Winter Comes For Activision Blizzard
August 1, 2021 12:52 PM   Subscribe

On July 20th, following a multiyear investigation in which the company stonewalled the state of California at every turn, the state's Department of Fair Employment and Housing sued Activision Blizzard over a pervasive "frat boy" culture of sexual harassment and abuse. (CW: suicide, harassment, rape)

The state's filing is a chilling recounting of the abusive culture at the company (and in particular at Blizzard), documenting how women were harassed, routinely denied promotions and hired at lower rates, women who became pregnant were punished for doing so (bringing new light to the story that the company was pushing tracking to report which employees were looking to get pregnant), and in one particularly tragic example how one woman who had been the subject of sexual harassment and abuse committed suicide as a result. In initial response, AB chose to vehemently deny the charges and attack the State for bringing forth what they called a meritless lawsuit - only to have to walk the statement back as employees came forth about the abuses documented in the suit.

The fallout from the filing has been immense, as the company has found itself on the back foot responding to employees, the state of California, and consumers.
posted by NoxAeternum (57 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
 
James Stephanie Sterling has been covering these problems for quite some time. The latest video (Youtube) in on this Activision Blizzard case. The "burn it all down" sentiment is more than warranted.
I hope that there will finally be consequences for these abusers and their enablers. I'm not fully confident that that will happen, but I do see a glimmer of hope in that such cases are being talked about more and more.
posted by JSilva at 2:20 PM on August 1 [9 favorites]


related grossness
posted by juv3nal at 2:44 PM on August 1


Disgusting. Here’s their list of games but that’s not all of them.

Here’s a link to alternatives so you don’t have to play their content and can try something else.

My wife plays videogames (PS4) more than I do and people are always stunned she plays at all. It’s not all obtuse sexism towards her, but sexism in the gaming community is basically a priming course for right wing online bullying behavior (and maybe LARP-ing at the Capitol, too).
posted by glaucon at 2:50 PM on August 1 [11 favorites]


They're also running scared from their employees unionising and have hired the same union-busting firm that Amazon uses, WilmerHale.
posted by invisible_al at 2:55 PM on August 1 [11 favorites]


It's also worth noting that their C-suite is literally filled with war criminals.
posted by NoxAeternum at 3:01 PM on August 1 [50 favorites]


Activision Blizzard is not a place of honor. There is nothing of value there. Burn it to the ground.

Though are they qualitatively worse than the rest of the AAA game industry, or is the rot systematic and structural?
posted by acb at 3:32 PM on August 1 [8 favorites]


Here’s a link to alternatives so you don’t have to play their content and can try something else.

If you don't want to touch Ubisoft either (also rife with abusers) and are steering clear of EA, Square Enix and CD Produkt just in case, there's always PICO-8.
posted by acb at 3:35 PM on August 1 [6 favorites]


I was really excited about the list of alternatives, but right off the bat I see some problems with it:

Gwent is by CDProjekt red, which has had major issues with transphobia and sexuallization of trans people, and treating their employees badly.

Magic online is owned by Wizards of the Coast, who have a long history of racism, anti-queerness and sexism, though they claim to be trying to chain Origin D Black among others have published long exposes on their time working there and I've seen other people talk about having racism edited INTO stuff sold to WotC this year. Not saying I don't enjoy some D&D from time to time, but something to be aware of if you are looking for a more ethical alternative.

Memory may be fuzzy, but Riot, makers of League of Legends has had some sexism issues I think? At the very least they've utterly failed to fix a toxic community.

Don't know about any of the others, but it says pretty terrible things about the video game industry that I can point out these off the top of my head
posted by Canageek at 3:35 PM on August 1 [11 favorites]


If you don't want to touch Ubisoft either (also rife with abusers)

Oh efff, yeah. I didn't know any of those were by Ubisoft. The stories of what was going on there are horrifying.
posted by Canageek at 3:36 PM on August 1


Every new piece of information about this makes things look worse and worse. VP Fran Townsend of Abu Ghraib fame is now blocking her employees on Twitter and linking articles about "the problem with whistleblowing". It seems like she's being set up as a focus for ire so she can be let go to serve as a kind of pressure valve without them actually addressing any fundamental problems.
posted by subocoyne at 4:11 PM on August 1 [7 favorites]


It's also worth noting that their C-suite is literally filled with war criminals.
posted by NoxAeternum at 6:01 PM on August 1

I know you said literally, but I still kind of expected there to be some kind of asterisk on the statement. Nope. Actual war criminals. Jesus christ.

Put me on team "burn it to the ground."
posted by ZaphodB at 4:59 PM on August 1 [28 favorites]


Memory may be fuzzy, but Riot, makers of League of Legends has had some sexism issues I think? At the very least they've utterly failed to fix a toxic community.

Riot, previously.
posted by i used to be someone else at 5:32 PM on August 1 [2 favorites]


There's been something interesting going on with World of Warcraft, one of Blizzard's flagship games - over the past few months, before this story broke, it had been seeing a significant decline in its playerbase through a combination of mismanagement issues, and last month the dam absolutely burst. Its biggest competitor is looking to launch an expansion in a few months and had been preparing for an influx of players, and is now scrambling to move forward its plans because its servers are full. Several of World of Warcraft's most rusted-on streamers were already openly telling their audience they were either abandoning or sidelining their Warcraft content because they were having more fun in the alternative MMOs they were trying.

And then this story broke. For a lot of these players, what affection they felt for what they used to have with the game had been replaced with the idea that behind the scenes, Blizzard had always been this bad. One of the people named in the suit was a key designer on World of Warcraft, and there are references to him all over the game, in the parts of the game that made its reputation. It is easy to see the narrative that they might have made a fun thing in the past, but eventually their chickens came home to roost - they didn't look after their team, and look at what the game became. That's what's different about this, and why I think it might be fatal for the company - unlike a lot of these scandals, where audiences will allow their love for the work to eclipse the abuse, it's a situation where fans seem to be re-evaluating whether their fandom was always misplaced.

(Then again, the game these fans are moving to instead was infamously mismanaged, to the point where it was rebuilt under an absolutely brutal development cycle, and almost certainly is in a position where we don't yet know how poorly women on the team are treated)
posted by Merus at 5:34 PM on August 1 [8 favorites]


The part that actually surprises me is the career path from presidential administration to video game executive. Do they have any executives from the Obama era or is it only Republicans?
posted by RobotHero at 5:41 PM on August 1


It's also worth noting that their C-suite is literally filled with war criminals.

Seriously, what is with this? How far gone can this company be that they're hiring random bush/trump-era monsters for a video game company?

Terrifying stuff to learn.
posted by wafehling at 6:00 PM on August 1 [5 favorites]


Then again, the game these fans are moving to

Which is? I can't tell if you're intentionally not naming it or it was just an oversight. I'm guessing FFXIV.
posted by axiom at 6:26 PM on August 1 [4 favorites]


This really strikes me as a situation where it is actually not repairable in any meaningful sense and the best course of action is just to burn it down. Maybe spin off or sell off into 20 different pieces or whatever.

But fixing a problem when the rot runs that deep is well nigh impossible.
posted by flug at 6:50 PM on August 1


"unaccountable state bureaucrats". Jesus, assholes on all counts.
posted by flamk at 6:56 PM on August 1 [1 favorite]


The moderators of /r/wow/ have been keeping up to date a list of comments on Twitter from former employees, many of which note further incidents beyond the filing and the Kotaku roundup.

A story by Kat Bailey at IGN yesterday focused on the walkout at Blizzard. I found video with English interviews via Le Huffington Post, but didn't see it elsewhere.

Folks at ResetEra suggest a list of nonprofits to consider.

Also, WoW streamer Hazel (Hazelnuttygames) gave an an initial overview last week, including more nonprofits in the video description, and an update this morning. Her weekly news/commentary about WoW is typically super upbeat, and I think this is basically her livelihood. But like many long-time WoW streamers/commentators who've recently quit, she is saying things like 'take a break' / 'taking a step back' in view of all this.
posted by Wobbuffet at 7:01 PM on August 1 [2 favorites]


The part that actually surprises me is the career path from presidential administration to video game executive. Do they have any executives from the Obama era or is it only Republicans?
posted by RobotHero at 8:41 PM on August 1


Their Chief Communications Officer, Helaine Klasky, worked Democratic and Dem-adjacent jobs in the 80s and 90s. That said, the sixth word on her LinkedIn bio is "bi-partisan," and anyone who chooses to label themselves that in 2021 can be safely presumed an utter jackass.
posted by ZaphodB at 7:02 PM on August 1 [6 favorites]


I like to be bipartisan, too (or would, if 1/2 of the "bi" had not fallen off the edge of the earth) but it is real hard not to hear mumbo-jumbo like "unaccountable state bureaucrats" as straight-up Republican talking points.

It could come from a campaign speech.

Also - another reason just to burn it straight down.

Once you have been caught absolutely red-handed doing positively horrible things, if you were to do a bunch of housecleaning, get rid of (even the very worst of) a bunch of bad actors, and act even the tiniest bit contrite, then OK, hmm, maybe some benefit of the doubt.

But "we'll just go ahead and double down on the worst of everything while pretending like everything is OK and any minor problems, we have totally fixed" equals: Burn down. Now.
posted by flug at 7:15 PM on August 1 [9 favorites]


The part that actually surprises me is the career path from presidential administration to video game executive.

More evidence that executives do nothing of value. You can literally put any born-into-wealth white man in this role, he knows nothing about the product being sold, who cares he does nothing of meaning to the daily operation anyway.
posted by latkes at 8:23 PM on August 1 [32 favorites]


Which is? I can't tell if you're intentionally not naming it or it was just an oversight. I'm guessing FFXIV.

Was trying to keep on-topic, but yeah, I meant FFXIV. I've heard troubling things about the development of ARR; I'd hope it's better now, but I don't think it's safe to make that assumption. Guild Wars 2 was better than most, but they still fired half their writing staff because a streamer decided to argue back at one of the female writers and she did not take kindly to being told how to do her job.

Guild Wars 2 is a good example, actually, of how this kind of abuse holds you back. They launched with a (pretty weak) Jeremy Soule soundtrack, and apparently realised during the Christmas party after launch that the man was a problem, and carefully started to bulk up their in-house music team. When Soule officially quit the project to work exclusively on The Elder Scrolls Online, GW2's music got better. Notably, it was the first professional gig for a formerly hobbyist composer who these days goes by Lena Raine. (She actually scored her own boss fights.)

Cut abusers out, and you can get access to talent no-one else is looking at.
posted by Merus at 8:37 PM on August 1 [29 favorites]


I used to buy any Blizzard game just based on their polish and care for product. But hell no am I ever sending money to those fuckers again.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 8:54 PM on August 1 [3 favorites]


I haven't seen any comments or reference to Diablo, That's the one an only game that I played from Blizzard
posted by CRESTA at 8:56 PM on August 1


I quit playing hearthstone and Overwatch after the Hong Kong bs, it was really shitty but I felt I couldn't continue to support them after they. I hoped it was something they'd come back from as their games have meant a lot to me over the years, but really sad to see it was just the tip of the iceberg.
posted by Carillon at 9:00 PM on August 1 [1 favorite]


Was trying to keep on-topic, but yeah, I meant FFXIV. I've heard troubling things about the development of ARR; I'd hope it's better now, but I don't think it's safe to make that assumption.

The ARR crunch mainly happened because they were building ARR while keeping the trainwreck known as 1.0 upright, and then they were spinning up HW with ARR. The team took a long hiatus after the HW launch (which actually caused some issues as the endgame tuning was...off, causing a bit of a cascade as the lack of progression caused the new relic weapon set to be delayed.) Since then, the cadence has been established (major patches every 3-4 months) and notably, when COVID caused a several month delay due to the dev team moving to distributed workforce (and the chief composer fighting cancer, unbeknownst to the rest of us), producer Naoki Yoshida outright stated that there would be no attempt to make up the time - a decision that was applauded by the player base.

As for women on the staff, the main scenario writer for Shadowbringers and Endwalker, Natsuko Ishikawa, is a woman - and is highly respected by the player base as well, as she wrote the powerful dark knight storyline. Hearing that she was given lead on the latest expansions was greeted with a lot of excitement as well because of her past experience.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:11 PM on August 1 [8 favorites]


We're lucky, I guess, in that we're living in a golden ear of indie games. Get your gaming fix from a small shop, in some cases a single person. Might I recommend Stardew Valley, famously created (code, graphics, music) by a single person?

(I'm crossing my fingers that no-one milkshake ducks this post immediately after I hit "post"...)
posted by Harald74 at 10:26 PM on August 1 [14 favorites]


Re Riot. Afaik the same California department is doing an investigation into Riot as well. Would not be suprised if they get sued later this year. Also quite a few wow devs moved to Riot, among them one of the one mentioned in this blizzard suit.

I was mildly looking forward to D4, but I guess I'll just stick to PoE or my old D2 files and modding.
Stopped playing HS years ago, after the nickel and diming became too much.
posted by Megustalations at 11:19 PM on August 1


Blizzard wa always a strange company, beloved by fans, but known in the industry to pay way below average even for game companies. the operated under the premise that people wanted so badly to work for blizzard that they could get away with paying people less. theres stories that some devs could not afford their own place and had to share rooms with other blizz employees.
posted by Megustalations at 11:38 PM on August 1 [1 favorite]


I've heard troubling things about the development of ARR

The ARR crunch

I meant that I've heard allegations of abuse amongst the ARR team, not merely that they crunched for years to build a game in half the time they should have had.
posted by Merus at 12:40 AM on August 2


From the Activision Blizzard Corporate website and presented without comment.

we’re proud to have been previously named one of FORTUNE’s “100 Best Companies To Work For®” for five consecutive years.

I was going to buy THPS new release for the Switch but I’ll guess I’ll wait for Skatebird from (the female founded) Glass Bottom Studios which looks neat. Very different vibe but my kids will love it - Hope Glass Bottom Studios knocks it out of the park. I mean the description is adorable - You’re a lonely lil’ bird, and your Big Friend has hung up their board for good. Their job sucks, and lately, they’re barely ever home to play with you. You’re gonna fix all that with the power of being a chill little skateboarding bird. I hope the fact they reference Hawks doesn’t end up with them being sued out of existence by AB. Tony Hawk always seemed like a good dude - hope he can get his name off AB games (or be persuaded to).
posted by inflatablekiwi at 6:26 AM on August 2 [6 favorites]


Everything I see and hear about the modern computer game industry makes me think 'no thanks'. It sounds like an industry from the 1980s, such as conflict minerals, or factory farming. Except, y'know, rather than exploiting the labour of third-world countries, it's exploiting the labour of top graduates from first world countries.
posted by The River Ivel at 6:32 AM on August 2 [3 favorites]


we’re proud to have been previously named one of FORTUNE’s “100 Best Companies To Work For®” for five consecutive years

Having worked for about 5 of these types of companies who proudly display this type of "award" over the last 30-years - it is complete and utter BS... Typically it means the pay is low, but they have fooseball tables and free granola bars in the breakroom (and sketchy fruit, just about to turn bad)...

Typically it is all of the people in the support (i.e. non-delivery/non-technical) and management roles who go all-in on replying to these surveys... Because, in those roles - these types of companies are pretty much night-and-day better than others. But for technical people who are mostly grinding away, not so much... This is just my personal experience.
posted by rozcakj at 6:46 AM on August 2 [3 favorites]


Everything I see and hear about the modern computer game industry makes me think 'no thanks'. It sounds like an industry from the 1980s, such as conflict minerals, or factory farming.

That is true for the big name games you know, but check out the small shops, the humble bundles, check out itch.io - free world class developer tools and indie sales platforms have done for video games what blogging did for writing, way back - took away a lot of size, shape and content constraints, and made it possible to put out a game that is as long as it needs to be and no longer, to say what it has to say and then stop, and for the creator to charge whatever they want for it without needing anyone’s permission. We really are in a golden age of gaming right now, even if none of that is happening in the megacorp studios.
posted by mhoye at 8:40 AM on August 2 [7 favorites]


Typically it is all of the people in the support (i.e. non-delivery/non-technical) and management roles who go all-in on replying to these surveys

I don't work in video games but everywhere I've worked that was a Best Whatever in Whatever to work at it was because everyone in the company was instructed to participate and in some cases a screenshot had to be submitted and then the employer pays an "application fee" to the magazine or whatever. It's advertising, it's not work-giddy support staff (who spend their days taking a barrage of abuse from inside and outside the company) that make these happen.

If anything, this idea that non-dev employees at all these places are living their best lives and abuse is a special issue for only the technical teams - which kind of implies it's their fault for picking a "hard" job or it's a cultural issue/badge of honor - is part of the problem.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:58 AM on August 2 [9 favorites]


We really are in a golden age of gaming right now, even if none of that is happening in the megacorp studios.

Indies aren't the answer to the problem of the highly toxic culture in game development, and treating them as such is the same issue of the tech community choosing "exit" as a method of resolution that routinely fails to resolve these social issues. For one, indie studios can have these same issues themselves (Failbetter Games being a good example here) since they're swimming in the same water, so to speak. So indie studios aren't going to save us from abuse in the industry - cleaning up the industry is needed.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:08 AM on August 2 [12 favorites]


The thing is is this isn't new in the video game industry. It basically goes all the way back to the invention of the video game and the concept of a company dedicated to making video games.

Sierra / Sierra Online is an easy example of this. Some of this history is documented in Steven Levy's book Hackers where he talks about the hot tub and office parties, presumably coke-fueled, and this was back in the late 70s and early 80s.

I knew people who were working at a number of well known companies (including Blizzard) back in the late 80s and through the mid 90s and they definitely had major problems with company culture and overworking and underpaying their employees.

This whole concept of people non-figuratively dying to get in to the highly competitive and desirable game industry has been going on for a long, long time and if anything it's worse than the film industry because of the lack of unions and employee bargaining power.

If you don't suck it up there's always someone willing to take your place.

Also where is the Gamer Gate crowd when you need them?

(Warning, the above comment is so heavily saturated with sarcasm it may melt right through borosilicate laboratory glassware.)
posted by loquacious at 9:53 AM on August 2 [5 favorites]


It's advertising, it's not work-giddy support staff

Well - my experience in these types of workplaces - were consultancies. The technical staff wasn't even in-the-office for the most part - they were almost always 80%++ on-site at clients of customers.

The only people who primarily spearheaded and pushed for those adverstising "awards" were management and support staff. And yes - participation was mandatory and perks (compliance bribes) were awarded, for example coffee-cards for sending screenshot... But - my partner works in a support staff, office admin role - and she has seen many different industries, in her opinion - other than the hastle of wrangling techies and insane clients, the best to be employed in from her perspective is the tech sector - the worst are typically accounting/banking organizations. The middle-ground was the energy-sector.
posted by rozcakj at 11:26 AM on August 2 [1 favorite]


And in completely unsurprising news, Blizzard head J. Allen Brack gets handed the metaphorical sword and resigns.

This was a foregone conclusion - Brack basically oversaw these abuses without doing anything about them - there was no way he was staying after the response to his statement last week.
posted by NoxAeternum at 7:10 AM on August 3 [1 favorite]


I have no mixed feelings about Blizzard management-- please somebody cut the head off the snake (to be clear: metaphorically). Also just fire and replace every shitty dude, in every industry, forever. Make them all work in Shitty Dude Company together on Shitty Dude Island until they self annihilate and then turn the island into a sanctuary for hurt animals.

I do, however, have mixed feelings about boycotting their products. On the one hand, bleh, I don't want any of my money to end up in the pocket of a Shitty Dude. And also: maybe the Snake will constrict around Shitty Dude Culture if it understands that they threaten its bottom line.

On the other hand, I imagine a Blizzard employee who, other than the harassment from Shitty Dudes, is really proud of her work and enjoys sharing it with the world. For her, a boycott only adds another level of shittiness to an already very shitty situation-- the fans she wants to share her work now refuse to enjoy it because of the same Shitty Dude that made her life miserable from inside. Maybe she understands that strategically a boycott will make things better and is willing to sacrifice that joy for progress, but it still must feel crappy.

There's also the very real danger that a boycott (or any economic show of force) will just impel the Snake to "clean house" of the trouble, not the troublemakers, which means that same employee would find herself out of work.

I don't know what the right thing is strategically. I get that folks want to "burn it all down", but destroying the whole thing also destroys the careers of the folks who WANT to work at Blizzard, but currently find it absolutely intolerable.
posted by a_curious_koala at 8:58 AM on August 3 [1 favorite]


Re NoxAeternum.
Brack is not without fault, but much of this culture was created before he was leader of the company, under Morhaine. California began investigations 2 years ago and Brack took over Blizzard 2-3 years ago. Brack is the "you think you do, but you don't" guy when people were pestering them about classic wow. Clearly out of touch and probably aware of some of the abuse, because he was part of Blizzard and the WoW team.
posted by Megustalations at 9:26 AM on August 3 [1 favorite]


I get that folks want to "burn it all down", but destroying the whole thing also destroys the careers of the folks who WANT to work at Blizzard

Nah, I don't really agree. Just like the Death Star contractors, Blizzard employees have known for years the risks of working for them. Not only from the widespread sexual harassment, but let's not forget that Blizzard also let go of 800 employees when they were having a very profitable year in 2019. So they are already working there with the knowledge that they could be let go just because they're not needed anymore, even IF they are doing well financially.

And their careers wouldn't be "destroyed". For one thing, these are talented and motivated people with sought after skills, they'll find other jobs.

But they probably aren't going to be destroyed because boycotts mostly don't work on companies this big. Blizzard is just backpedaling for now, but if this persists they have options like play victim and complain about "cancel culture zealots". I mean, they were already leaning in that direction in their original response. And they're headquartered down in Orange County, which is known as a Republican bastion on the West Coast.
posted by FJT at 12:22 PM on August 3 [2 favorites]


Brack is not without fault, but much of this culture was created before he was leader of the company, under Morhaine.

Your point?

Brack may have only taken the helm in 2018, but had been at the company since 2006. He knew about this, and did nothing to change it. He had to go.
posted by NoxAeternum at 12:49 PM on August 3 [1 favorite]


I'm just not sure how much change you can get by swapping out the membrane between operations and investors. If the investors see and approach the world a certain way, it stands to reason they will only put their investments under the charge of folks who align with said lenses and methods. Institutional investors (1) dictate corporate culture more than anyone else at Blizz/Activision and they only know how to plunder and exploit (and I mean "exploit" in the least charitable way possible, to be sure).

My sense is that the more adept that one is at exploiting labor and resources, the more readily they navigate and manipulate exploitative systems of power. Since 'Murica's systems of power were incepted by genociding, slaver, hetero-patriarchs in materially every physical and abstract corner of 'Murica's business environment, and capital/power has shepherded and cocreated that reality to bring it to 2021, only the most harmful of folks fit said capital's job descriptions for C-Suites.

The answer, to me, is the same as it always was with securitized ownership of the means of production: its gotta go as it can only net negative for biological life on earth (2). That net may come in inhumane inter-species exploitation in its myriad forms, or exploitation of other organisms and related biomes (honestly it's always both), but it's never come another way.

This is why I've been heartened of late to see more boycotts and strikes nationally lately, and more cross-communication between vocations personally (and on the internet). The same institutional capital that grew from slavery and genocide in the states has been pressing into every market in the same way since the WW2 vacuum where they reaped the global vacuum of industry(improve margins, mostly from labor, but also from theft). I suspect that's part of the push to get people back in brick&mortar employment situations. We're much scarier when we compare notes because they rhyme so well.

(1) 4 entities own ~22% of BlizzActivision. Those entities are Vanguard, Fidelity, Blackrock, and SSGA. They evil. End times evil.
(2) This is my assertion for any publicly traded company. Legalized pillaging where spoils go to to investors, but feel free to memail me a publicly traded company and I'll see if there's finally one that's not just pushing the exploitation around. I don't blame individual corporations, btw. Hell I don't blame anyone tbh. But the market is made, and if you ain't stealing (legally amirite!), you ain't gonna compete with the market.
posted by CPAnarchist at 2:13 PM on August 3 [1 favorite]


I am also of the opinion that forcing Brack to fall on his sword changes nothing - it's clear that the rot isn't just in Blizzard, but is straight through the C-suite at Activision Blizzard. All this does is cement the changes that Activision Blizzard have been making to force Blizzard into being just another replaceable studio, to be dissolved at a moment's notice.

Call me when Bobby Kotick resigns.
posted by Merus at 6:48 PM on August 3 [1 favorite]


That's a problematic assessment. Kotick definitely has been a horrible CEO enabling abuse and harassment, but the reality is from the stories that Blizzard was rotten before Activision, before Vivendi, when they were a darling independent development house. Abuse and harassment in gaming is endemic, and there's no level in the industry that's free from it. Painting this as being just the sins of the megacorps is turning a blind eye to the reality of the situation.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:31 PM on August 3 [3 favorites]


It's possible to fire the C-suite and not think that it's the entire job done. It's just the obvious place to start.

On the other hand, I imagine a Blizzard employee who, other than the harassment from Shitty Dudes, is really proud of her work and enjoys sharing it with the world. For her, a boycott only adds another level of shittiness to an already very shitty situation-- the fans she wants to share her work now refuse to enjoy it because of the same Shitty Dude that made her life miserable from inside.

This logic paralyses any and all action for any reason, ever. Can't depose Trump - think of his poor innocent staffers! And I'm sure a lot of people in the North Korean hierarchy are just regular folks doing their best - better not rock the boat.

All change is disruptive. Wringing your hands about the victims of abusive situations is not a reason to avoid tackling the abusive situations.
posted by Dysk at 12:40 AM on August 4 [8 favorites]


And unsurprisingly, investors are now suing over the concealment of the investigation, stating that by doing so, AB inflated their value.
posted by NoxAeternum at 7:09 AM on August 4 [1 favorite]


> This logic paralyses any and all action for any reason, ever. Can't depose Trump - think of his poor innocent staffers! And I'm sure a lot of people in the North Korean hierarchy are just regular folks doing their best - better not rock the boat.

I'm all for rocking the boat! My hypothetical was not anti-boat rocking; I was questioning the strategic value of brand boycotts specifically, and whether they end up hurting the abused twice (or potentially three times) while not hurting the company at all.

My question is not boat rocking vs no boat rocking, it's how do you rock the boat such that the powerful don't just hide in their luxury suites while the already-abused get swept overboard (adding insult to injury). To switch metaphors: "you can't make an omelette without breaking some eggs" can (and has) been used to justify all sorts of horrible revolutionary actions. Somewhere between "no boat rocking" and "making omelettes" is a strategically sound method for making our voices heard with as little extra trauma to the already traumatized as possible. I have no idea what that is, just trying to think about it.
posted by a_curious_koala at 11:43 AM on August 4


Few to none of the developers will be getting any kind of commission on sales, so no I don't see this meaningfully hurting anyone who is a victim here? I'm not buying the argument that we must consume the abusive sweatshop product because people worked hard on it.
posted by Dysk at 12:04 PM on August 4 [2 favorites]


Another "fun" facet of why concern for the innocent developers can be well-intentioned, sure, but is misguided is: part of how generally horrible the videogames industry is (especially really big companies, but as has been noted up yonder, "indies" are no silver bullet to it) its tendency to fire huge swaths of developers on any given project as soon as their game project is released. (And then the C-suite takes another large bonus at the savings.)

Basically, the innocent developers aren't exactly swimming in job security that boycotts would ever affect even if hell-snowballs align that they could.
posted by Drastic at 12:10 PM on August 4 [2 favorites]


Boycotts are generally a method of publicizing an issue, since they represent an action the general public can take easily. Which makes the general public feel involved, which helps to spread the message to the 1% of the public that will take more concrete and helpful actions.

My dad is a union lawyer who's organized some strikes, his general rule of thumb is you don't boycott a mom and pop shop that could go out of business, costing all the strikers their jobs. If it's a national brand a boycott probably won't drive them out of business; it won't hurt and might help.
posted by subdee at 8:45 PM on August 4


Activision Blizzard lawyer and war criminal Fran Townsend has deleted her Twitter account, after winding up on the wrong side of The Ratio for posting an Atlantic article in a "snitches get stitches" fashion.
posted by NoxAeternum at 6:33 AM on August 5 [2 favorites]


Indies aren't the answer to the problem of the highly toxic culture in game development, and treating them as such is the same issue of the tech community choosing "exit" as a method of resolution that routinely fails to resolve these social issues.

Echoing the Failbetter example illustrating that point is the Fullbright studio. Which rhymes right down to initially-tiny studio where the missing stair was a co-founder from the start. And of course this story is about the sheer contortions they're going through to manage the snowballing damage being caused without actually resolving.
posted by Drastic at 6:51 AM on August 5


It's possible to fire the C-suite and not think that it's the entire job done. It's just the obvious place to start.

Here's the thing - I don't think that is the obvious place to start, because I think the problem goes a lot deeper than just CEOs enabling abuse. Don't get me wrong - Kotick is responsible in part for this, and should be removed - but at the same time, he's as much a symptom of the larger issues involved as he is a cause. The reality is that misogyny is the tech industry's original sin, and it is threaded through the culture, which is why this behavior is treated as acceptable. And because of that, I feel that the call that I've seen to place the blame on the megacorps in gaming misses the mark, because it turns out that even small independent studios have this same problem.
posted by NoxAeternum at 6:54 AM on August 5




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