Game builders take stand in opposition to Activision Blizzard’s alleged harassment of girls

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If you’re somebody who solely performs video games casually and even under no circumstances, you could be confused why “Activision Blizzard” has been within the information over the previous week.

Unfortunately, it’s not over one thing so simple as the announcement of a brand new Call of Duty or World of Warcraft sport — it’s a lot darker.

What it’s all about

On July twentieth, 2021, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed a lawsuit in opposition to the Santa Monica, California-based video games writer alleging a “frat boy” work tradition wherein feminine staff often confronted sexual harassment, unequal pay, retaliation and extra.

The lawsuit, which relies on a two-year investigation, may be learn in its entirety right here, nevertheless it needs to be famous that lots of the accusations discovered inside are disturbing.

In specific, male builders and executives had been stated to have incessantly hit on, tried to kiss, groped and/or made different undesirable advances on their feminine colleagues. Per the lawsuit, longtime World of Warcraft developer Alex Afrasiabi was really “so known to engage in harassment of females that his suite was nicknamed the ‘Crosby Suite’ [sic] after alleged rapist Bill Crosby [sic]” and even contained an image of the disgraced actor. Kotaku has an in-depth follow-up report on Afrasiabi’s actions.

The lawsuit states that male builders would often come into work hungover and play video video games whereas delegating their tasks to their feminine coworkers, all whereas demeaning them with sexual feedback and jokes about rape. One feminine worker even reportedly dedicated suicide following a piece journey wherein an unnamed male supervisor had introduced lubricant and butt plugs with them.

Meanwhile, girls at Activision Blizzard report a “lack of trust” in human sources and executives like Blizzard president J. Allen Brack, who they are saying would dismiss their tales whereas failing to maintain them confidential. The lawsuit additionally alleges that girls at Activision Blizzard had been routinely paid and promoted lower than their male counterparts.

Activision-Blizzard’s response

While many present, former and non-Activision Blizzard staff got here ahead to share their very own experiences of sexism and abuse, the writer initially downplayed the experiences.

In a prolonged July twenty first assertion offered to Bloomberg investigative reporter Jason Schreier, an Activision spokesperson known as the lawsuit’s allegations “distorted, and in many cases false” whereas referring to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing as “unaccountable State bureaucrats.” In a follow-up tweet, Schreier famous that he’s heard “several stories about sexism and sexual misconduct at Blizzard over the past few years” and promised to report extra on the matter.

Activision chief compliance officer Frances Townsend additionally claimed that the lawsuit painted “a distorted and untrue picture of [Activision Blizzard], including factually incorrect, old, and out of context stories, some from more than a decade ago.” All the whereas, Activision’s social media accounts didn’t tackle the allegations and largely went quiet altogether.

Understandably, many feminine builders blasted the corporate for denying their claims. Thousands of present and former staff even signing a letter to precise their discontent, calling the response “abhorrent and insulting.”

It was solely on July twenty seventh, after the publication of this letter, that Activision CEO Bobby Kotick, gaming’s most overpaid CEO, lastly issued his personal assertion. In a letter to staff, he apologized for the corporate’s “tone-deaf” preliminary response whereas outlining various steps that it might take to deal with the allegations, together with allocating extra sources for “employee support,” creating third-party-led “safe spaces” for “listening sessions” to air grievances and diversifying hiring practices.

This assertion got here on the eve of a deliberate July twenty eighth walkout from Activision Blizzard staff to protest the corporate’s alleged poisonous office tradition.

Women in gaming reply

In their very own letter, organizers of the strike stated that whereas they had been “pleased to see” their collective voices had “convinced leadership to change the tone of their communications,” Kotick’s response nonetheless “fails to address critical elements at the heart of employee concerns.”

Per the letter, Activision “did not address” the next points:

  • The finish of compelled arbitration for all staff
  • Worker participation within the oversight of hiring and promotion insurance policies
  • The want for better pay transparency to make sure equality
  • Employee collection of a 3rd celebration to audit HR and different firm processes

The letter concluded with the next assertion:

Today’s walkout will show that this isn’t a one-time occasion that our leaders can ignore. We is not going to return to silence; we is not going to be placated by the identical processes that led us thus far. This is the start of a permanent motion in favor of higher labor circumstances for all staff, particularly girls, specifically girls of shade and transgender girls, nonbinary individuals, and different marginalized teams.

We count on a immediate response and a dedication to motion from management on the factors enumerated above, and stay up for sustaining a constructive dialogue on how one can construct a greater Activision Blizzard for all staff.

Today, we arise for change. Tomorrow and past, we would be the change.

Many builders and different members of the gaming neighborhood have additionally been tweeting their help of the protest utilizing the hashtag “#ActiBlizzWalkout.

Additionally, round 500 present and former Ubisoft staff have issued their very own letter (through Axios) to precise their help for the Activision Blizzard walkout. At the identical time, these staff have criticized Ubisoft for its personal response to allegations of misconduct in the direction of feminine staff. Last yr, male builders at a number of Ubisoft studios, together with these in Montreal and Toronto, had been accused of abusing girls and having unsupportive and dysfunctional HR departments.

While Ubisoft has stated it’s made “considerable progress” in addressing these points (together with introducing new insurance policies, coaching packages and help teams), a current Bloomberg report famous that little has really modified on the firm, with many of those alleged abusers remaining on the firm.

What you are able to do

It stays to be seen what Activision Blizzard will do following the walkout. For now, the corporate has solely stated that it’s going to supply paid time without work to the workers collaborating within the walkout.

Of course, as a client, you could be considering that there’s nothing you are able to do. However, organizers have been sharing ways in which everybody can present their help.

For one, some have inspired individuals to easily not buy and even play an Activision Blizzard sport — in the present day on the very least, if not for longer durations till change is enacted. As Virtual EconCast host Mike Futter notes, corporations are “deeply invested in engagement.” If Activision Blizzard instantly sees a precipitous drop in gamers of Call of Duty, Warcraft, Starcraft and the like, that can ship the message that players don’t condone the corporate’s work tradition.

Further, organizers have been sharing a number of related organizations that you would be able to help by donations and even simply spreading the phrase. These are all centered on serving to girls in gaming and different technological fields, together with Black Girls Code, Futures Without Violence, Girls Who Code and Women in Games International.

Image credit score: Wikimedia Commons

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Written by Gideon


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