Some thoughts on Robert "RazerGuy" Krakoff
Today has been hard. We lost a good one. I wanted to get some thoughts down about the type of person Robert was, or at least the Robert that I knew. Quite simply, he was a visionary who saw gaming as a competitive sport before anyone else. He watched the birth of the competitive Quake scene and envisioned its potential. He was a former professional football player with a full ride to UCLA, and he played 5 years for the LA Rams. He understood that as a competitive scene grows, so too grows the need for equipment. For those not around in those days, esports wasn’t a thing. Red Annihilation didn’t happen until 1997. To hear Robert tell it, pen went to paper for the first gaming mouse in 95. It wasn’t until the end of that decade that we saw the world’s first gaming mouse drop, the Razer Boomslang. From there, its history.
I met Robert briefly at E3 in 2003. Razer was a tiny booth in Kentia Hall and I, a failed freelance gaming journalist, was off trying to get sample reviews for hardware. He was kind and never missed an opportunity to talk gaming with anyone who was interested. It wasn’t until 2005, while I was working at a LAN center in Orange County, that my friendship with him would really start. He had asked me to run a series of focus groups with the MMO community to get feedback on an idea he had about a new kind of gaming mouse. He was an avid World of Warcraft player and always had a stable of max level characters.
At the end of one of our sessions, I asked him to lunch so I could pick his brain on gaming. I loved gaming hardware, and little did I know at the time, Robert would jump at any opportunity to talk gaming with a captive audience. We sat there at the Islands in Mission Viejo and just talked about everything from community to hardware, and his philosophy behind the relationship of the player and their equipment. I loved it.
About a year later I reached out to him with my flimsy resume, letting him know that I was looking for work and would love an opportunity to work at Razer. There was no open position for me. I was a LAN center manager with an English degree. But he took me on because he had a gut feeling about me. I was hired as a Channel Marketing Manager. The first thing I did after accepting the job was go out and buy a booked called, and this is true, “What is Channel Marketing?” That is how much of a chance this man took on me. That move was everything. Because of him, I was able to build a life, a family, a career, and a passion. He gave me that because that was the kind of person he was.
He taught me everything about community. How the people matter, how the needs of the players come first. For Gamers. By Gamers. Get the unfair advantage. We don’t make mice, we make snakes which eat mice. We would sit in his office for hours (not a productive use of work time but he was the President, who was I to argue) and just talked about gaming, the community, the esports industry in its infancy, and what kind of products we should make. The player was everything.
The entire community strategy at the time was every product sold had his email address on it. This wasn’t some corporate help box. This was his email that he used for everything. Razerguy@razerzone. That email was the same one I would message when I needed something approved or booked a meeting. Go look at the old products, its right there. You had an issue? Wanted to talk to the company? Here is Robert’s direct line. Every. Product. That’s who he was.
When that became untenable, we talked about making a community manager position. It was clear that channel marketing was not my true calling and he wanted to see his investment in the community get taken to the next level. I wrote out a JD, passed it to him, he passed it around, and after much deliberation, I was called to be told that, “leadership got together and drafted a job role that they thought I would be a good fit for,” and handed me the JD I wrote. From then on, every step we took with community had his eyes on it, his feedback, and was baked with his vision. Our style of communicating had his irreverent self-depreciating humor. As gamers, we didn’t take ourselves too seriously, but when it came to the game itself, we were all in to win. That competitive switch was woven into the DNA of the brand.
As we set that tone, so too did the other hardware companies who followed. There is no PC hardware company out there that doesn’t owe a debt to the trail he blazed and the vision he had. He saw what could be and taught so many of us to see the same. I see his fingerprints everywhere in this industry. However, I know he would hate me saying that. He was humble to a fault, never one to take accolades, never one to think of himself first. He described his time at Razer as his “15 minutes of fame” and always downplayed his role. He was an entrepreneur, an elite athlete, an accomplished author, a husband, father, and mentor. I am so honored to have called him friend. If you want honor him, grab some friends, pick up your mouse, and go play to win. In the immortal words of RazerGuy himself, “Happy Hunting.”