Apex Legends lead game designer fired for remarks made in 2007

Horizon, Wattson, Gibraltar, Lifeline and Mirage
(Image credit: Respawn Entertainment, GoldenLane Studios)

Lead game designer on Apex Legends, Daniel Z Klein, has left Respawn Entertainment following the discovery of offensive blog posts published in 2007. Images from the DeviantArt blog were circulated on Twitter late last month, and feature comments derogatory to women and African people.

Shortly after the images started circulating Klein made a statement on July 28 denouncing the material. "I was recently confronted with some awful statements I made on a blog I wrote back in 2007," he wrote on Twitter. "I take full ownership for the things I said, and I'm embarrassed, sad, and angry at my younger self for saying this stuff. I hope it is obvious that I don't believe these things anymore."

Klein's colleague Ryan K Rigney, Respawn director of comms, spoke in support of Klein at the time. "Daniel sent me the video himself to make me aware of it," Rigney wrote, referring to a YouTube video collating the old remarks. "Regarding the comments: I don't think anything from 2007 reflects on a person in 2021. People grow up. And accusing him of 'possible sexual assault' is over the line, you should never say stuff like that without evidence."

Two weeks later, Klein has announced his departure from Respawn in a series of Tweets. "I want to be very open here and say that I'm heartbroken and depressed," he wrote. "It's been a very dark few days.

"You may or may not have seen the awful, bigoted things I said in 2007. I wholeheartedly agree that THAT guy should have been fired. 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.

"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.

"I'm mentioning this because with the help of a lot of people who loved me in spite of the shithead I was sometimes I was able to make progress on the journey to becoming a better person. If my story can help one person out there in a similar position to see that there's a way to become better, it would at least serve a purpose."

In a statement provided to Fanbyte prior to Klein's departure, EA wrote: "The comments are disturbing, and we certainly don’t condone the point of view expressed. Our [human resources department] is aware and investigating.”

In a statement to Kotaku, Klein wrote: "I fully own the awful, bigoted statements I made in 2007 and am disgusted with my younger self for making them. 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."

Klein was previously fired from Riot Games in 2018 for not cooperating with the company's social media policies, according to him. His departure came after his public defense of League of Legends PAX West events that were exclusive to women and non-binary attendees. "I was fired for violating our social media policy," Klein told The Verge.

EA has not made a statement about Klein's departure from Respawn at this time. I've reached out for comment and will update if I hear back.

Shaun Prescott

Shaun Prescott is the Australian editor of PC Gamer. With over ten years experience covering the games industry, his work has appeared on GamesRadar+, TechRadar, The Guardian, PLAY Magazine, the Sydney Morning Herald, and more. Specific interests include indie games, obscure Metroidvanias, speedrunning, experimental games and FPSs. He thinks Lulu by Metallica and Lou Reed is an all-time classic that will receive its due critical reappraisal one day.