and he is actually married. My expression is blank, but my head is filled with horror as he receives several lol’s in reply…..”
“This story is to be continued. After being encouraged by many friends, even my barber, I’m in the process of taking legal action. I had a whole month of potential creative and community building energy stripped from me for the sake of this company’s profits. That shit ain’t cool. I cannot afford to take white people’s shit anymore. That’s been my mantra this year, and I’m still on it, even if that means getting the law involved. If the revolutions is to be funding, I want it to be funding from the pockets of racist venture capitalists like these folks!”
This is not the first time that allegations of discriminatory behavior have been made against Kixeye. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Kixeye’s “video bashing rivals like Zynga and EA and mocking women who played games like FarmVille was widely cited as an example of sexism in the gaming industry.”
The entire incident is another sad commentary on the state of affairs between the races in our nation. If we accept the contractor’s comments as accurate and truthful, it shows a shocking level of hatred and insensitivity on the part of the white employees in question. It also shows the degree of all consuming anger their hateful behavior has inspired in the victim of their attacks. It is apparent that the company and the former employee are jockeying for position it what may prove to be an ugly and contentious legal action. When racism is involved, there are no winners and everyone is diminished.