Mike Sacco · @mikesacco

6th Feb 2013 from Twitlonger


Last week I was playing Borderlands 2 through a second time and got to Tiny Tina's portion of the story and thought "man, this character really bugs me. It's problematic at best and racist at worst. I should give the writer some feedback."

I got onto Twitter and approached Anthony Burch, the writer of Borderlands 2 over at Gearbox, with the assumption that this was feedback he'd heard before. It turned out I was wrong -- no one had ever called Tiny Tina's depiction racist to his face before. I clarified that I didn't think Burch himself was racist, and that what was wrong with Tina was likely just an accident.

He was initially resistant to what I said but over time he kind of got an inkling, thanked me for my feedback, asked other players what they thought, etc. He said that if players had the impression that Tina's depiction was racist, he'd change her for future content. I walked away happy.

A writer at Kotaku saw the conversation as it was going on and decided it was worth an article - I don't disagree with that, but to me, the execution of the article fell flat, essentially pasting a few of my early tweets and offering no real further commentary.

Eventually I started getting hate tweets directed at me and I saw that it was because, essentially, my Twitter account was the focus of the Kotaku article. I initially reacted angrily to a few of them -- especially ones that called ME racist for calling Tina out -- but over the next few hours I was getting hundreds of hateful comments, too many to deal with directly, so I just blocked everyone who tweeted me negatively.

Other websites began reporting the "story", with most parroting what Kotaku had said, and very few bothering to mention what my actual point was.

This went on for two or three days. By Monday, a day I normally worked from home from my gig at Cryptozoic Entertainment, I thought things had died down.

I was wrong. Midday I received an email from my employer saying that they had been receiving complaints about me through the Cryptozoic Facebook and customer service box, and I was casting the company in a negative light. They said I would need to do two things:

1. Disassociate from Cryptozoic Entertainment on all social media so that my opinions couldn't be construed as theirs, and
2. Cease discussion of "the controversy".

Now, to me, the first directive isn't unreasonable. I've always been up front with the fact that my work for Crypto was as a contractor, and I wasn't tweeting from an official Crypto account, but I understand that the social media age has its pitfalls for companies. I couldn't see how fighting racism would cast Cryptozoic in a negative light, but I would have done it anyway.

The second directive immediately set off alarm bells. Strictly speaking, if you already asked me to disassociate from your company, you don't get to tell me what I can and can't say online after that, especially when it has no bearing on you or your products. Telling me I can't talk about racism on my private Twitter is unconscionable.

So I quit.

I don't believe Crypto was expecting to lose me over this -- I believe they just thought I would capitulate, and honestly, if the circumstances were a little different I might have. But in this case I was able to stand up for my beliefs.

The terms of my contract were such that I was concerned about casting my former employer in a negative light, so in order to avoid doing so, I avoided disclosing the exact manner and circumstance of my leaving, only saying that people had tried to pressure Crypto into firing me (true) and that I was no longer employed there (also true).

Kotaku then ran a second article about how I was no longer employed at Cryptozoic and pressed them for comment, and they issued a statement that they were surprised to see me go (I'm earnestly sure that's true) and that all they had asked me to do was disassociate myself from the company, which is false.

And that's the story of me and Tiny Tina.

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