Blood-testing startup Theranos is circling the drain, and more and more details appear to be leaking from inside the company’s final troubled days. One particularly eye-popping anecdote, courtesy of Wall Street Journal reporter John Carreyrou, revealed how one Theranos employee made a Space Invaders clone featuring a photo of Carreyrou himself as the titular alien threat, culled from his Twitter profile.
Carreyrou is a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist whose series of damning reports about Theranos leadership and its non-functioning technology directly led to the company’s fall from grace. Carreyrou’s book on the saga, titled Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup, is due out on May 21st. It’s also currently in the works to be adapted into a Hollywood film starring Jennifer Lawrence.
Last month, as a result of Carreyrou’s and others’ reporting over the course of more than two years, CEO Elizabeth Holmes was charged by the SEC with defrauding investors. Earlier this week, the company laid off a majority of its remaining employees.
Unfortunately, the Space Invaders anecdote didn’t make it into Carreyrou’s book:
Just learned of a priceless anecdote (so too late to include it in the book): At a company party, Theranos employees played a video game modeled after Atari's Space Invaders: The gun was the miniLab, the bullets the nanotainers and the invader being shot at: Yours Truly!— John Carreyrou (@JohnCarreyrou) April 12, 2018
We do, however, have a screenshot of the game, which looks rather crude and is apparently called “Haters’ gonna hate”:
Space Invaders, Theranos Edition! pic.twitter.com/gOeUNqASBU— John Carreyrou (@JohnCarreyrou) April 13, 2018
The black gun at the bottom is the miniLab and the other breed of invader in purple is the Zika virus! https://t.co/PtaYMIu49l— John Carreyrou (@JohnCarreyrou) April 13, 2018
Carreyrou says he will get to eventually play it:
He’s going to send me a copy of the game and I’m going to play it! I loved Space Invaders growing up. https://t.co/PtaYMIu49l— John Carreyrou (@JohnCarreyrou) April 13, 2018
Carreyrou went on to clarify that the game was not sanctioned by Theranos management, but that the employee who made it did so to learn the Python coding language “and try to cheer up my former co-workers.” It’s clear Carreyrou was not a popular figure within the company. According to journalist Nick Bilton’s account of how Carreyrou’s initial series of investigating reports kicked off a cascade of troubling revelations about the company, Theranos employees once reportedly chanted, “Fuck you, Carreyrou,” at an all-hands meeting in October of 2015.
So he was clearly onto something, and now Carreyrou’s work will be immortalized not just through his own book and the potential Hollywood adaptation, but in a bad Space Invaders clone as well.