The intraweb is blazing over the recent dispute between money-sucking-soul-crematorium Activision and the previous heads of Infinity Ward, Jason West and Vince Zampella. Basically, Activision, after probably spending an obscene amount of time investigating a legal way to bury West and Zampella up to their chins next to a fire ant mound, decided to just fire them under a cloud of vague accusations.
Luckily, the dispute gives the public a glimpse of how a big developer like Activision, who some have accused of acting like a giant asshole that extrudes video games after leeching away everything awesome and fun about their development, handles internal personnel problems.
I’ve been following the situation closely, and I’ve compiled a list of tips for other organizations aspiring to be seen as huge dicks.
How to handle disagreements with valuable employees
The Jason West and Vince Zampella versus Activision situation is unique because West and Zampella weren’t ordinary employees. Infinity Ward, the studio that West and Zampella headed until Activision figured out a way to get rid of them, produced one of the best selling games of all time for Activision — Modern Warfare 2.
Because of this, Activision couldn’t just toss West and Zampella out on the street like run-of-the-mill employees with the gall to question the Activision Prime Directive. It was important for Activision to embarrass and hassle West and Zampella as much as possible before their inevitable termination because they had the nerve to not keep cranking out award winning games that make billions of dollars.
The court documents that West and Zampella filed claim that Activision refused to explain charges of breach of contract and “insubordination” (embarrass) while holding an internal investigation that at one point involved West and Zampella sitting in a windowless conference room for six hours (hassle).
Any other big corporation might have sat West and Zampella down in a conference room with windows, beverages, and possibly danish to try and work out a solution to the growing strain between publisher and developer. But Activision didn’t earn its vile reputation by being some pussy corporation that wastes money on windows, beverages, and possibly danish.
How to handle a difficult transitional period
You’re probably wondering what to do after you fire your two high-ranking personnel that some have called “priceless” and “the most valuable game developers in the world.” If you followed the previous tip on how to handle disagreements with personnel, the situation is probably complicated because you and/or your company acted like a mound of cock wrapped in a wet bed sheet.
The biggest concern in this type of situation is that your disgruntled former employees will charge through the doors of the development company they founded and convince the rest of your not-so-valuable but still valuable employees to abandon ship, leaving a good-sized vacancy in the corner of your corporate Death Star.
Activision handled a similar situation by guarding the Infinity Ward campus with hired muscle. These mercenaries or “thugs” were ordered to not tell the Infinity Ward staff what was going on, ensuring that the staff became panicked and freaked out. A confused and scared staff isn’t very likely to rebel, more so if that staff usually interacts with spooky military-ish situations by using controllers.
How to control the story after being a dick
It’s important to control the story after your corporation comes across as a greedy fuck-piston. In Activision’s case, they used the unique strategy of providing the public with as little information as possible. We still don’t know a lot of what went on between Activision and West and Zampella:
- Why were West and Zampella fired?
- What did West and Zampella do that was in breach of contract?
- How were West and Zampella insubordinate?
- How does Activision have access to hired goons?
By not telling the public what West and Zampella did to get fired, the public is forced to assume the worst. Did Jason West kill someone? Was it in his contract that he couldn’t kill anyone while employed at Infinity Ward? Did Vince Zampella help hide the body? I bet Bobby Kotick was like “Vince, don’t help him hide that body” and Vince was all “YOU DON’T OWN ME BOBBY.” I’m no expert, but that sounds like a clear case of insubordination.
As a bonus, if your organization has a history of doing shitty things to video game developers, the public will assume that your company is to blame. The resulting media backlash should solidify your company’s status as a giant dick.