Activision Blizzard is forever stained if the CEO stays

If only Activision’s board of directors could handle all of our performance reviews.

Imagine such a world, where forward-looking statements and tough commitments could virtually wipe out a lawsuit and revelations from multiple news outlets, including this document, Bloombergthe Washington Post and more recently a Investigation in the Wall Street Journal which showed that Activision Blizzard CEO was leading the management of a toxic workplace culture filled with sexual harassment and inequality. Moving forward, we should all seek Bobby Kotick’s treatment without repercussions when we meet with our supervisors.

Do not judge us for the environment we have built and that has surrounded us for several decades, but instead for the solid guarantees of zero tolerance we make for the future.

If only such a policy were offered to non-CEOs, you know, people not accused in a newspaper article of allegedly leaving a death threat to an assistant in a voice mail. But, hey, what is the staff but a repository for potential empty threats? Activision Blizzard is, it seems, a special place, a Southern California company that hosts increasingly mediocre but perennial hit “Call of Duty” games and the standby fantasy that is “World of Warcraft”.

In July, several hundred Activision Blizzard employees staged a strike

In July, several hundred Activision Blizzard employees staged a strike in response to a lawsuit highlighting alleged harassment and inequalities within the company. Another strike was organized this week to demand the resignation of CEO Bobby Kotick.

(Allen J. Cockroaches / Los Angeles Times

Not everyone can run a company valued at more than $ 50 billion. So while many in the gaming industry gasped in the wake of new revelations about Kotick’s inability to deal with what happened behind closed doors, Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO and President Jim Ryan was quick to express “deep concern” while Microsoft’s Xbox chief Phil Spencer said it is “evaluate all aspects of our relationship with Activision Blizzard ”- Activision’s board of directors rejected the reports and issued a statement declaring fidelity to Kotick’s ability to implement“ industry-leading changes ”.

If only.

This is not one or two isolated incidents, just one regrettable error of judgment. Kotick, CEO since 1991, had two decades to shape the games company he wanted, to lead a path out of the raw gaming stereotypes. He has built a colossus, but of which he is now the target multiple lawsuits it’s a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation. The perception today is that the company puts the goals of its executives and shareholders before the needs of its staff and players, turning a blind eye to requests for improvement and even viewing them as a nuisance.

This is a study that in July the California Department of Employment and Fair Construction (DFEH) spotted crude, masculine stereotypes in a 29-page lawsuit claiming that Activision Blizzard executives had cultivated a “pervasive culture about fraternity workplace “and allegedly perpetrated or ignored inequality and sexual harassment. The lawsuit was the result of a lengthy investigation that documented how harassment was practically encouraged, often fueled by alcohol, and canceled as a joke in an 80% male workplace.

Many outside the company have been slow to take Activision’s problems seriously, in part because they didn’t take video games seriously. But it’s a vital company to the Los Angeles entertainment community like Disney, Netflix, Sony, and all Hollywood gamers who gain much broader media control.

This week is overwhelming Investigation in the Wall Street Journal it was a wake-up call, with news that the company’s top executive was aware of numerous blatant allegations, including protecting an executive whose human resources had recommended dismissal. Since the DFEH filing in July, according to the Journal, more than 500 current and former Activision employees have come forward with complaints of “harassment, sexual assault, bullying, wage disparity and other issues.”

This week, the latest revelations led to the company’s strike who requested Kotick to resign.

“Under the leadership of Bobby Kotick, the company was charged with mistreatment, sexual harassment, rape and death threats made by Kotick himself. The advice is equally complicit if it lets this slip, “it reads a statement made by a group of employees help organize the strike.

While no one expects a CEO to know all the problems that occur in a company, these are 500 additional cases that have happened under Kotick’s watch. Such a number lends credence to the DFEH lawsuit, which described an environment in which male employees “exchange jokes about their sexual encounters, openly talk about female bodies and joke about rape” among its approximately 9,500 employees, who make games. for over 100 million players worldwide.

What’s worse: that Kotick was unaware of such a culture or that he spent two decades not caring about what was happening in his name?

The company criticized the WSJ report as presenting “a misleading view of Activision Blizzard and our CEO”.

In a statement, Activision Blizzard writes that “the cases of sexual misconduct brought to its attention have been acted upon. The WSJ ignores the major changes underway to make this workplace more welcoming and inclusive in the industry and ignores the efforts of thousands of employees who work hard every day to live up to their and our values.

The Journal notes that there have been cases of sexual harassment reported to executives and human resources that have been acted upon. But it also paints a distressing picture of a company that can’t shake its reputation as a kids’ club. The Journal writes that a co-manager of one of Activision’s “Call of Duty” studios was “accused by an employee of sexually assaulting her in 2017 after a night of drinking.” After an investigation, he was recommended to be fired, but according to the Journal “Kotick stepped in to restrain him”.

Perhaps, as part of this new “zero tolerance” policy, the results of internal investigations into sexual harassment will be taken into account.

Yet just this summer, Jennifer Oneal was named co-star of Blizzard, only to announce her resignation three months later.

Citing internal emails, the WSJ reported that Oneal was paid less than her male counterpart, endured her own stories of harassment, and “professed a lack of faith in Activision’s leadership to change the culture.”

This DFEH suit has managed to make it impossible to ignore the inequalities the gaming industry has long perpetuated. It’s hard to imagine a future for Activision Blizzard with Kotick at the helm where every release, every game, every studio isn’t accompanied by an asterisk, a note that for two decades this company has changed direction when it came to wage and security inequalities. of its staff.

Activision’s board and its executives may choose to hide behind the blind loyalty many players feel for “Call of Duty” or “World of Warcraft,” but it seems terribly cynical for the gaming industry as well. Wait. It doesn’t matter, it looks just what you expect.

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