Mirroring the culture wars being fought on virtually every medium available these days, Tripwire Interactive co-founder John Gibson blamed what he called "social terrorism" for being forced out as CEO of the developer and publisher in 2021. His comments came during an appearance on Tucker Carlson Tonight, in which he said his ouster from the company he helped launch in 2005 left him "destroyed."
"[Social terrorism] is an effort to use fear and intimidation to cause people to change," Gibson said. "Either hide or pretend that they're not what they are, really, so that they can keep their jobs, so they can keep their status. And I just think that's just a terrible thing for the world."
Gibson stepped down as chief executive (opens in new tab) of Tripwire shortly after tweeting support for an abortion ban in September 2021. He claims in this interview that he wasn't the only person on Tripwire's leadership team with anti-abortion views, and that one woman in a "fairly senior" position was opposed to his ouster. According to Gibson, she opted not to speak out in his defense because she was "outnumbered" and didn't want to end up in the same position he was.
"That's how this social terrorism works," Gibson said. "You make people scared, you make their jobs more difficult, you make them worry that people are going to leave the company if they don't throw the person who disagreed with their political positions out of the boat. And so she really couldn't overcome the wave of sentiment of the other folks.
"And then the other people that agreed, they're afraid to speak up. They don't want to be next. I had one of the other owners of the company, politically we're very very aligned. He thinks cancel culture is bad, he thinks abortion is bad, and he said, 'Yeah, I don't want to be cancelled next.'"
Tripwire Interactive's best-known games are Killing Floor, Killing Floor 2, Rising Storm 2: Vietnam, and Maneater. In 2021, it published Torn Banner Studios' multiplayer medieval action game Chivalry 2. PC Gamer reached out to Tripwire for comment on these statements but did not receive a reply in time for publication.
In 2021 Gibson tweeted support for the Texas Heartbeat Act (opens in new tab), a law that bans abortion following the detection of fetal cardiac activity—typically about six weeks after conception. The law also allows any private citizen to sue anyone who "aids and abets" an abortion beyond that point for a minimum of $10,000. Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood, called the ban "heinous," saying that people "who already face the largest barriers to accessing health care, will be most harmed by this law."
"As an entertainer I don't get political often," Gibson tweeted last year. "Yet with so many vocal peers on the other side of this issue, I felt it was important to go on the record as a pro-life game developer."
The 2021 statement sparked an immediate backlash from Twitter followers including original Gears of War designer Cliff Bleszinski (opens in new tab) and God of War director Cory Barlog (opens in new tab). Other game studios also weighed in: Chivalry 2 developer Torn Banner Studios said Gibson's statement "stands in opposition to what we believe about women’s rights," while Shipwright Studios, which had worked with Tripwire as a co-developer on games including Chivalry 2 and Maneater, cut ties with the company completely (opens in new tab). A few days later, Tripwire apologized for the comments, saying they "do not reflect those of Tripwire Interactive as a company," and announced that Gibson had been replaced by co-founder and vice president Alan Wilson.
Gibson said in a statement sent to PC Gamer that he volunteered to step down as CEO a few days after the tweet because of internal pressure from some employees, as well as negative coverage on social media and in the press.
"This created an untenable situation with the 'least bad' solution being that we would sell the company and I would leave Tripwire completely," Gibson said. "While I remained a board member during this time, I functionally left the position of CEO and remained with the company in an unspecified role and as the largest single shareholder until Tripwire was sold to Embracer." Gibson declined to clarify what position he held at the studio after stepping down as CEO.
Gibson also revealed that the situation at Tripwire was made even worse after "people on the extreme right called in hundreds of death threats" in opposition to his ouster as CEO. "Those death threats from the right made an already extremely challenging situation between me and the company a nearly impossible one," Gibson said.
At the time of his resignation, Gibson said in a statement that Tripwire's owners and executives "acted with class" and "professionalism" and that they treated him "with great care and dignity" in the days leading up to his departure, and more recently tweeted that he "never got booted (opens in new tab)," remained employed by the studio for a year longer, and then helped broker the sale of the company to Embracer Group earlier this year. He painted a very different picture during his interview on Fox, however, telling him that the experience "destroyed" him and left him suicidal for a time.
"Words can hardly convey how crushed I was," Gibson said. "Everyone that works puts a little bit of themselves into something, or maybe a lot. When you're doing something like this, that's a passion, something you used to do for free, and you just absolutely love it—you spent 20 years, 25 years of your life, crafting your skillset, and you're at the top of your game, and you love what you do every day, you just love coming into work and making people happy. We were making, sure, millions of fans happy, but also, the company would take 10 percent of our profits and divide it up amongst employees. And there was a lot of profit.
"People were out buying cars and houses, and I would see people coming into work smiling and happy, and I just loved having a job where I got to make, not just the public happy, but the employees happy. And to have that all destroyed, to feel like—I shared something with my wife, I'll tell you what I said to her. I said, I just want to die. Because I don't want to live in a world that's this unjust. Yeah, I got depressed, I got of course angry, suicidal. Not wanting to leave the house. It destroyed me. And I have lived through 13 months of hell."
Gibson told PC Gamer that his goal in speaking out is to "put a human face" on his experience and encourage an end to political extremism and destructiveness, which he clearly blames on "liberal" interests.
"I’m speaking out not to push back on my former company, but to raise awareness with a hope that in the future some people will pause and consider before going after people on social media because it can ruin someone's life," Gibson said. "I want to encourage people to think if they would want something like this to happen to their father, sister, child, or to themselves. It is important that we get back to balance on both ends of the political spectrum and have dialogue on important topics without rage and malice. The alternative is we continue to get more polarized and things get worse for us all.
"Currently, most conservatives will work with any liberal, but the same is not true the other direction. Everyone should have the right to work without losing their livelihoods because of their political viewpoints or their excising their free speech right to share those viewpoints. "
The conservative talk show Tucker Carlson Tonight airs nightly on Fox, and is one of the highest rated shows (opens in new tab) on television. Its host is well-known for espousing white supremacist views, including promoting the "great replacement (opens in new tab)" theory and that the US is being "invaded" by immigrants and refugees, most recently from the war the US started in Afghanistan (opens in new tab). Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Nicholas Confessore of the New York Times said in a recent NPR (opens in new tab) interview that Tucker Carlson Tonight "may be the most racist show in the history of cable news."