Daniel Klein, a lead game designer on Apex Legends, was recently fired from his job at Respawn Entertainment after screenshots of old blog posts and public conversations surfaced showing the developer making both sexist and racist comments.
These images, which came to light last month, include derogatory remarks about both women and people from Africa. In one, Klein is seen referring to XX chromosomes (a biological designation traditionally used to indicate the female sex) as the “moron chromosomes.” Another shows him speaking about his African neighbors as if they were animals, saying, “If you feed them, they’ll come back and shit all over the place.”
Klein acknowledged that these screenshots were real on July 27, apologizing for their contents while also noting that the comments were from 2007. According to additional research done by Apex Legends personality Thordan Smash, this means Klein would have been around 27 years old at the time.
The news of Klein’s firing was broken yesterday afternoon by the developer himself, who published a lengthy Twitter thread explaining the situation and apologizing again for his past comments.
“I have poured so much energy into becoming a better person since then, and right now I’m just very depressed because it feels I’ll never be able to make up for who I was,” Klein wrote. “I said racist and sexist things, not because I deeply believed any of them, but because I knew I could get a reaction out of people. That does not excuse anything I said; the impact of my words was the same regardless of what I believed.”
Klein, who previously worked as a League of Legends designer at Riot Games, has had a contentious relationship with the Apex Legends community since joining Respawn Entertainment in early 2020. His progressive politics and work on gameplay balance for Apex Legends characters like Wattson often led to squabbles and harassment on social media, some of which Kotaku has seen play out first-hand. Some have posited that this may have been the driving factor for the discovery of these past statements.
When contacted by Kotaku for comment, Klein agreed with this theory.
“I fully own the awful, bigoted statements I made in 2007 and am disgusted with my younger self for making them,” Klein said via email. “But there’s also no doubt in my mind that they came to light because someone went looking for things to hurt me with. EA was aware of this allegation, and I specifically asked them to be on the lookout for these strategies being used against other employees in the future.”
Kotaku reached out to Respawn parent company EA about Klein’s termination and whether these contextual circumstances were taken into account, but didn’t hear back before publication.
Video game companies big and small are understandably on high alert following the publication of the state of California’s sexual harassment lawsuit against Activision Blizzard. Ubisoft leadership, who themselves were embroiled in a similar scandal just last year, are still being criticized by workers for their inaction. Fullbright co-founder Steve Gaynor recently reduced his role from creative lead to writer at the same time news broke about the “toxic” environment he contributed to at the Gone Home studio.
“I wished they’d taken a risk and kept me on,” Klein added in his email to Kotaku, “but I cannot ask anyone to take that risk.”