GamesBeat

Kixeye fires four after investigation into allegations of racism

Social gaming firm Kixeye said that four members of its staff, including a manager, have been fired after an investigation into claims of racism.

The move comes after a former contractor who is black complained about abusive behavior in a blog post written under the name of Qu33riousity. Yesterday, Will Harbin, the chief executive of San Francisco-based Kixeye, promised to investigate further and said he had taken “substantial corrective action.” In a post, he elaborated on that today.

Harbin said he learned of the allegations yesterday at the same time that others did — after the contractor’s post went live.

“Immediately after I learned of these allegations, I personally interviewed members of the team to figure out what this was about,” Harbin wrote.

“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.”

Clearly, Kixeye is positioning itself so that it minimizes its legal exposure. VentureBeat has heard other complaints, and we are doing reporting on those allegations as well.

Harbin said, “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. What are we doing to make sure this never happens again in the future? 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.”

Harbin said Kixeye has started anonymous, company-wide surveys in which we gather and have taken action on feedback, complaints and rumors. The company is also doing its own outside independent investigation of the allegations made by the contractor.

As we’ve noted before, Kixeye is a hard-charging company that became well known after it posted a funny recruitment video about its culture of making “games by gamers for gamers.” In the video, Harbin says, “You can say to your grandchildren, ‘I made games that kicked serious ass. Mind-blowing games that left virtual farmers crapping their virtual pants in fear.’” Harbin said at his company you will be able to say you made games that “copied no one” and “compromised nothing” and “had a fucking blast doing it.” The company is known for addictive games like War Commander and Battle Pirates.

The video caption says, “If you’re a rockstar game maker and you don’t want to put your talents toward cow-clicking and virtual pet cuddling, we might have a place for you on our team.”

Kixeye only has around 4.8 million monthly active users on Facebook. But it’s one of the most profitable game companies on the social network because it makes free-to-play hardcore games that monetize exceedingly well.

[Image credit: Kotaku]

Here’s the full text of what Harbin said on Twitter:

I’d like to elaborate on the statement I made yesterday. The facts: in a blog post, a former contractor who was here this Summer made allegations of racial discrimination against KIXEYE. I first learned of this at the same time most of you did – via twitter yesterday early afternoon.

Immediately after I learned of these allegations, I personally interviewed members of the team to figure out what this was about. 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.

What are we doing to make sure this never happens again in the future? 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.


Mobile developer or publisher? VentureBeat is studying mobile marketing automation. Fill out our 5-minute survey, and we'll share the data with you.