Seeking Credit — Where It Is Due — As Two Blockbuster Games Launch

Seeking Credit — Where It Is Due — As Two Blockbuster Games Launch

You probably don’t know Elizabeth Tobey. She didn’t voice an outrageous character or design an outlandish weapon in any video game you’re currently enjoying. But she did, legitimately, have a hand in the creation of — or at least stirring up the desire for — two big 2K Games hitting shelves right now. And she didn’t get the credit she deserved.

Tobey was a longtime 2K Games community officer (going back to 2006 — basically when 2K Games was formed) and, full disclosure, her dog cameoed in a Kotaku ‘Shop Contest earlier this year. In autumn, she moved on from 2K to Trion Worlds for a better gig, before the release of two big games she was working on for 2K — Borderlands 2 and XCOM: Enemy Unknown.

Tobey ran through the credits of Borderlands 2 and didn’t see her name where it should be.

This disappointment doesn’t come from the narcissism of “Hey, I was in that show!” that most people associate with screen credits. “We all know that folks leave games before they are complete sometimes, but that doesn’t negate the months and often years of work they put into a title,” Tobey wrote on a personal blog. “I worked on Borderlands 2 since it was conceived and left just over three months before it shipped.

“As such, I am officially not recognised as ever having worked on the title,” she says.

“Stripping people out of credits is wrong” Tobey writes, and not because of a single person’s vanity. “Our industry lives and dies by official records. Whether you are a designer, a programmer, or a marketing person, if you have worked on a game for the vast majority of its production, you should be titled in the game as the role you served during the vast majority of development.”

Kotaku reached out to 2K Games representatives for a comment and was told that, as a standard practice, all employees are listed in the credits by their title at the time a game is certified. “Elizabeth Tobey had left 2K before Borderlands 2 reached certification, which is why she is listed in the ‘Special Thanks’ section.”

So Tobey is in the credits but she is not listed by the title under which she contributed to the game during its development lifespan, as she feels she should be.

“Special Thanks” includes many of the people who worked very hard to make the launch of Borderlands 2 a success without an official title at 2K at the time of certification. We appreciate all of the hard work Elizabeth put into every game she worked on while at 2K.”

That’s kind, but it doesn’t address Tobey’s main demand. “The point of this blog post is not just to lament the fact I was taken out of the credits of a game I worked on for years. It’s to shed light on the fact that in the gaming industry, it’s standard practice to do this, and that has real and permanent effects on employee resumes and possibly people’s futures.”

I’m not an idealist. Gamers don’t watch the credits unless they get an achievement or a trophy for scrolling them all the way to the end. And Elizabeth Tobey’s name wasn’t going to be the first on the list even if she stuck around.

But she’s right. If you’re a staff contributor to a creative work, you deserve to be listed by the title under which you contributed that work. If she’s left out of the credits of a massive group project like a video game or, more importantly, her name and title in its official credits doesn’t square with what she claims on her own resume, then there is no long-term benefit to her career for working on a video game. And video games fire creative staff after they ship, all the damn time.

I have, theoretically, long-term benefits to my career even from the stories I wrote 20 years ago about drunken lance corporals who broke into furniture stores in Onslow County, N.C., or potatoes that looked like Bill Clinton. My name is printed above those stories. If nothing else, they certify my experience in daily news writing that many employers demand — or used to, anyway — before looking at your resume in this line of work.

Without those bylines, I don’t have anything to show for what I did between 1995 and 2004. Tobey’s work wasn’t printed every day on paper. But her knowledge and skill is no less a marketable commodity and she is expected to be her own brand in an industry driven by contract labour, with exceptionally high turnover. Her career, therefore, depends greatly on a line of code at the end of a three year video game project. Without that proper credit, the least of what is due to her, there’s no real verifiable record of her work. Unless she kept the stubs on her paychecks.

The Issue of Credits [Elizabeth Tobey]


  • I completely agree with Elizabeth. It’s not exactly fair because if she puts that she worked on Borderlands 2 on her resume under a specific title, and the employer looks it up and decides that she’s lying, she may not get a job she’s entitled to.

      • Still seems silly, nothing wrong with slapping multiple people next to a titles name, like they do in movie credits etc.

        • What about hte OTHER side of this coin?

          if i joint HSYT before the credits are made, do i then show up with all the people who have been working for years when all i did was put down a can of coke and logon?

  • But if she left her position and someone else filled it, how would that go on the credits?
    “Previous community officer”?

    • “Community Officer: Roland; Lilith.” is all you’d need to do. Roland was there first, left halfway through, and then Lilith did the same work until the project was done. Easy, no issues.

        • Hardly, a credit does nothing to guarantee the quality or quantity of your work. It’s simply confirmation that you did in fact work on a project.

      • And how its that fair to Lilith.

        What if roland was there for 2 months at the start and Lilith done all the hard work. while not the case here. Roland doesn’t deserve primary recognition for someone elses job if someone else in fact performed more of it.

        I don’t see how this is an issue. It might be a credit, but If your that concerned with checking someones resume your not going to go and play the credits to different games to see what they were listed for. Your going to call up the company and go “Oi this person said they managed your community, yes or no?” in a more subtle way.

    • Or you can just put down both and not go into details about who may have left early? You can’t usually tell from game credits that they don’t include staff who left early.

  • But she left 2K knowing this would happen. She left willingly on her own accord. She wasn’t ‘pushed’ – she went to a ‘better gig’. This would have been part of her employment contract, else she should be talking to her lawyers instead of making this public on a blog.

    In my line of work, bonus is usually paid few months after the end of the financial year. Even if you worked and contributed 365 days of that financial year, if you leave before the bonus is paid, you won’t get it. You get nothing of that bonus. This is the same as Elizabeth – if she wanted the credit, she should have stayed until it was certified, then left, or had a contract signed before leaving that she get credit.

  • Yeah it sounds like she took the risk and hoped they’d still credit her. The company can’t be expected to explain every half-credit attributed to the game, otherwise the credits would be 3 hours long and contain a history of every person that stepped into the office. Sure, she put the work in but there’s something to be said for seeing something through to the end.

  • I’d actually say this suggestion is bad. GuyA is there for 2 months, leaves. GuyB replaces them for the next 24 months. Why should they get equal billing? Who can say which did more work?

    “At point of cert” sounds fair, and keeps people there until the game is certified.

  • Any major publisher would check their references against the publisher / developer, not the fucking credits of the game.

    Dumb reasoning to veil what is essentially wanting their cake and eating it too.

  • The credits don’t actually break down the specific groups and roles. It simply starts “Borderlands 2 was made by Gearbox. Gearbox is:…” and lists the employees, in alphabetical order by surname. There are no “callouts” for team leaders or department managers. Randy Pitchford, the CEO, comes in just after halfway, with no great fanfare or distinction.

  • I do watch the credits of every game I finish (however I’ve finished what, 14 games this gen – so that isn’t many) and I think it suck that people who leave a project become the special thanks section!

    Then again – the rest of society runsoff resumes and references to verify previous employment and acheivements, why should the games industry be any different, I mean surely game publishers don’t have the poor attention span and literacy skills of Hollywood producers that rely on a published credit?

  • I think they handled it appropriately.

    To write ‘2K Community Officer – Elizabeth Tobey’ or to put her under the list of employees makes little sense considering she does not hold that position and is no longer affiliated with either 2K or Gearbox. To give her a title that no longer applies is just odd.

    She still got her recognition in the special thanks section which makes far more sense than implying she is still employed by 2K and I somewhat doubt she would prefer her name to appear as ‘Former 2K Employee Elizabeth Tobey’.

    She chose to leave early for a ‘better gig’ and this is simply a (understandable) consequence of that decision.

  • Is that actually written in 2k policy? If it is, I know bureaucratic red tape is a bitch sometimes (all of the time) but if it’s actually written down then technically she’s in the wrong. I actually think it’s nice that they considered crediting her at all. I can understand the annoyance though.

  • Last credits i watched in a game was Westwoods C&C (original).

    If your applying for a job, last i checked there were things called reference checks, if that isnt good enough then you probably werent doing a good job, credits dont show efficacy.

    Whine some *unjustifiably* more….

  • Was it easier to kick up a fuss and complain to a news website rather than call up and go ‘Hey, could i please have a written reference for the time I worked on the project. Thanks.’

  • I’ve been omitted from the credits in some games I’ve worked on. It’s not so much the fact that I can’t point to a game and say, I worked on that but I can’t prove it that bugs me. It’s that it feels like my contribution meant nothing to the company.

  • I was discussing this very thing yesterday and came up with the ultimate solution.

    Every staff member gets 1 pica point for each month they worked on the game. Worked on the game for 8 months, your name font is in 8 point. 24 months? 24 point. 120 months? You worked on Duke Nukem forever and you don’t want your name on the credits….

    Alternatively you could use “seconds on screen”

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