Activision Blizzard is the latest video game company to come under scrutiny for allegedly fostering a culture of sexism. A complaint filed Wednesday by the California Department of Employment and Housing alleges widespread sexual harassment and discrimination against Activision Blizzard employees. The structures and systems brought to light in the chase are painfully similar to those exposed by the chases and presentations. regarding Riot Games and Ubisoft in recent years.
The gaming industry’s math with workplace inequalities has been going on for years. Large companies have been slow, even reluctant, to respond to their supposedly discriminatory cultures, in some cases architectural asylum fortresses around their most problematic employees and systems. Activision Blizzard has the opportunity to set a different tone. For now, that seems unlikely.
The video game industry is notoriously male dominated and has long had a reputation for being hostile to women. The 29-page DFEH complaint follows a two-year investigation into Activision Blizzard, the publisher of leading titles as Call of Duty, World of warcraft, and Monitoring– and it contains mind-boggling allegations of misconduct, ranging from harassment by senior executives to so-called “cube crawls”, in which male employees are said to “drink copious amounts of alcohol while“ crawling ”around the various cubicles in the office and often behave inappropriately towards employees. He describes a culture in which double standards prevented women from advancing and even staying in the company; overall, he says, women are paid less than men for “substantially similar work.” The agency alleges that female employees receive lower starting wages than men and are promoted more slowly. Only 24% of Activision Blizzard’s nearly 10,000 employees are women, and the top leaders are almost entirely white and male.
In this “frat boy” culture, the complaint reads, men “proudly” came to work with a hangover, delegated responsibilities to women while they played games like Call of Duty, openly discussed sexual encounters and even joked about rape. The complaint also alleges that employees and even managers sexually harassed employees without repercussions. He says an employee who may have been the victim of sexual harassment at work, including a case where colleagues at a party allegedly shared an intimate photo of her, later took her own life. (In a statement, Activision Blizzard said: “We are disgusted by the reprehensible conduct of the DFEH in including in the complaint the tragic suicide of an employee whose death has no bearing on this matter and without any regard for her family in mourning. ” )
“We value diversity and strive to foster a workplace that offers inclusiveness for everyone,” an Activision Blizzard spokesperson said in a statement. “There is no place in our business or our industry, or in any industry, for sexual misconduct or harassment of any kind. We take every allegation seriously and investigate all complaints. In cases related to misconduct, action has been taken to resolve the issue. The company says it has made efforts over the past few years to strengthen diversity, including helping employees report violations, adding a confidential hotline and establishing a team to investigate worker concerns. Activision Blizzard claims that the DFEH complaint includes “distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past.”
The DFEH seeks compensation for compensatory and punitive damages, unpaid wages and attorney fees. Citing the ongoing investigation, the department declined to respond to WIRED’s request for comment.
Activision Blizzard’s revelations echo those of Riot games in 2018 and Ubisoft in 2020. Just as gaming culture as a whole has been slow to integrate women and minorities, gaming companies previously accused of fostering cultures of sexism have been slow to evolve.