Recently game designer Damion Schubert wrote a blog criticizing some recent reporting by Breibart regarding how sloppy reporting had hurt my career. In his criticism, Damion had used a hit piece Kotaku had published on me as evidence that the reporting done on me had been reasonable. In response, I went through his blog to point out the various factual errors the Kotaku article had made by relying on only a single, biased source along with carefully selected court documents to create a narrative that had nothing to do with reality.
Damion and I got talking after my post and in which I was able to show him more material that demonstrated how ridiculous the original Kotaku article had been. In the 2 years since the Kotaku article, no one who has gotten to see some of the actual details of the frivolous lawsuit that had been filed against us has not been convinced that the original case and the reporting of it was a travesty.
Damion has followed up with this post retracting his original blog http://www.zenofdesign.com/in-which-i-acknowledge-and-apologize/
Out of respect for Damion, I’m going to update this article to be a more generic response to those who continue to harass me or my employer regarding the unsavory lawsuit that was inaccurately reported on back in 2012.
A brief recap
Stardock is a consumer software company that was founded over 20 years ago. For 20 years we’ve made award winning games and software used by millions of people. I incorporated the company in 1993 as a college student to help pay for school. Eventually, it succeeded beyond my wildest dreams and became my full time career. Today, it is possibly the oldest independent game company with more than 50 employees.
In 2012, I was best known for things like:
- Gamer’s Bill of Rights
- Designer of Galactic Civilizations
- The publisher of Sins of a Solar Empire
- The CEO who had promised (and delivered) the sequel and its expansion to Elemental because we were disappointed that a Stardock game was released in a poor state.
- The designer of programs like Start8, ObjectDock, WindowBlinds, DesktopX, ModernMix, etc.
In short I had a good reputation.
Our work environment should have been used as a model by so-called feminists. High percentage of women in development and leadership positions, a fun, “safe”, working environment complete with an on-sight personal trainer, nutritionist, maternity leave, long vacations, etc.
But in 2012, it was more important to have a villain to hate I guess because one evening I received an email from a Kotaku reporter who was about to run a story about an ugly, ongoing lawsuit that involved a former marketing manager who was suing us for hostile work environment, sexual harassment and battery. It was, as anyone familiar with the case could have told the reporter, a frivolous case.
With no real opportunity to respond they went up with an incredibly one-sided article that made me out to be a cartoon villain.
Within days of the article hitting, forum posts, follow-up articles and abuse started flooding the net. I received numerous death threats including one so specific (it was clear they had driven up close to our house) that we called the police. The death threats included rape threats against my wife and disgusting vile threats against my children.
For the past two years since, not a week goes by where someone doesn’t send me a hate message or ensure that one of our products or services being covered somewhere doesn’t get tarnished with the disgusting allegations that were made. Any time I speak on a given topic, this comes up.
In 2013, the case was dismissed with prejudice and the plaintiff had to issue a public apology. By any reasonable standard, this should have been the end of it. And yet, years later, I still am expected to somehow prove a negative.
So let’s go through the usual crap that harassment apologists try to throw at me or those who support me:
What is newsworthy?
Re: It was a lawsuit, of course the media should cover it
Not a single technology publication (i.e. non-gaming) thought this newsworthy. Zero.
Only the gaming media thought it was worth covering even though in 2012 we were primarily a software company. The gaming media chose to cover something in the most biased way possible. The tech media didn’t consider it worth covering. You be the judge.
Re: I’ve read people using your name as an example of biased journalism but you’re scum, I read the Kotaku article!
Seriously, this is an endless loop:
10: Why are you sympathetic towards #gamergate?
20: Because I’ve seen how biased, politically driven game “news” can hurt people. Like Kotaku Article.
30: Well you are scum. I can prove you’re scum. I read the Kotaku article.
40: Goto 10.
Guilty until proven innocent
Re: Well you’re still scum because you only got an apology by filing an 11th hour retaliatory lawsuit against her for supposedly deleting files and blaming her for your crappy game?
- The original article (on the countersuit) appeared because someone leaked it to the press. We have a pretty good idea who leaked it (not us) as it was leaked to try to create sympathy for the defendant.
- We have stated, endlessly, why Elemental wasn’t good. I did a GDC workshop on it. Note that this workshop was in 2011!
- The countersuit had been filed in early 2011. NOT in 2012 despite the false reporting otherwise.
Re: Well you can’t say you won, sure you got an apology letter but that’s not vindication. That was just part of the settlement in exchange for you dropping your case against her. If you were so sure, why didn’t you just take it all the way through court?
First, the case being dismissed with prejudice with an apology letter should be the end of the story. I was falsely accused of something. The onus isn’t on me to prove my innocence.
…But for the sake of argument let me walk you through how the legal system works:
If we had won in court we would have received a “not liable” result. That’s it. Do you honestly believe that anyone who considers a public apology insufficient would somehow have considered “not liable” sufficient?
Then, they would probably have appealed that verdict because it costs basically nothing to do so. So even now, in 2014, it would still be going on. And for what? To get the aforementioned “not liable” verdict.
The False claims
Re: Well I read the Kotaku article and the things it says you did are pretty damning.
Except, that’s the problem. Those things didn’t happen.
Now, let me walk you through the false claims that keep being repeated as fact:
False. No, I did not. Fabricated. I never sent such an email. Testified to this during deposition and pointed out various problems with the email at the time. That screenshot with the misspelled subject line is the only “evidence” presented. Yet people expect me to prove it wasn’t me? That image is all we’ve got. No IP address, no anything.
He touched her hair in an inappropriate and creepy manner (this is the one that always creeps my female friends out).
False. No, I did not. My friend and colleague of years were together with 2 other women (both of which were witnesses that backed my version). She made a sexist comment about male colleagues of ours because of the attention they made to their hair. Sitting next to me, I lightly touched her hair and said “Really? Didn’t you just dye your hair?” This was a person who had on many occasions given me unsolicited hugs. But I get described as “creepy” because I lightly touched someone’s hair. Nice.
He asked female employees about their breast and bra sizes.
False. No, I did not. Never happened. Her named witnesses denied this.
He told her she should go on the media tour because her nipples looked best on TV.
False. What happened is that she did not want to appear on G4 because of the way they portrayed Olivia Munn. She laughed saying “I could see her nipples on TV. Do I have to go?” and I responded “But your nipples look better on TV than mine.” It was a shared joke. We had THREE witnesses to this.
He visited the hotel room of her and another female employee and made her feel uncomfortable.
False. Never happened. The witness, who was not an employee of the company anymore, and considered by her to be her “best friend” testified that this did not happen. What actually happened is that I was asked to come to their room to fix their Internet connection. Her story confused both myself and her named witness.
The rest of it relates to a cherry picked email that ignores the context leading up to it and presents things said with sarcasm (again, he doesn’t know either of us or how our correspondence typically was).
Logic of the legally ignorant
Let’s talk about the real world and how it works, warts and all.
If I had actually done something remotely wrong, you would never hear of it. Why? Because in the real world, when CEOs do bad things, they get settled long before a lawsuit is even filed. We have insurance that explicitly covers this kind of thing. The cheapest, easiest way to have handled the original correspondence from her attorney would have just been to send it to them and be done. That was what they were counting on.
If her allegations had had the slightest validity, we would have settled. That’s how the real world works.
Yes, we won and we were vindicated
There are no trophies in litigation. But if you ask a civil litigator the meaning of a case the ends with the plaintiff receiving nothing but having to write a public apology letter and having her case thrown out, that is unprecedented. I challenge anyone to find a single civil case that ended that one sided.
Second, we won because the named witnesses supported us. The five female employees named in the lawsuit of 2010 still work at Stardock in 2014. That should tell you something about our working environment
I get this one a lot:
“But your email to your employee stated that you’re a “sexist, vulgar, embarrassing person and if you have a problem with that, find another job!”
This is, again, about context. Kotaku’s hit piece took a bunch of tiny snippets from thousands of pages of court documents and tortured the context out to create a brand new narrative that only existed in the author’s mind.
First off, re-read the quote attributed to me. No one talks like that seriously in the real world. It was said sarcastically.It was understood as being sarcastic. This was not some “admission” of being a sexist, vulgar or embarrassing person.
Let me translate the statement into words that even social justice warriors will understand: You are not a special snowflake. You’re an adult now. The world is a tough, unforgiving place. If you have a problem with that, go somewhere else.
If you’re going to around looking to be offended by everything, you will succeed.
If someone, anyone has some specific issue with something, they can, should bring that up. But it’s not other people’s job to “watch what they say” around the office. It has nothing to do with sexism, misogyny, feminism, etc. It has to do with being a grown up.
The TL;DR version:
- Not only did no “sexual harassment” occur but no behavior that any reasonable (or even fairly unreasonable) would consider inappropriate occurred.
- I am *trying* to not get into the weeds on this as I honestly hold no animus towards the original plaintiff. She made a mistake. She apologized. None of this is about her. This is about how how messed up media coverage gets when they are pushing an agenda. What happened to me is the logical consequence of what happens when you politicize your news.
- It should be enough that every.single.witness supported us. Even today. Our PR manager who was a witness, has explicitly stated she’s willing to talk to the media about it. No takers yet.
- Any lawyer should be able to tell you the significance of a. we got an apology letter and b. there is obviously no “gag” order on us discussing the case. Talk to a civil litigation attorney and have them explain to you what that means.
- Those familiar with the case in detail, even those politically on the opposite end from me, will tell you that nothing inappropriate occurred, even the infamous “I’m a sexist, vulgar embarrassing person” email changes its meaning when put into the larger context. The problem is when people try to take snippets of things and act like they know what happened. They don’t know me. They don’t know the people involved. They don’t know the context.
I don’t expect those who were wrong before the case ended to own up to that. But I do expect anyone who expects to be treated as a reasonable, rational adult to cut this shit out. Quit demanding I prove a negative.