Activision Blizzard’s toxic work culture is highlighted again in new reports
Activision Blizzard’s lawsuit has allowed many more to submit their stories.
The consequences of Activision BlizzardThe lawsuit with the State of California continues. After the company backtracked on its initial shameful response, several other incidents have come to light, painting an even bleaker picture.
A wave of new reports discussed some fairly open practices that women and marginalized groups have been grappling with for years. For those familiar with the culture of the company, the allegations in the lawsuit were not surprising.
Sources said IGN that many longtime top brass were “untouchables,” particularly those in charge of profitable games, such as World of Warcraft. Alex Afrasiabi, a former senior creative director at Blizzard, was one of those responsible for fostering a culture of bullying. Afrasiabi is also named in KotakuThe report about his “Cosby Suite” (named after alleged rapist Bill Cosby), an informal BlizzCon networking event that took place in a hotel suite.
Activision quietly fired Afrasiabi in mid-2020, only now revealing that her firing was the result of an internal investigation that brought much of it to light.
The IGN report also speaks of a drinking culture at Blizzard that forced many women to skip office parties, where some have been subjected to inappropriate touching by male co-workers. One room in Blizzard’s office, designated for breastfeeding, had no locks. A source said the men would sometimes walk into the room and stare.
“There was no way to close the door. They just looked at me and I had to yell at them to go away, ”the person said. Lactation rooms now have door locks, according to IGN.
In 2018, an Activision IT worker secretly installed cameras in the Minnesota office’s unisex bathroom to film and spy on employees, according to a Waypoint report. The IT worker later pleaded guilty to “Interference with privacy” and his sentence was suspended.
Other Waypoint The report brought to light a different incident, one that took place at a cybersecurity conference job fair in 2015. Security researcher Emily Mitchell was looking for work at the time, and she approached the Blizzard booth to inquire. about the pentesting post.
Penetration testing is the process of evaluating the security of a system by attempting to hack it to find potential vulnerabilities. One Blizzard employee asked Mitchell humiliating questions as if she was at the conference with her boyfriend, while another asked her if she was lost. Blizzard employees continued to make inappropriate comments, including the question of whether she “liked being penetrated” and other unprofessional comments.
Two years after this incident, Blizzard wanted to hire a security investigation company. Unbeknownst to Blizzard, Mitchell was the company’s chief operating officer at the time and decided to share her experience with the company’s CEO, Jeremi Gosney. This prompted Gosney to write a scathing response to Blizzard, which shared on Twitter at the time with the Blizzard name redacted.
Among other things, Gosney’s email had three stipulations that Blizzard would have to complete before the two companies can work together. The list includes a 50% “misogyny tax” whose proceeds would be donated to charities that help women in technology, for Blizzard to sponsor a women’s informatics conference, as well as a formal apology to Mitchell.
Meanwhile, Activision Blizzard’s response to last week’s employee strikes has been to organize listening sessions for employees, according to Bloomberg, but that leadership has yet to address their demands directly. Some of their demands include hiring more diverse candidates, making salary data available to all staff, and ending forced arbitration clauses in contracts.
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