Recently, there have been a series of allegations levied against Activision Blizzard. These pertain to gender-based workplace discrimination, blatant sexual harassment and a work environment akin to a fraternity house. For more information specifically regarding the allegations made, you can read our article all about it.
Of course, in this sort of situation, it is in the companies best interest to react positively and promptly. Unfortunately, as was the case with the Ubisoft scandal from a few months ago – that was eerily similar – Activision Blizzard responded poorly. In a time where the company needed positive PR and the victims of these atrocious acts of behaviour needed the company to have their back, Activision Blizzard failed to succeed.
Their initial response was stating that the allegations levied against them were false. They declared that lawsuits such as the one they are currently dealing with are what makes good companies leave California. This is of course unfathomably untrue. If you wish to get more details on the initial response, you can check it out here.
My Reaction To The Reponse
As an avid member of the World of Warcraft community for the past 15 years, hearing this response let me down a lot. This is a company that I have consistently supported throughout thick and thin over my time playing their games. No matter what others have said, I have always defended their decisions. Unfortunately, and understandably, I, like many other members of the World of Warcraft community, cannot sit idly by why this kind of abhorrent behaviour goes on behind the scenes.
How The Community Reacted
While PR companies continue to spew out insensitive statements from those avoiding their well-deserved repercussions, the fans and communities of their beloved games have been offering their views on the situation. I was personally interested in hearing what others in the community were thinking, as I was unsure what stance people were going to take. After educating myself on the matter, I turned to my favourite creators to see their opinions on the issue.
Personally, I think Taliesin more objective view of the situation was genuinely insightful and respectful. His stance was that if you want to cancel your subscription to World of Warcraft because of what has happened, that is totally understandable. However, just as you would want others to respect your decision, you too should respect those who choose not to cancel.
Everyone plays World of Warcraft for different reasons. I personally play it to escape from reality. That and achievement hunting is always fun. I enjoy the fantastical narratives at play and exploring the vast world. It’s great to connect with others, something I’ve frequently done and made lasting friendships as a result. Whatever your reason for enjoying it, Taliesin is essentially saying it is now up to you whether you can separate the art from the artist.
Another prominent member of the WoW community, Asmongold, offered a far more critical response. He gave a really honest look at Activision Blizzard and expressed how he was not surprised by these allegations. He heavily criticized the company for the various scandals it has been involved in throughout its history. Asmongold also explained his disappointment at Activision Blizzard’s slow responses.
He argued that with scandals involving community members it becomes “Shoot first, never ask questions”. He claims that even when new developments appear, Activision Blizzard never ask, investigate, or re-visit the subject. Essentially they shoot down the issue and promptly move on.
However, in their current situation, they are deliberating and taking time to conduct serious investigations. Asmongold noted that when they were dealing with an issue surrounding only one person, such as the Quinton Flynn scandal, they were quick to react. However, when the scandal is surrounding them they ask people to be patient with them.
There were plenty of other members of the community coming out and offering their perspectives on the issues. A few others include Preach, a long time WoW YouTuber, who decided that he will no longer cover World of Warcraft. Another YouTuber, Alanah Pearce, shared stories of her own on one of her streams. It showed that this is obviously not the only place this is taking place.
Check out Preach’s full video here, and Alanah’s full clip here.
A Systematic Issue
So, what was my response? Well, after taking all of this in I decided that after 15 years of dedicating myself to WoW, I would quit. Blizzard needs to clean up its act and not only learn from its mistakes but ensure that nothing like this can ever happen again. Activision Blizzard is one of the biggest games developers out there, and they have a responsibility to set the standard for fostering a safe and healthy workplace.
In recent memory, there have already been too many scandals surrounding games development studios. CD Projekt Red made employees work six-day weeks despite saying they wouldn’t enforce crunch culture; Ubisoft failed to handle sexual misconduct cases properly; even indie developers like Scavengers Studio found themselves embroiled in some form of scandal.
Leaving World Of Warcraft
The thing is, I have kids who want to get into the video game industry. It’s hard not to worry for their futures when constant scandals are affecting some of the most prominent game development studios out there. Hearing things like this makes me want the video game industry to become a better place.
By leaving WoW, I was abandoning all the time I had invested into it, 20 characters in retail who were at least level 50 and 23,000 achievement points. In WoW Classic I had a survival hunter who was in the top 10 on my server and 5 other characters at level 60. But honestly, even considering all of that, my decision was an easy one to make. I have no interest in supporting a company that fosters such toxic behaviour.
Since the initial responses, many former Blizzard employees including Chris Metzen have come out to condemn these actions. They’ve even apologized for the company failing its employees. Link to his comments here.
What’s Been Happening Since Activision Blizzard’s Response?
The latest response has been from the CEO of Activision Blizzard, Bobby Kotick. After much deliberation, he finally took responsibility for the situation and said that the company failed its employees. In his response, he actually detailed a plan they intended to follow to improve the company and the toxic culture. You can check out the full statement and more details here.
Everything That Has Happened So Far
Some other noteworthy things that have happened since the scandal broke out are:
Employees staged a walk out (which I personally think was a great move). Read more about it here.
The employees called out Kotick’s response as “bullshit”. Of course, if the employees and those affected say it is bullshit, then I stand by them. You can find more information about that here.
Riot games has now been sued by the same government body. Riot is being sued by the state of California over allegations of gender discrimination, sexual harassment, and retaliation against female employees. You can read more about that here.
Ubisoft employees have stated that they stand by the Activision-Blizzard employees. You can get the full details on that here.
Blizzard’s Head of HR and their President have now both been removed. I think that this is a fantastic start to their road to recover. Additionally, the fact that there are now two people co-leading Blizzard’s operations, and that one them is a woman, is a more than welcome change.
Blizzard is now facing a second lawsuit over allegations that the company purposefully mislead investors with false statements. The suit, which covers anyone who has traded in Activision Blizzard securities between August 4, 2016 and July 27, 2021, seeks damages based on the defendants’ violations of federal securities laws by issuing materially false and misleading statements during the class action period. You can check out more information regarding that here.
As a result of all of this, I have cancelled my subscription and stood with many others who have decided to not log into any Blizzard games. We are in full support of the employees in their walkout. This issue is much larger than just Activision Blizzard. However, this isn’t the first time these types of allegations have been made against a game development studio, and, likely, they won’t be the last. So I hope that other companies are watching and take note. It is time to stop this kind of systematic toxic behaviour once and for all.
It really hurts watching a game you have loved for so long destroyed by the people who made it and their poor choices. I started playing WoW back in late 2006, and since then it has been a great form of escapism for me. Since then, I have made so many wonderful long time friends who have been there for me in my most difficult times. I think that is why it hurts so much that the place that created this space for so many people to create lasting memories and life-changing friendships turned out the way it did.
As the situation continues to unravel it only seems to be getting worse by the day. But I remain hopeful. I sincerely hope that the victims of this abominable tragedy get their overdue justice. And for the game that I used to love so dearly, I really hope that once this is all over it rises like a phoenix from the ashes and once again becomes a safe space for newcomers and veterans alike. Let this be the start of a positive revolution that finally sees the end of oppression in the workplace.