Edit: The speculation in the second half of this post is incorrect, see this followup for clarification.

Probably the main reason why I wasn’t unhappy to leave Playdom was that I’d gotten the feeling that much of the upper management viewed the company’s employees as commodities. After the acquisition, the company didn’t make any effort that I saw to keep its employees around; partly as a result, lots of people left, including quite good people, and I didn’t get an impression that upper management saw this as a problem. The company also didn’t pay for anybody to go to GDC this year who wasn’t speaking: fine for me personally even if I’d stayed there, I don’t see any reason why Playdom should have paid for my pass, but I imagine that I would have felt differently if I were a game designer.

To be fair, Playdom didn’t force people to take vacation time to go to GDC, which does cost more than the price of a pass. The startup perks haven’t entirely gone away, either: as far as I’m aware, there are still free lunches and dinners, and they were good enough that I didn’t bring my own food from home. More importantly: there are a lot of people there who care a lot about their fellow employees and about the games they’re making. (Speaking of which, give their latest, Deep Realms, a try! It’s a dungeon crawler with a lot more item / attack management than other Facebook games that I’m aware of.) But I was recently reminded of Playdom’s bean-counting aspects when I went shopping this weekend.

Playdom has an employee bonus program, where each person can give out cash bonuses to a few coworkers each year. Which has its pluses and minuses, but I will say this: I gave out a couple, and they meant something to me on a personal level, and the one I received meant something to me as well. The bonus comes in the form of an AmEx gift card; I’m assuming the thought there is that it’s a tangible object that you can hand over to the person you’re giving the bonus to, to make it more of a personal ceremony.

The down side of a gift card, though, is that it’s a little hard to use up (compared to, say, having extra money magically appear in your paycheck); so mine sat in my wallet for several months. But I had an extra-large grocery bill this weekend, I asked the store if they could split it among multiple payment sources, and tried to use up the gift card that way.

I failed (doubtless annoying the customers waiting behind me in the process; sorry!); when I called American Express, it turns out that Playdom had cancelled the card. So I guess, from Playdom’s point of view, it wasn’t a cash-equivalent bonus after all, or a recognition by a coworker for what I’d done in the past: it was a loss that they were happy to pounce on when they had the chance.

Don’t get me wrong: this was not some sort of huge bonus or anything, nothing that I actively regret losing. (So, actually, I’m more surprised at the pettiness of their canceling the gift card than anything else.) Going through the Kealia acquisition and then the Playdom acquisition, however, has been an informative illustration of some of the different ways that companies (both the small companies being acquired and the large companies doing the acquiring) view their employees, of what matters to people with the real decision-making power within those companies. (I imagine if I’d stuck around through the Oracle acquisition, that also would have provided an interestingly different perspective.) Something to keep in mind if I’m ever in a position to affect such decisions at Sumo Logic, or to try to feel out whenever the next time might be that I’m considering changing jobs. (Which I don’t expect to be any time at all soon!)

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