The death of Activision-Blizzard

Riley Thomas

Warning: This article discusses sexual harassment, rape, and suicide.  If you are easily triggered by these topics, please stop reading. This is a very dark article and looks into these allegations.

July 9th, 2008.  Santa Monica, California.  Vivendi Games signed over the rights to Blizzard Entertainment to Activision, creating Activision-Blizzard, or Actiblizzard as well called it.  Since then Activision has pissed off players time and time again with poor expansions, blatant outright lies, and now the sex dungeon, basically.  Activision has finally proven what a disgusting company they are, and the State of California, and a lot of players, are doing something about it.

A few days ago, we broke the major news that Actiblizzard was in some hot water, but at the time of the news, we weren’t sure exactly what.  Now we know, and it seems like it’s the end of the road for Actiblizzard, and perhaps the great WoW killer we all talked about for years and years isn’t Final Fantasy 14, or the many, many games predicted to be the great WoW killer, including Amazon’s new game New World, but the actual WoW killer?  It was Activision-Blizzard themselves.  Let’s take a look at these vile, disgusting things the employees allegedly did.  Keep in mind, I have to say “Allegedly” because we don’t know 100% for sure they actually did these things yet.  Although after Actiblizzards “Abhorrent and insulting” response, over two THOUSAND employees, current and former, signed a petition saying the company’s response claiming everything was fine and dandy was a lie.  For reference, here is Actiblizzard’s reply to the State’s lawsuit:

The old Blizzard logo, from pre-activision days. The good days of Blizzard. Back when the games mattered, and not the sexual harassment

The DFEH includes distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past. We have been extremely cooperative with the DFEH throughout their investigation, including providing them with extensive data and ample documentation, but they refused to inform us what issues they perceived. They were required by law to adequately investigate and to have good faith discussions with us to better understand and to resolve any claims or concerns before going to litigation, but they failed to do so. Instead, they rushed to file an inaccurate complaint, as we will demonstrate in court.”

Frances Townsend also sent out a letter making similar claims:

Meanwhile Mike Morhaime, Blizzard’s Co-Founder, took a much better response.took a much better response. But he failed us as well.  Sad.  Two men I looked up to, and they’re both involved in this crap.

I have read the full complaint against Activision Blizzard and many of the other stories. It is all very disturbing and difficult to read. I am ashamed. It feels like everything I thought I stood for has been washed away. What’s worse but even more important, real people have been harmed, and some women had terrible experiences.

I was at Blizzard for 28 years. During that time, I tried very hard to create an environment that was safe and welcoming for people of all genders and backgrounds. I knew that it was not perfect, but clearly we were far from that goal. The fact that so many women were mistreated and were not supported means we let them down. In addition, we did not succeed in making it feel safe for people to tell their truth. It is no consolation that other companies have faced similar challenges. I wanted us to be different, better.

Harassment and discrimination exist. They are prevalent in our industry. It is the responsibility of leadership to keep all employees feeling safe, supported, and treated equitably, regardless of gender and background. It is the responsibility of leadership to stamp out toxicity and harassment in any form, across all levels of the company. To the Blizzard women who experienced any of these things, I am extremely sorry that I failed you.

I realize that these are just words, but I wanted to acknowledge the women who had awful experiences. I hear you, I believe you, and I am so sorry to have let you down. I want to hear your stories, if you are willing to share them. As a leader in our industry, I can and will use my influence to help drive positive change and to combat misogyny, discrimination, and harassment wherever I can. I believe we can do better, and I believe the gaming industry can be a place where women and minorities are welcomed, included, supported, recognized, rewarded, and ultimately unimpeded from the opportunity to make the types of contributions that all of us join this industry to make. I want the mark I leave on this industry to be something that we can all be proud of.

-Mike

Chris Metzen added his two cents. Though it’s questionable his response, since he knew about Afrasiabis behavior, picked him as his successor, and really did nothing about his behavior.

This just gets better and better folks. Let’s go check out exactly what this huge lawsuit says, for those living under a rock. You can follow along here:

https://aboutblaw.com/YJw

One thing to note on Page 1 section 1, “Headquartered in California, where the nation’s strongest anti-harassment, equal pay, and other equal employment opportunity protections exist for employees”.  Guess Activision missed the memo on that one.  Another thing to note “Women and girls now make up almost half of gamers in America”.  But Actiblizzard doesn’t seem to get that either.  So lets move on to the stuff that is getting them in the most amount of trouble, and beware, from here out can be graphic descriptions and are copied from the actual lawsuit itself.  There are mentions of sexual harassment, and pretty much all but rape, as well as suicide.  So if you’re triggered by this, stop here.

The lawsuit itself is 29 pages long, which considering the context, is massive.    Pages 1-3 talk about the company itself, and page 4 is where it gets interesting.  It says the women are assigned to lower pay and lower opportunities, and even start at lower pay, and are fired faster than their male counterparts.  Page 4 section 5 says that they have “fostered a pervasive “frat boy workplay culture that continues to thrive.  In the office, women are subjected to “cute crawls” in which the male employees drink copious amounts of alcohol as they ‘crawl’ their way through various cubicle in the office and often engage in inappropriate behavior towards female employees.  Male employees regularly come into work hungover, play games for long periods of time during work while delegating their responsibilities, engage in banter about their sexual encounters, talk openly about female bodies, and joke about rape.”

I’m sorry what?  JOKE about RAPE?  JOKE?  Absolutely disgusting.  But it gets worse.

Section 6: “Women having to constantly fend off unwanted sexual comments and advances by their male co-workers and supervisors and being groped in the cube crawls and other company events. <skipping a bit> In a particularly tragic example, a female employee committed suicide during a business trip with a male supervisor who had brought butt plugs and lubricant with him on the trip”.  

Let that sink in a moment.  She committed suicide because of this man.  But I don’t remember hearing about that, and if I did they definitely did NOT say it was because of a male co-worker.

Skipping to page 9 section 19, something interesting to read.  

“DFEH attempted to resolve this matter without litigation.  Prior to filing this civil action, the DFEH required all parties to participate in mandatory dispute resolution in the department’s internal dispute resolution division free of charge to parties in an effort to resolve the dispute without litigation.  Specifically, the DFEH invited Defendants to participate in a mediation session with the department’s internal dispute resolution division on July 1, 2, and 15, 2021, but the parties were unable to resolve the administrative complaints.”  

So apparently this was attempted to be resolved at one point, but for one reason or another they couldn’t.  

Page 12, section 36 through 39 is also something to note.  It’s too much to put here but the link will be included at the end.  It basically talks about how women were passed up for promotions, and when their male counterparts were promoted, they made the women do the work while they played Call of Duty or other games, they were kicked out of rooms designated for breast feeding so the men could have meetings, and tons of other vile disgusting behavior.  

Oh, you think this is all about Call of Duty?  Hah.  Page 14 section 46 line 24.  


“Female employees working for the World of Warcraft team noted that male employees and supervisors would hit on them, making derogatory comments about rape, and otherwise engage in demeaning behavior.  This behavior was known to supervisors and indeed ENCOURAGED by them including a male supervisor openly encouraging a male subordinate to buy a prostitute to cure his bad mood

But the vileness doesn’t end there.  Oh not at all.  I’m not going to type out everything that Alex Afrasiabi did, yes, THAT Afrasiabi, from Stormwind and Stratholme.  But he basically had a Cosby Suite after rapist Bill Cosby, and you can just imagine the things he did there.  The location of this suite?  Blizzconn.  Yeah.  The event we all loved and looked forward to year after year, Afrasiabi ruined.  This goes on and on and on account after account of what happened, and it’s just mind blowing.  I grew up playing Warcraft 1 and 2 on an old computer I salvaged from the trash because we couldn’t afford a new one at the time.  I moved on to 3, and WoW, and other games, and this just blows my mind that I supported this company.  I highly suggestion reading page 15 section 48 about the suicide.  There are 10 more pages, but I think I’ve made my point.

Since then, the rebuttal from the employees has been made public, and the contents are the exact opposite of what Actiblizzard claimed:

To the Leaders of Activision Blizzard,

We, the undersigned, agree that the statements from Activision Blizzard, Inc. and their legal counsel regarding the DFEH lawsuit, as well as the subsequent internal statement from Frances Townsend, are abhorrent and insulting to all that we believe our company should stand for. To put it clearly and unequivocally, our values as employees are not accurately reflected in the words and actions of our leadership.

We believe these statements have damaged our ongoing quest for equality inside and outside of our industry. Categorizing the claims that have been made as “distorted, and in many cases false” creates a company atmosphere that disbelieves victims. It also casts doubt on our organizations’ ability to hold abusers accountable for their actions and foster a safe environment for victims to come forward in the future. These statements make it clear that our leadership is not putting our values first. Immediate corrections are needed from the highest level of our organization.
Our company executives have claimed that actions will be taken to protect us, but in the face of legal action — and the troubling official responses that followed — we no longer trust that our leaders will place employee safety above their own interests. To claim this is a “truly meritless and irresponsible lawsuit,” while seeing so many current and former employees speak out about their own experiences regarding harassment and abuse, is simply unacceptable.

We call for official statements that recognize the seriousness of these allegations and demonstrate compassion for victims of harassment and assault. We call on Frances Townsend to stand by her word to step down as Executive Sponsor of the ABK Employee Women’s Network as a result of the damaging nature of her statement. We call on the executive leadership team to work with us on new and meaningful efforts that ensure employees — as well as our community — have a safe place to speak out and come forward.

We stand with all our friends, teammates, and colleagues, as well as the members of our dedicated community, who have experienced mistreatment or harassment of any kind. We will not be silenced, we will not stand aside, and we will not give up until the company we love is a workplace we can all feel proud to be a part of again. We will be the change.

This was signed by over TWO THOUSAND former and current employees. Two. Thousand. Just how deep does this go? How far did Actiblizzard take this? How many women were effected?

Activision, you are disgusting and vile.  This company needs to be shut down, and all games they make shut down.  Stop playing CoD, stop playing WoW, don’t purchase anything this company sells or pay for your subs.  Cancel your subs to games.  If you are that desperate to play WoW, there are tons of private servers to play on.  Do not support the official servers as this only supports Actiblizzard, a company that is the epitome of disgusting.  Particular of note is Alex Afasiabi and the sniveling little sack of crap CEO Bobby Kotick who has hidden behind subordinates and not made a peep about this.  Bobby Kotick, it’s time for you to go.  It’s time for the end of Activision.  The end of Blizzard.  Your company is vile, it’s disgusting, and has no place in this world today.  Bobby Kotick, your lack of any public statement speaks more than words themselves, and shows what a piece of trash you are, and tells me that you likely participated in this.  

It’s worth noting that all development on World of Warcraft has halted.  This is a huge, huge thing to note, as WoW has been in development forever since it’s initial launch on November 23, 2004.  So folks, the end of Warcraft, the big WoW killer, wasn’t any game.  It wasn’t any big company, or Actiblizzard squeezing the last penny out of it.  No, the actual WoW killer was Bobby Kotick and his company of frat boys.  Congratulations you piece of trash.  I hope you and everyone involved go to jail for a long, long time, where they can have their own frat boys named Bubba, and find out what unwanted sexual advances feel like.  Good riddance, Actiblizzard.  I’m going to end with a line that most ironically was one of my favorites in World of Warcraft, and is so appropriate right now.

“No King rules forever my son.”

You can find me on twitter at @its_rileythomas 

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