Martin O'Donnell speaking at the Grammy Pro FutureNOW panel at Experience Music Project in 2016

Ex-‘Halo’ Composer’s Bizarre Political Campaign Announcement Renews Interest in His Firing

In an unexpected turn of events, ex-Bungie composer Martin O’Donnell has announced he is running for Congress as a Republican. As his campaign announcement gives insight into some of his concerning conservative ideals, many are re-examining his dismissal from Bungie.

Recommended Videos

O’Donnell is a composer best known for composing music for Halo. He first began working for Bungie in the early 2000s and gained recognition for his work on the soundtrack of the original Halo game, Halo: Combat Evolved. The soundtrack received high praise from critics and sold 400,000 copies. He would go on to compose the music for four additional Halo games for Bungie. By 2014, O’Donnell had also completed the soundtrack for Destiny alongside former Beatles member Paul McCartney. However, several months before the game’s release, Bungie fired O’Donnell.

The sudden termination shocked many, given that Destiny was on the horizon and many had grown to love O’Donnell’s compositions. Meanwhile, O’Donnell’s initial statement on the termination suggested that it had not been an amicable departure. What really went down between O’Donnell and Bungie?

Why was Martin O’Donnell fired from Bungie?

On April 16, 2014, O’Donnell took to Twitter to announce his termination from Bungie. In the Tweet, he accused Bungie’s board of directors of terminating him “without cause.” Meanwhile, Bungie released a very different statement, claiming it was parting ways with O’Donnell as “friends” and wishing him luck in his future endeavors. Soon, O’Donnell confirmed the firing wasn’t friendly by filing an arbitration claim against Bungie to restore his rights as a shareholder. He also filed another suit to receive compensation for unpaid wages.

O’Donnell proved victorious in his legal battle with Bungie. The arbitrator ruled in his favor, finding that Bungie could not strip him of his founders’ shares and demanding they be restored, given that O’Donnell’s agreement outlined giving up his founders’ shares only if he left voluntarily, but not if he was terminated. Additionally, the court awarded him $95,000 in unpaid wages and $142,500 in profit sharing. The value of the stocks wasn’t revealed, but the restoration of his shares is believed to be far more valuable than the amount of his unpaid wages. Bungie tried to appeal the decision and argued that O’Donnell would be a “bothersome presence at board meetings” if his shares were restored. However, Bungie’s argument and appeal were dismissed.

Meanwhile, the case shed some light on why O’Donnell was fired. According to the filing, tensions rose over the handling of the composer’s music for Destiny. In 2010, Bungie struck a 10-year publishing agreement with Activision Blizzard, and the two companies began collaborating on the Destiny franchise. O’Donnell was tapped to compose the music for the franchise. In addition to the Destiny soundtrack, O’Donnell and McCartney composed Music of the Spheres, which served as an eight-part companion composition for the game. The problem arose when Activision failed to show much enthusiasm for Music of the Spheres.

Things escalated quickly when Activision aired a trailer for Destiny at the Electronic Entertainment Expo and swapped out Music of the Spheres with its own music. O’Donnell called Activision out on social media and was accused of interrupting press briefings and threatening fellow employees not to post the trailer, though the case doesn’t go into detail on his disruptions or threats. Although Activision recommended O’Donnell’s termination for his conduct, he wasn’t immediately fired. However, upon returning to work after the incident, employees and his supervisor claimed that his performance and engagement had declined, resulting in him becoming a distraction for others. This led to Bungie’s chief executive, Harold Ryan, proposing O’Donnell’s termination to the board, which was ultimately approved.

O’Donnell’s political career explained

After reading O’Donnell’s campaign announcement for Congress, some may question whether his political views affected his termination. There’s some evidence that his political leanings were known at the time, considering a podcast from 2007 labeled him the most “right-leaning” employee in the company. Additionally, he has been touting right-wing propaganda on social media for years, including complaining about the concept of gender-neutral babies, boycotting Gillette for parting with Sean Hannity after Hannity was accused of sexual harassment, and bragging about voting for Donald Trump twice.

There is no evidence that his political views or social media activity played a role in his firing. Still, as his viewpoints gain traction, many are rethinking their sympathy for his alleged wrongful termination. One will especially give greater weight to Activision’s claims of his disruptive and bothersome presence upon learning that he violated the rulings of his own court victory. The sole condition of restoring his stock holdings and unpaid wages was that he surrendered and refrained from sharing or performing any music or assets related to Destiny. Despite scoring a huge victory that likely would’ve secured him financial stability for life, he was found in contempt of court in 2021 when uploading Destiny music to his YouTube channel.

On top of that, many were deeply confused by his announcement that he was running for Congress. One user described the political campaign announcement as a “dog-whistle-y article of a Tweet.” His announcement was largely just a rant about big businesses, government spending, and lack of security at the borders. O’Donnell concluded by claiming that “children in our country are suffering” from the loss of “the traditional family.”

What will come of O’Donnell’s political career and what other odd twists this composer’s saga will take next remains to be seen.

(featured image: Paul Conrad/Getty)


The Mary Sue is supported by our audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a small affiliate commission. Learn more
related content
Read Article Could Stray Kids’ Summer Plans Include New Music?
The eight members of Stray Kids in a promotiona picture for their comeback ODDITY
Read Article Hannah Waddingham Rightfully Calls Out Gross Photographer’s Inappropriate Comments
Hannah Waddingham with her arms raised while on stage
Read Article JonTron’s Fans Think He’s ‘Winning at Life,’ but His Controversies Say Otherwise
Jonathan Jafari holds a bird in a video on his YouTube channel JonTron
Read Article JoJo Siwa Sure Is Stirring Up Controversies With Her ‘Rebrand’
JoJo Siwa with a mic in her hand on stage
Read Article All ‘X-Men 97’ Episode Titles, Explained
The X-Men stand together in 'X-Men '97'.
Related Content
Read Article Could Stray Kids’ Summer Plans Include New Music?
The eight members of Stray Kids in a promotiona picture for their comeback ODDITY
Read Article Hannah Waddingham Rightfully Calls Out Gross Photographer’s Inappropriate Comments
Hannah Waddingham with her arms raised while on stage
Read Article JonTron’s Fans Think He’s ‘Winning at Life,’ but His Controversies Say Otherwise
Jonathan Jafari holds a bird in a video on his YouTube channel JonTron
Read Article JoJo Siwa Sure Is Stirring Up Controversies With Her ‘Rebrand’
JoJo Siwa with a mic in her hand on stage
Read Article All ‘X-Men 97’ Episode Titles, Explained
The X-Men stand together in 'X-Men '97'.
Author
Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is an SEO writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, YA literature, celebrity news, and coming-of-age films. She has over two years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.