Games by Blizzard: Will you still play after seeing this lawsuit?
Activision Blizzard, one of the largest video game companies in the world, faces some major legal heat in the state of California. Activision has been the driving force behind the gaming mega-franchise Call of Duty, while games by Blizzard include World of Warcraft, Diablo, and the supremely popular Overwatch. The two merged back in 2008 and have released countless games since.
The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing is suing the gaming company for violation of the state’s civil rights and equal pay laws. The suit is the result of a two-year investigation by the Department into the company’s culture, hiring practices, and leadership. Activision Blizzard stands accused of creating a “frat boy” working culture that consistently violates the rights of female employees.
The company has pushed back on the allegations and claims that the DFEH “rushed to file an inaccurate claim”. A court battle looms, but the company will also face the court of public opinion as gamers read shocking revelations from the DFEH about Activision Blizzard’s workplace culture. A number of games by Blizzard will be released this year, and they might now see a dip in sales. Come with us to explore the case.
Frat boy culture
Gaming companies have had a long history of problems with diversity. Most companies are dominated by white men, and women often constitute a significant minority of employees. Even within that context, the findings from California’s investigation into Activision Blizzard’s workplace culture are shocking & outrageous. The DEFH cites numerous examples of behavior that makes “frat boy” an inadequate descriptor.
According to the DEFH filing, the gaming company hosts internal events called “cube crawls”. A cube crawl is like an office party “in which male employees drink copious [amounts] of alcohol as they “crawl” their way through various cubicles” as they hit on female employees or joke about their own sexual exploits outside of work. In addition, men were often allowed to come into work hungover or play video games on the clock.
Female employees weren’t given such leeway, says the DEFH. Women at Activision Blizzard were made to handle men’s work while they were gaming or cube crawling. They were also often given bad employee reviews after becoming pregnant or going on maternity leave. Pay discrepancies between men and women at the company were vast, and women had longer paths to promotion and full-time employment compared to men.
Now, California’s DEFH is suing Activision Blizzard with ambitious goals. The suit seeks not only to enforce the company’s compliance with the state’s civil rights and employment laws, but also to address “unpaid wages, pay adjustments, back pay, and lost wages and benefits for female employees”. If the state comes out on top, the lawsuit could be a massive win for women in gaming and in workplaces in general.
Activision Blizzard is already pushing back against the DEFH. In a statement, the company said they “value diversity and strive to foster a workplace that offers inclusivity for everyone”. They claim that the DEFH distorted the findings of their investigation and that the company culture the lawsuit describes “is not the Blizzard workplace of today”. More or less, Activision Blizzard says there’s no problem at all.
Games made by Activision Blizzard are some of the most popular and highest-grossing in the entire industry. Though rumors of bad culture have circulated in the past, this new lawsuit gives the most extensive view of what’s happening behind the scenes at the company. Their fans may reject the company in light of the DEFH findings, or they may not. Either way, Activision Blizzard is headed to court.
Were you shocked by what California’s DEFH found in its investigation? Will you still be buying games by Activision Blizzard moving forward? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.