This week, Kotaku's Cecilia D'Anastasio published a report in which 14 former Razer employees paint an unflattering profile of Razer CEO Min-Liang Tan, accusing him of being a dictatorial and abusive boss. He yelled at people, threw things, publicly shamed employees, and overworked them to the point where they would sleep at the office.
As depressing as the article is, two parts stand out as particularly concerning to me in the big picture. Near the beginning, D'Anastasio recounts Tan's fury with the marketing team when the company didn't make Fast Company's 2014 list of the Most Innovative Companies. In an attempt to placate Tan, the company's director of marketing laid out a plan to get Tan covered by the outlet and further the idea of him as the "Asian Steve Jobs."
And then at the very end, D'Anastasio mentions a recent Instagram post of Tan's where the executive is eating at a Gordon Ramsay restaurant and reflecting on how at work, "I can pretty much become way worse than Gordon Ramsay" when it comes to raging at people for attention to detail.
The whole article is alarming, but those two bits underscore a larger problem, and perhaps explain why Razer and Tan's on-the-record responses to so many of the former employees' accusations amounted to, "Yeah, pretty much."
You can see why Tan wouldn't mind following in Jobs and Ramsay's footsteps. They are as notorious for treating their subordinates poorly as they are for excelling in their fields.
As a society, we've tolerated abusive behavior from people who succeed for so long that we've begun to think that they may as well be inextricably linked; that the "difficult genius" is great at their job specifically because of their uncompromising visions, that their abuse of employees is exactly the thing that pushes those employees to produce the best work possible. Pay no attention to the talented people who burn out or break or are otherwise permanently scarred by enduring these peoples' abuses; they probably just couldn't hack it anyway, right?
Clearly, that's nonsense. "The ends justify the means" is a dicey proposition to start with, but when "the ends" top out at creating a better gaming mouse with customizable lighting, then "the means" had better not involve a workplace so hostile that employees bonded "over fear of what management was going to do with us."
But that's what these abusive personalities do. Our society lionizes them for their willingness to go above and beyond, to sacrifice everything to achieve something great. But their sacrifice isn't simply their own. In behaving as they do, they're sacrificing the comfort and well-being of those around them as well. We need to start seeing that not as a noble call to greatness but a selfish, narcissistic ambition to be seen as great no matter the toll it takes on others.
QUOTE | "If a product does not meet my standards, I may express dissatisfaction, including by raising my voice… There have also been occasions where a prototype has not met my standards, and in a design meeting, I have thrown the prototype to the wall or on the floor.” - Razer CEO Min-Liang Tan explains that while he may have thrown people's hard work against the wall in a rage, he only did it because he didn't like the work, which is apparently supposed to make it OK?
QUOTE | "This is common in a tech start-up." - A Razer spokesperson, explaining in that same article that employees will crunch to prepare for product launches and events.
STAT | 1998 - The year Razer was born. It became its own company in 2005, and now is a publicly traded international company that is in no way a start-up.
QUOTE | "By remaining inactive when faced with this more than questionable attitude, which can not be justified by invoking a 'humorous' spirit, the employer has breached the security obligation that it has towards its employees." - A Paris employment tribunal criticizes Quantic Dream management for allowing employees to circulate "homophobic, misogynistic, racist or simply profoundly vulgar" photoshopped images in the office for years without doing anything to stop it. The former employee, who brought the case in response to a photoshopped image of them performing a Nazi salute was circulated, was awarded €7,000 ($7,750) but had been seeking €114,000.
QUOTE | The settlement is another important step forward, and demonstrates our commitment to living up to our values and to making Riot an inclusive environment for the industry's best talent." - A Riot spokesperson explains how a $10 million settlement to end gender discrimination lawsuits brought against it by former employees shows how strongly the company feels about doing the right thing.
STAT | 8 months - How long it's been since Riot was in court asking a judge to dismiss gender discrimination lawsuits against it because women accusing it of wrong-doing had signed paperwork when they were hired waiving their right to sue for discrimination, harassment, or retaliation.
QUOTE | "You hear a lot about how at Valve you can work on what you want. It turns out that's true, and there's a lot of work available. As we integrated ourselves into Valve it became clear there was a lot of valuable work to be done on Half-Life: Alyx. Some of us starting lending a hand, and have since become full-time on the project as it approaches launch." - Valve's Jake Rodkin explains why the former Campo Santo development team is no longer working on In the Valley of the Gods.
STAT | 12 - The number of games Electronic Arts published in 2018, down from 48 in 2010 as the company pursued a "Fewer, bigger, better" strategy for game development.
STAT | 83 - The Metacritic average of EA's best reviewed game in 2018, FIFA 19. In 2010, its best reviewed game was Mass Effect 2, with a Metacritic average of 96. (There's a lot more nuance to this, so please check out the original story before you spam up the comments pointing out the obvious.)
STAT | 100 billion - The number of views Minecraft YouTube videos generated in 2019, nearly 40 billion more than the second most-viewed game on the service, Fortnite.
QUOTE | "A lot of people picked up a cheap, weird thing you put your phone into, tried a pretty bad experience, and said, 'OK, this is VR and it's not for me.' I think that's something we as a VR industry are still fighting with. It's a challenge to get people to re-evaluate and see what has happened in the space over those years." - Fast Travel Games' Oskar Burman discusses a number of challenges facing the VR market today.
QUOTE | "It was as if Human Head was taunting Ragnarok to terminate the Rune 2 Agreements." - Rune 2 publisher Ragnarok Game this week filed a lawsuit against Rune 2 developer Human Head Studios and three of its co-founders after Human Head dissolved and the same team instantly re-formed as Bethesda-owned Roundhouse Games in the same building, but without the contractual obligations Human Head had regarding Rune 2.