Activision Blizzard Employee: We “Demand Better Working Conditions” cover image

Activision Blizzard Employee: We “Demand Better Working Conditions”

Activision Blizzard employees have planned a walkout for Wednesday, July 28th to protest the incendiary response from company leadership to a lawsuit by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

Activision Blizzard employees have planned a walkout for Wednesday, July 28th to protest the incendiary response from company leadership to a lawsuit by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

Update: Activision CEO Bobby Kotick released an open letter to all employees apologizing for the companies previous history and outlining immediate changes to current policies. In the email, Kotic promises to investigate claims, create listening sessions, replace problematic personnel, augment hiring practices, and modify offensive in-game content.

What is up with Activision Blizzard?

The damning lawsuit first reported by Bloomberg Law details a sexist and racist culture within the Blizzard workplace. This has created obscene working conditions for women, especially black women and marginalized people. It also alleges egregious sexist behavior that resulted in a female employee's suicide.

Tragically enough, instead of cooperating with the investigation, Activision Blizzard issued a confrontational statement to Polygon, denying all of the charges that stemmed from the two-year investigation. J. Allen Brack, Blizzard President, sent an email to staff reaching out and to discuss how to "move forward."

On the contrary, Activision Blizzard executive Frances Townsend sent a company-wide email stating that the lawsuit was "meritless" and based on "factually incorrect, old, and out-of-context stories."

These responses along with these despicable working conditions have forced the employees to finally speak out. Blizzard is known for keeping a very secret-oriented environment, and as calls for change were either ignored or passed off with a "we'll work on it," enough is enough.

But what do the Activision Blizzard employees want to accomplish?

An employee who wishes to remain anonymous spoke to about working conditions after the lawsuit and what they would like people to do to spread awareness.

"The lawsuit hit as a total surprise to a lot of folks, in terms of not having any idea this kind of massive legal procedure could be coming," they said. "The general response to it across game teams has been shock, anger, and loss of trust in leadership. Not in terms of the culture supporting asshole men, of course."

The employee also states that the rage and resulting trauma from their company's response to the lawsuit has made it much more difficult for people who love their jobs to work.

"People are still trying to do their jobs--walkout notwithstanding--because we really love our work. It's just a lot harder when you're distracted by rage."

This rage has been felt throughout the community, mainly because these issues have been long overdue reckoning. In 2018, the DFEH had also been involved in a lawsuit against Riot Games for their own issues with sexism and harassment that resulted in a $10 million payout. So what is there to do if the industry itself is poisoned from the roots to the leaves?

The Game of Morality

There has been much debate when it comes to employees, content creators, and others who rely on Blizzard games for their livelihood. The fickle nature of their lives and their audiences render them incapable of instant change without the risk of losing their income. And while some are ignorantly calling for instant statements and retaliation, nuance is needed, especially given how long it took for action to be taken.

For Blizzard at least, the anonymous employee wants to stress that people can protest however they want to. People should be able to process their anger and disappointment however they'd like, but the protestors are not asking for people "to picket gameplay." There shouldn't be a moral obligation or conflict for content
creators to play the game, especially when it comes to their livelihood.

And for this employee and others, they know the risks they are taking. And they still want people to enjoy the games they put their blood, sweat, and tears in.

"We are not at this time calling for any sort of protest action against the games themselves," they say.

"It's important to the walkout participants that the protests don't come across as anti-Blizzard -- they have to come across as 'Demanding Better Working Conditions.'"

"While people obviously appreciate players' support, asking people not to play would be doing damage that we don't want to do."

How Can We Help?

Blizzard games have provided a lot of opportunities, bonds, and experiences that have changed lives for the better. But they have come at a great cost. And a situation like this makes it difficult for an individual to make a decision based on their own histories. It makes it even harder if your very own livelihood depends on them.

But change can be done. With this walkout, the lawsuit, and further action, it's up to us to keep the pressure on Activision Blizzard, but only if it supports the employees instead of causing more harm. We have to be there for them as they are willing to support us, as fans and players of the games they created.

At the end of the day, the best way to support this walkout and to demand better working conditions is to spread the word via social media with the #ActiBlizzWalkout hashtag and donate to the below charities as provided by the Activision Blizzard employees to Kotaku: