Activision, faced with internal turmoil, wrestles with # MeToo reckoning

This week, more than 1,500 workers at video game maker Activision Blizzard have quit their jobs. Thousands have signed letters blaming employers. And even if the CEO apologized, current and former employees wouldn’t stop making noise.

Shay Stein, who worked at Activision, said it was “painful.” Former Vice President Lisa Welch said she felt “serious disappointment.” Others shared their anger by going to Twitter on Wednesday and waving signs outside the office of the company.

Very popular Activision call of DutyThe World of Warcraft and StarCraft game franchises have made a fuss over behavioral issues at work.Turbulence arises from Explosive proceedings Submitted last Tuesday by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, Blame the $ 65 billion company Fostering a “fraternity boy’s work culture” where men joking about rape, women are harassed on a daily basis, and wages are lower than their male colleagues.

Activision has publicly criticized the agency’s two-year investigation and allegations as “irresponsible behavior by irresponsible state bureaucrats.” But the boring tone offended employees who called on the company to wipe out what they said. They were a vicious problem that had been ignored for too long.

The violent reaction was abnormal. Of all the industries facing the crime of sexism in recent years Hollywood, restaurant And that media — The male-dominated video games sector has long stood out for its openly toxic behavior and lack of change. 2014, industry feminist critics Faced with murder threat It became known as Gamergate.Game company executives Riot Games When Ubisoft He has also been accused of illegal activities.

Actions at Activision now could represent a new stage in which the critical mass of workers in the industry no longer tolerates such actions.

Curly Kokulek, an associate professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology, said: Technology that studies gender in games.

She said fallout in California proceedings and Activision was a “big deal” for an industry that traditionally avoided allegations of sexism and harassment. She added that other gaming companies are probably monitoring the situation and considering whether they need to work on their culture.

Activision CEO Bobby Kotick apologized to employees on Tuesday, saying the proceedings were “deaf” and law firms would investigate the company’s policies.

In a statement in this article, Activision, based in Santa Monica, California, said, “Long-term change, listen, to create a safe and inclusive workplace that we all can be proud of. He said he is working on “continuing important work.”

In an interview, seven current and former Activision employees said terrible behavior had taken place in the company over the years up and down the hierarchy. The current three employees were not named for fear of retaliation. Their explanation of what happened at work is in close agreement with the one presented in the state proceedings.

Stein, 28, who played a customer service role at Activision from 2014 to 2017 and helped gamers with problems and glitches, said he was consistently less paid than his former boyfriend who joined the company at the same time. I did the same job.

Stein said he had turned down the drug offered by the manager at a holiday party in 2014 or 2015, which worsened their relationship and hindered her career. In 2016, the manager sent a message to her on Facebook, suggesting that she should be crazy about “freaks” and asking what kind of porn she saw. She also said she was above a male colleague joking that some women were only working because they showed sexual favor to their male boss.

“It really hurt,” Stein said, adding that he felt “we had to endure it.”

Welch, who joined Activision as Vice President of Consumer Strategy and Insights in 2011, said he knew the company had a reputation for having a combat culture, but was intrigued by its outstanding role. rice field.

Then at a hotel on a business trip that year, Welch said executives pressured her to have sex with her because she was “worthy of fun” after her boyfriend died a few weeks ago. Told. She said she turned him down.

Other colleagues suggested she “hook up” with them, and she said, regularly commenting on her appearance over the years. Welch, 52, said he was repeatedly handed over for promotion in favor of unqualified men.

She said she didn’t report the case, partly because her gender was “professional liability” and she didn’t want to admit to herself that she loved her job. But by 2016, she said her doctor had persuaded her to leave because stress was detrimental to her health.

Until the proceedings were filed, Welch said he thought his experience was unique to the company. “It’s very disappointing to hear that it’s this scale,” she said.

Activision will address the accusations of former employees, stating that “such conduct is abominable,” and will investigate the allegations. The company said it has moved away from the past and has improved its culture in recent years.

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, which protects people from illegal discrimination, said it did not comment on the open inquiry.However, there are also proceedings against Activision filed in the Los Angeles Superior Court. Spare details.. Many of the charges of illegal activity focused on a department called Blizzard. Blizzard merged in 2008 through a contract with Vivendi Games.

The proceedings accused Activision of being “a hotbed of harassment and discrimination against women.” According to the proceedings, employees were drunk and engaged in “cube crawls” in workplace cubicles that misbehaved against women.

In one case, the lawsuit said a female employee committed suicide on a business trip because of a sexual relationship with a male boss. Prior to her death, a male colleague shared a blatant photo of the woman, according to the proceedings.

When the proceedings were released last week, Activision said it not only worked to improve the culture, but also worked to protect itself. The state agency publicly stated that it had “rushed to file an inaccurate complaint,” and said it was “sick of the accused of committing suicide.”

In an internal memo last week, Activision’s chief compliance officer Frances Townsend also called the case “true useless and irresponsible.”Townsend’s memo posted On twitter..

Employees reacted fiercely. An open letter to Activision leaders took the accusation more seriously, demanding that they “show compassion” to the victims, and by Wednesday had collected more than 3,000 signatures from current and former employees. rice field. The company has about 10,000 employees.

“We no longer trust leaders to prioritize employee safety over their own interests,” he called Townsend’s statement “unacceptable,” the letter said.

The strike organizer, announced Tuesday, also submitted a list of requests to executives. These include termination of mandatory arbitration clauses in worker contracts, recruitment and promotion of diverse candidates, disclosure of salary data, and permission to audit Activision reporting and development procedures by third parties. Was there.

The company’s stock price plummeted on Tuesday. That same day, Activision told employees that they would be paid while they were on strike. Mr. Cotic then apologized.

“I’m sorry we didn’t provide the right empathy and understanding,” he said in a note to his employees. “Nowhere in our company is any kind of discrimination, harassment or unequal treatment.”

Mr. Kotic in a pinch $ 155 million wage package It leaves him alone Country’s highest wage executiveThe company has strengthened its team to investigate reported fraud, adding that the fire chief, who was found to have interfered with the investigation, will remove in-game content that has been flagged as inappropriate.

Employees said that wasn’t enough.

“We will not return to silence. The strike organizer said in an official statement. They refused to reveal their identities for fear of retaliation.

Activision, faced with internal turmoil, wrestles with # MeToo reckoning

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