IGDA Drama Courts Harassment, Threats, And Deportation Attempts
Chris Ruiz, an American expat working within the Philippines game development industry, has been on the receiving end of what he claims is an endless spree of harassment, defamation, backstabbing and lies. Ruiz is a game developer currently housed under the Xelzeta Studios umbrella, but you wouldn’t be able to easily tell that based on the website, which Ruiz no longer has any control over. It’s currently in the hands of the people he says have been harassing him since 2018, which has involved backstabbing plots, career sabotage, and even deportation attempts.
So how did this all start?
According to Ruiz, things began to escalate back on July 7th, 2018, when he was suing NXT Academy for pay he was owed. According to him, the defendants were looking for any kind of information they could to use against him in the case. Ruiz stated this was all designed to discredit him, get him deported, and allow NXT to win the case against him.
NXT’s attempts to dig up dirt on him eventually roped in Sally Peck from Polywick Studios, for whom Ruiz had previously partnered with for a loan. Conveniently enough for NXT, Peck was also working for them at the academy as a Unity 3D trainer. And since things fell apart between Peck and Ruiz regarding the loan, it didn’t take much for Peck to begin parroting the invective against Chris Ruiz that was being doled out by the NXT Academy’s CEO, Carminia F. Sobretodo.
Things kept escalating, though. Sally Peck would seize the opportunity to acquire Ruiz’ Xelzeta website when the domain expired, and proceeded to erase his data and post up denigrating remarks about Ruiz’s career and business.
If you visit the Xelzeta Studio website, it explains how Peck and Ruiz came to terms with the loan, and the eventual fallout, where it reads…
“In the course of finding local resources to expand its Philippine business, Polywick chanced upon the acting Game Development Program Chair of a prestigious Makati based learning institution that bannered curriculum assistance with the International Game Developers Association (IGDA).
“With the highest of recommendations, the Program Chair introduced Polywick to Christopher A. Ruiz . Being Chairperson with a Doctorate, this recommendation was highly regarded and pursued by Polywick.
“By October 2017, Chris Ruiz as engaged by Polywick, offered at least ₱400,000.00 in business contracts in exchange for a loan of ₱175,000.00 which he claimed was needed to settle obligations with the Bureau of Immigration. This came with the condition and promissory note of its return if the ₱400,000.00 was not generated after a 1-year period . This term has ended and no positive action for any business generation was ever enacted by Chris Ruiz during the entire term.”
According to Peck, since Ruiz didn’t fulfill the business contracts, she decided to squat on the website, claiming that since he didn’t renew the domain in time she took it over to highlight his alleged misdeeds.
In an e-mail message, Peck insinuated that Ruiz’ credentials were illegitimate and that Xelzeta didn’t exist.
When contacted for comment, Ruiz explained…
“[…] that was a loan deal that Sally’s lawyers refused to discuss with me about to clear up since there was no monetization about it. Eventually she sent someone after me to threaten me… again instead of using her lawyers who has my contact info, and we used to chat before, but again SILENCE. Then I had another lawyer review the loan, and there are problems with it that holds to nullify it, and since the criminal acts that Sally brought upon herself Cyber Squatting, Libel, Copyright Infringement, and threats…I really think there’s nothing to owe after all of that.., no excuse.”
Ruiz also provided a link to the Department of Trade & Security Philippines, which revealed that Xelzeta does exist within the database and has been registered as a national business over on the DTI government website. There’s also a PDF link to the search results showing that Ruiz did register Xelzeta within the Philippines Depart of Trade & Industry.
Nevertheless, when pressed further about taking control of Ruiz’ company website for Xelzeta, Peck explained that if he was as famous as he claimed, he wouldn’t have let the domain expire, and that this was because he didn’t pay off the loan, writing…
“The loan came about, because Chris was technically, an overstaying illegal (as in, a tourist not permitted/authorized to work) in the Philippines.
“He wanted the loan in 2016, because he lost a labor case and the BI (Bureau of Immigration) and needed the P200,000 to pay his debts. […]
The “overstaying illegal” line was originally shopped around by NXT’s CEO, Carminia F. Sobretodo, and was later picked up by Peck, and IGDA (International Game Developers Association) Philippines board member, Gwen Foster.
However, when asked about this, Ruiz explained that he was never in the Philippines illegally, and that when Peck et al attempted to get him deported by claiming that he was there illegally, he went to the immigration office himself to clarify that the claims of him being there illegally were incorrect. He also provided a certificate of clearance form the Manila Bureau of Immigration, showing that he’s neither blacklisted nor in violation of the immigration laws.
Nevertheless, Peck went on to write…
“Later, [Ruiz] would boast various things, like being part of Secret Six (a game studio here) – later found false. Being a brand ambassador of Wacom Philippines (which doesn’t exist) and misrepresenting himself many times.
“His domain – he let his domain expire, while promoting a fake game – XrossBeta – https://www.facebook.com/xrossbeatgame/
”For nearly 5 years, he was promoting that fake game, while no development was being done on it.
“For many years, he let his domain name lapse so we brought in a year ago, and posted the message there.
“Why would you let your own company’s domain name expire? If he claimed he was so famous? […]”
I actually did ask Ruiz about his affiliations with Secret Six, which was a claim first put forward by NXT, who shared an e-mail from Secret Six that stated that Ruiz was never one of their employees.
Ruiz clarified that he never said he was a Secret Six employee, but rather worked with them. Ruiz provided e-mails where he interacted with Alvin Juban from Secret Six, and revealed that he did provide some animation assets and consultancy for a Spongebob workshop project back on August 25th, 2011.
According to Ruiz…
“[…] people at [Secret Six] can deny I ever worked with them… I wasn’t a full time employee thus why anyone at HR will say today they on a typical inquiry Email I wasn’t part of their company.”
Nevertheless, Ruiz’s traducers insist that he’s a fraud, mostly because when contacting various studios, they all claim that Ruiz was never an employee at their companies, such as UDON Entertainment’s Erik Ko, the chief of operations, explicitly telling NXT that the company “NEVER” employed any artist with the name of Christopher Ruiz.
However, most contractors aren’t considered employees, so trying to find an employee paper trail may not be possible, even if work was done for the company in some capacity.
Even still, things continued to turn sour for Ruiz when IGDA’s Gwen Foster was brought into the orbit after NXT began claiming that the IGDA logo under Ruiz’ name on his career highlight sheet was fraudulent. When they contacted the IGDA about it, the organization claimed that Ruiz was not a member.
However, Ruiz explained that an endorsement from IGDA Manila was misconstrued and used as a way to discredit him as a developer, stating…
“All because [one] of [the three] documents mentioned under it I was part of IGDA Manila (I Was endorsed by IGDA – and later on a very long threaded email trail where Gwen complained to the government body, the former president of IGDA at the time DID state I was endorsed for that government project)……
“Though Gwen didn’t care, and still wanted to use her powers feeling obligated to have the document change all because supposedly I was not a credible developer. So all this was going on around July-Aug. Just to end the arguments – the government issued her a Memo just to shut her up, but nothing was amended.”
This was exacerbated via a Facebook post and a tweet from Foster months later.
She asked if anyone knew of a developer representing Ragnarok Online in the Philippines via a tweet posted on October 18th, 2018.
so there’s an American developer in the PH who is apparently representing @playragnarok @ragnarok_ph, I’d love to know if this is legit and could you folks point me to the right direction? @iamsunpark @Adsinjapan @tha_rami
— Gwen Foster 🔜 #notGDC (@ifnotnowgwen) October 18, 2018
No one knew anything, so Foster made a post on the IGDA Philippines Facebook group, writing the following…
“Not usually one to say bad things about people publicly, but this man has done a lot of wrong things with the industry and has violated IGDA’s Code of Ethics. He has misrepresented IGDA IN TESDA and we have actually fixed part of the mess he continues to create.
“He claims to be a legendary artist and game developer for RAGNAROK. However, if you fact check, RAGNAROK is actually produced by Gravity in Korea and the Philippine partner is Level UP – the local publisher of RAGNAROK.
“Fact check and be mindful of people who claim to be something they’re not.”
This led people to begin calling Ruiz a “fraud” when his name popped up at the DevCon Davao event.
Ruiz pointed out that in the comment section of the Facebook post, Sally Peck from Polywick was continuing to denigrate him, and he claims that she was using assets that he had developed…
“The person “Sally Peck” is a Singaporean who lives in the Philippines, she’s one of the people connected to the company I was suing… And if you look further, in the comments you will see she is showing off a VERY EARLY prototype of a game I was working years ago. Claiming she has it, which is clearly copyright infringement, yet again something an IGDA board is allowing to be entertained. Allowing her to posting videos and pictures of that stuff without my consent, tsk tsk… “
Ruiz felt that the IGDA should be above petty grievances, personal attacks, and harassing developers, especially doing so over nothing more than personal grudges.
According to Ruiz, he knew Gween Foster since as far back as 2009, and that she was made aware of his work on Ragnarok Online, yet has been making posts on social media that made it out as if his career achievements were all dubious.
“I knew Gwen in 2009, she knew I worked on Ragnarok for many many years, even tried to outsource me in 2014 to teach a class for sprites…. She has friends who are the former brand managers from the publishing side that I collaborated with on future content I would develop into the game for the local servers that eventually goes global… So this right here was a personal attack, because #1. I’m an American who she founds out wasn’t deported. #2. this all means she didn’t live up to the expectations of my former enemies she was plotting with #3. She was trying to find something to prove I was not a former developer for RO just to bring me down further – hoping it’ll lead to me not having opportunities. #4. She needed something to make herself look like a hero in the community to scare other developers. (It’s just again, I’m an American developer who is popular in the Philippines)
“When Gwen made that public post on FB she ultimately started to give people my private information. Which in retrospect is against the Law: Data Privacy Act. I would then received text messages and phone calls from unknown numbers that contained Impulsive THREATS that linked right to the source… I HAD a private mobile number that was unlisted and given to only trusted professionals or important contacts – this changed the day Gwen started to PM people my details.”
Ruiz found himself being harassed by people associated with Peck after his information was spread around by IGDA Philippines board member, Gwen Foster. This resulted in people threatening and harassing him, as indicated in the image below.
Ruiz was distraught at this turn of events, explaining…
“That blew my mind away – she was making all these false claims against me just so she had a VOICE within the community like she’s a HERO for fact checking?! HELLO?!!! – I worked with Gravity as a freelancer since like 2002/2003 (early beta days) [back then internally everything was unorganized]… By 2005, I was being asked to collaborate with Levelup Games (The PH/India/Brazil Publisher) to design/direct/develop/create exclusive content for their servers – but not limited to global content for Gravity. Anything Levelup did, HAD TO BE APPROVED BY GRAVITY PERIOD. It was at that time (2005) I flew over to the Philippines to start everything officially, so the rest is history, I have a few NDAs, Contracts & Certificates… I was developing & directing content for all of Ragnarok Online for nearly 7 years straight my stuff is in the official game, I even had a dev blog that Gravity supervised so we can track early feedback before some content went globally – some content on the blog never got released. It was a love hate relationship, but it was the Philippines love for the game that kickstarted my career further since the game in the US, (especially in New Jersey) was very little to be known VS. EverQuest, WoW, Diablo, etc. etc. hahaha… It’s WHY I dedicated myself to learn about the Philippines game dev scene to help it grow once I knew there wasn’t much of a foundation for it, I wanted to GIVE BACK. And honestly those who I know that are WORKING HARD to educate game dev today in PH is a small amount, they keep getting dragged down by someone like GWEN. She is a power Tripping Gatekeeper, it needs to STOP~!”
There has been a running misconception within the IGDA Philippines chapter that Ruiz didn’t actually do any work on Ragnarok Online.
Peck shared an image via e-mail showing Ruiz’s career highlights, with a giant ‘X’ by nearly all of his credentials and his company, claiming that Xelzeta Studio is “illegal” and that the work that he’s done on various projects were all false.
However, some of the projects could easily be verified. As Ruiz mentioned about Ragnarok Online, he does have ties to its development. The subsidiary of Gravity Games, Level-Up Gaming, had maintained developer blogs at one point, and Ruiz’s developer blog first popped up back in 2007 over on the Project Revolution blog.
The blog discusses Ruiz’s work on various sprites and artwork for Ragnarok Online. This is further corroborated by a second developer blog post where Ruiz shared screenshots and developmental updates for Level-Up Gaming’s iteration of Ragnarok Online. The blog was previously accessible from the Xelzeta Corporation website back in 2010. You can still access the old archives before Peck took over the domain via old web archives.
There are also a few Brazilian blog sites from back in 2010 that also discussed Ruiz’s work on Ragnarok and some of the art assets he shared from when he was part of Level-Up Gaming.
Gravity Games’ version of Ragnarok Online shut down back in 2015.
This didn’t stop Ruiz’s detractors from looking for ways to discredit him. They shared e-mails claiming that he lied about his achievements and credentials, even though there’s still a paper trail of his contributions to the Philippines gaming industry, no matter how thin it may be, including talks and seminars he’s given over the years to discuss game development in Philippines, such as attending the DevCon Summit back in 2016 as a key note speaker.
There were also claims that Ruiz listing various movie productions he’s contributed to were false. However, on the career sheet it listed that Ruiz worked as a production consultant for Blumhouse Productions on Insidious as well as coordinator for the two sequels. There are IMDB entries for Chris Ruiz working on the aforementioned projects.
But almost all of this is beside the point.
The claims against Ruiz center around trying to defame him for issues that don’t really amount to anything.
“Even Unity Technologies have my resume, did their background check [and] I ended up working along side them most of last year on building materials. I have nothing to gain from lying – I walk the talk. I can easily get projects without a resume, that thing they keep hounding about its not even considered a resume its a FREAKING LIST because I didn’t have time to keep updating one. And, that isn’t something you can even sue someone for let alone try to crucify them?! So what all threeof them did to me, is still no excuse…”
It checks out that Ruiz did work with Level-Up Gaming on Ragnarok Online and has contributed – either as a freelancer or a contractor – to various projects over the years within the entertainment industry. He provided documentation that he’s not residing in the Philippines illegally, and that he’s not blacklisted by the industry.
So why the witch hunt?
“So yes all of this started because of Carminia F. Sobretodo and Sally Peck. In between all of Carminia’s fishing for loopholes to get out of the legal battle we were in the middle of, she was already contacting Gwen [Foster] to get something.”
Foster latched onto these claims and ran with it, spreading word that Ruiz was a fraud, which eventually caught on with some people within the Philippines gaming industry.
According to Ruiz, this has had a rather damaging effect on his life, saying…
“When Sally got involved, I can assure you she was the one to suggest to Carminia that I’m a fraud do this or do that next. Because Sally has a history of suing her own employees when shes done using them. The timing was perfect to when I could have had my lawyer make the appeal to a higher court. That’s where the sabotaging began in July, 2018… all [three] of them dished out everything to delay me or avoid my chances to appeal to the higher courts.
“That’s when I learned about Sally trying to complain to Immigration, while at the same time Carminina was complaining to IGDA to remove my name on Documents.”
Ruiz outlined that attempts were made by Foster and others to get him removed from various industry speaking events, as well as to impede his opportunities and career in the Philippines.
Ruiz states that with his friends being hounded and with the harassment he’s endured during this ordeal, he’s decided to keep Xelzeta projects low-key for now. He’s also decided to stave off marketing Xelzeta at the moment until things settle down.
This isn’t the first time that Gwen Foster ended up in a story about IGDA drama.
Previously there was a kerfuffle involving comments that Foster made on Twitter that were construed as racist, which led to IGDA lifetime member and developer, Derek Smart, seeking to have Foster removed as a member of the IGDA Philippines board.
For now we’re not sure what the IGDA will do about this situation or if anything will be done, but Ruiz makes it known that he won’t be leaving the Philippines anytime soon, but he did want to share the story to give people an idea of how what can happen when misinformation and ill-intent can be weaponized to ruin someone’s career.