Activision Blizzard’s litigation issue is currently evolving into a terrible situation involving the entire gaming industry, mainly in the English-speaking world, including the media and community. In this article, I would like to give you some newly reported information while following the general process.
First, I would like to briefly explain Activision Blizzard. Activision Blizzard was created in 2008 by the merger of Activision Publishing and Blizzard Entertainment (Blizzard) parent company Vivendi Games. Activision Publishing sells the Call of Duty series, and Blizzard is known for working on popular titles such as the Diablo, Warcraft, and Overwatch series. Both have been representatives of the North American game industry before the merger, and after the merger, Activision Blizzard has become one of the largest companies in the world.
Movement that started from the proceedings
The current situation surrounding Activision Blizzard was initiated by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), an administrative agency in California, USA, on July 20 against the company and its subsidiaries. It’s a lawsuit. DFEH has been conducting its research for about two years. In the complaint, DFEH alleges that there was sexual harassment of female employees within the company, as well as inequality in wages and promotion opportunities, and that a harmful work culture centered on male employees had taken root. The proceedings were reported by overseas media starting with a report by Bloomberg Law, and the details were also reported in this magazine (related article).
Following the reports of the proceedings, ripples quickly spread to the game industry and the community. Former employees and active employees posted a large number of testimonies regarding harassment and mistreatment through SNS, etc., and voices centered on criticism by the community and stakeholders were received against Activision Blizzard. The company’s public relations issued a statement in a hurry, and the company’s executives also sent e-mails to employees, but all of them criticized the proceedings of DFEH and insisted that “the current internal environment is improving”. , The result of pouring oil on the fire (related article).
Some foreign media, who saw Activision Blizzard’s inadequate response, announced a policy to boycott coverage of the company’s games. Some streamers and content creators have begun to show that they are not dealing with the games that the company is working on.
Open letter of protest by employees
Since then, criticisms by stakeholders and the community have continued to grow. On July 26, local time, a joint name open letter was created and disclosed under the initiative of active employees. The content of the open letter was the content that expressed the dissenting opinion about the in-house email by the executives mentioned above (related article). The open letter was signed by more than 3,100 people, including former employees of the company, according to a report by NBC News.
Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard, has released a statement that appears to be a response to the open letter. In a statement, Kotick apologized to employees, promised to improve the environment, provided some concrete steps, and announced a policy to seek cooperation from law firm Wilmer Hale. However, the statement was not convincing to many employees and seemed to result in a backlash. The fact that the content requested by the employees in the employee strike, which will be described later, was not included was also a factor in the repulsion. Regarding the above-mentioned law firm Wilmer Hale, several overseas media such as Kotaku have reported information on the results of the firm. Kotaku reports that Wilmer Hale was the driving force behind the union formation at Amazon. Although the intention to hire Wilmer Hale is unclear, Activision Blizzard’s decision to partner with a well-known “union-crushing” office is a strong concern for protesting employees and supporters. Would have embraced.
Protest develops into a strike
Dissatisfied with Activision Blizzard’s response, the company’s employees went on strike at the Blizzard building in Irvine, California, on July 28, local time. In making the decision, Ubisoft employees, who also have internal harassment issues, created an open letter jointly, expressing their support for the protests and appealing for the improvement of the working environment of the entire game company. In addition, there are many voices from industry insiders and the community who support the protests.
Protesters seem to have trademarked blue hearts and blue icons on social media. On Twitter, the “#ActiBlizzWalkout (Activision Blizzard Strike)” hashtag has received a lot of cheering for the strike participants. As an example, actor Matthew Mercer, who plays the character “McCree” in Blizzard’s Overwatch game, has expressed support for the protest. Other developers, celebrities, and streamers inside and outside the company have revealed their position to support the protests.
The Activision Blizzard side has announced a policy to treat strike participants as paid leave and allow activities. Although the strike was successful, the results of the protest seemed unsatisfactory, according to employee representatives. According to an article by Bloomberg journalist Jason Schreier, the company has talked with employees but has shown a willingness to not accept the demands raised in the strike.
The words and actions of Blizzard developers who are “digged up”
That’s the general flow of the protests against Activision Blizzard up to now. On the other hand, the accusations and pursuits from individuals and the media did not loosen. Foreign media Kotaku reported an SNS post believed to belong to former World of Warcraft creative director Alex Afrasiabi, who was accused of sexual harassment by name in a complaint (dismissed by the company in 2020). The images posted suggest that Afrasiabi’s sexual harassment was tolerated by employees he had friends with (related article).
In addition, the event at Blizzcon, a game event by Blizzard in 2010, was also mentioned. In the Q & A session about “World of Warcraft”, there was one act that could be taken as misogynistic. In the video of the relevant part of the event, a female fan raises the question, “Why don’t you consider a female character design that is not overexposed?” The developers who took the stage were asked questions and appeared to be embarrassed or bitter.
Among the speakers were J. Allen Brack, the current president of Blizzard, and Afrasiabi, mentioned above. Afrasiabi responded to the question with a slightly teased look, while agreeing to increase the variety of female character designs, ending with a joke.
The joking answer to questions related to gender stereotypes seems to be at least lacking in consideration. In addition, it seems that the reason why this video attracted attention is that Mr. Afrasiabi, who is named as the perpetrator and attracts attention, responded by taking the stage. In any case, the video seems to have been perceived by the community as illuminating one aspect of Blizzard’s rooted female disrespect.
Derogatory remarks to women outside the company are reported
Inappropriate treatment of women outside the company by Blizzard employees has also been reported. Waypoint, the gaming division of digital media VICE, reported on July 31st what happened at the cybersecurity-related event “Black Hat USA.” According to the article, the victim woman, Emily Mitchell, attended the event in 2015. He was looking for a job at the time and visited the Blizzard booth in the job-seeking area of the event. Mitchell asked for a position in penetration testing. This is a method of testing and evaluating possible attack methods on computer systems.
The words and actions of Blizzard employees who responded to Mitchell seemed to be far from appropriate. First of all, he was asked by a Blizzard employee at the booth, “Did you get lost?” Another employee asked, “Did you come with your boyfriend?” And another employee asked, “Do you know what the penetration test is?” In addition, one of the employees likened the meaning of “Penetration” to sexual activity, such as “When was the last insertion, do you like it, how often is it inserted?” It is said that he threw words at him.
Since then, Mitchell has held the COO position at Sagitta HPC (now Terahash), a digital security company. In 2017, Blizzard consulted with Sagitta HPC at the time for security-related outsourcing. At that time, Mitchell told Sagitta HPC CEO and founder Jeremi Gosney that he would refuse Blizzard’s consultation and the above-mentioned events. Knowing the story, Gosney replied to Blizzard an email with a strong protest, hiding the company name and publishing the content on Twitter.
The post on Twitter was made in 2017, and Gosney himself said, “This email was a reply to Blizzard,” following a series of proceedings in July this year. The content of the email is to give Blizzard three conditions in order to receive the request after detailing the above-mentioned events. The first is to add 50% to the amount of compensation as a “female disdain tax”. About 50% of this will be donated to human rights groups. Next, Blizzard demanded that he become a gold sponsor of the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing 2017, a conference on female workers in the computer-related business. He has sent a formal apology to Mr. Mitchell and is required to prove that all Blizzard employees have been trained in equality and sexual harassment prevention.
To the best of his knowledge, Blizzard does not appear to accept the above terms, and Gosney has not yet made a formal written apology to Mitchell. In a series of tweets, Gosney commented, “Usually, we don’t reveal the identity of our business partners. We’ve never had a deal with Blizzard, so we’ve made it public.” He has shown a strong condemnation of Blizzard’s response.
Interest and testimony
Waypoint also reports on a voyeur incident in 2018 at the Activision Publishing Minnesota building. In this case, a male employee of the company was arrested for putting two cameras in a unisex toilet. As a result of a police investigation, a male employee emerged as a suspect and was arrested after cross-examination and confessions. The suspect was dismissed from the company and provided support such as strengthening security and providing counseling to employees. Although this is not directly related to this series of turmoil, the background to the fact that past cases have been taken up now may be the interest related to the proceedings.
Interest in litigation issues has spread not only to game media but also to general magazines. The electronic version of The New York Times, a general US magazine, reported on the proceedings from an early stage, reporting testimony by multiple women on July 29, local time. Among them, testimony that “the boss recommended me to take a drug at a holiday party, but I refused it, and the relationship with my boss deteriorated during that period” and “a few weeks after my lover died, a male executive offered sexual intercourse. A shocking word such as “is spelled out. Aside from The New York Times, the British general magazine The Guardian also reported in an electronic version of the proceedings and employee strikes.
Harassment damage to male employees
In addition, although it is a past case that is not directly related to this proceeding, there is an event that I would like to refer to. A man who claimed to have worked in Blizzard’s esports department had been accused on social media in 2019 of being harassed by his female boss, including racism.
Julian Murillo-Cuellar, a former Blizzard employee, wrote a confession on Twitter-related long-form posting service Twitlonger that he was harassed between 2016 and 2018. The perpetrator, the female boss, said she was a sexist because of her South American roots, sending harassment emails and rebuking him. He was mentally ill and attempted suicide multiple times, but survived thanks to the support of those around him. He said he had already left Blizzard Entertainment at the time of the accusation.
In the accusation, the victim testified that no action was taken despite appealing to the personnel department for unfair treatment. In addition, he received a personnel evaluation that seemed to be unreasonably low from his boss who had a bad relationship. If the accusation is true, it suggests a malfunction of the Human Resources department at Blizzard and the existence of a corporate culture that is harmful to male employees.
Also, Kotaku reports that several former employees of the company have testified about sexual harassment of male employees. As an example, there are testimonies that there was physical contact with male employees and invitations for sexual intercourse. In addition, Cher Scarlett, who worked as a developer at Blizzard, reported that several male employees, including senior managers, were “playing to grab a male genitalia.” According to him, DFEH, the plaintiff in the proceedings, has been filed with damage reports by at least three male employees.
Blizzard and Activision standing in a whirlpool
Most of the accusations that followed after the proceedings pointed to problems within Blizzard. From this point, it is probable that there was a difference in internal culture between Activision Publishing and Blizzard, which were originally different companies.
However, looking at the current situation, it cannot be denied that Activision Blizzard as a whole may have lacked efforts to improve the internal environment. The accusations and testimonies that occurred one after another have come to light all at once as individual damages that did not see relief have accumulated over the years.
This movement, which originated in the proceedings, has triggered attention not only to Activision Blizzard but also to the constitution of the entire game company. In order to continue stable game development and operation for a long period of time, an environment where employees can work with peace of mind is indispensable. While paying close attention to the proceedings and the company’s response to employees, I just hope that this move will lead to an improvement in the environment inside and outside the company.
・ Activision Blizzard is sued by an administrative agency for rooting “unfair treatment of female employees” such as sexual harassment and wage inequality.
・ A series of accusations from related parties regarding the sexual harassment issue of Activision Blizzard.The executives made an excuse, but the damage reports from the employees did not stop.
・ Employees send an open letter jointly on the Activision Blizzard proceedings.There are also developers who are upset in the company and who convey obstacles to business
・ Part of the contents of the group chat suggesting the Activision Blizzard proceedings and sexual harassment will be revealed. “McCree” and others are blamed