Activision case, the Treyarch developers speak: "our priority is inclusiveness"

Activision case, the Treyarch developers speak: our priority is inclusiveness

Activision case, the Treyarch developers speak

Activision has still been under the eye of the storm for months now, due to the internal affairs of the software house that have only recently come out, but which have been going on for several years. Several scandalous facts have emerged that see the company as a protagonist, such as the fact that the harassment that took place within it was trivialized by the managers themselves. All these issues have led to several consequences, such as the recent all-out strike organized a few weeks ago, and now the women within one of the companies under Activision's wing, Treyarch (author of games like those of the entire Call of Duty saga), have decided to come together to have their say.

As we look ahead to 2022, we felt that it was important to share a few thoughts…

- Treyarch Studios (@Treyarch) December 21, 2021

Although not specified in Treyarch's tweet, we know that this was organized by the female part of the company thanks to Miranda Due, part of the development team, who specified herself that the women of the company joined to write the message. The latter, contained in the software house's Twitter post, is an announcement in which they explain that the primary intent of the studio is to offer a safe, diverse and inclusive work environment, and that there is no space inside. for sexism, harassment, racism, bigotry, discrimination or bullying.

It is undoubtedly a good message from the company, and seeing that these words come from a "subcategory" of Activision, this gives us hope for a more radiant future within the software house. and prosperous. Other different tweets, in fact, were written by the same members of Treyarch, who express their happiness to see that finally the women of the company have made their voices heard. Among them is Avani Jain, who expresses this thought regarding the recent post of the company:

Having a voice and finally feeling that you can contribute to real change is one of the reasons why I work at Treyarch . The message arrived very late, but it is already a beginning. I'm disappointed with everything that's happened, but I'm sure we can create the way to a better future.

if (jQuery ("# ​​crm_srl-th_gamedivision_d_mh2_1"). Is (": visible")) { console.log ("Edinet ADV adding zone: tag crm_srl-th_gamedivision_d_mh2_1 slot id: th_gamedivision_d_mh2"); } We are finally beginning to see a glimmer of light for the company, which seems to be working hard to eliminate all the problems that concern it at its root. Even the CEO himself, Bobby Kotick, is suffering the consequences: following the accusations against him, it seems that he could leave the company, even if it is already clear that the repercussions will follow him also outside of it. >

Activision Blizzard lawsuit: Timeline, statements, and everything you need to know

The DFEH and the EEOC are now at odds — Oct. 8, 2021

After the DFEH filed an objection to the proposed settlement, the EEOC responded with a memorandum on Oct. 8 that, in part, accused the DFEH of a conflict of interest. The potential ethics violation regards two DFEH lawyers who used to work with the EEOC on the case. The memorandum stated:

Specifically, two DFEH attorneys — who play leadership roles within the organization — previously served as EEOC who helped to direct the EEOC's investigation into Commissioner's Charge No. 480-2018-05212 against Activision Blizzard, Inc. These same attorneys then proceeded to represent DFEH in connection with these intervention proceedings, which seek to oppose the consent decree that arose out of the very investigation they helped to direct while at the EEOC.

The EEOC gets involved, but Activision Blizzard agrees to pay $18M settlement — Sept. 27, 2021

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced that it filed a complaint against Activision Blizzard, mostly alleging that the company engaged in the practices outlined in the DFEH complaint (that employees engaged in sexual harassment, retaliation, etc.).

However, not too long after the announcement, Activision Blizzard revealed that it had agreed to settle with the EEOC and create an $18 million fund for the purpose of making amends to those affected. The company also said it would be developing training programs and software to improve workplace practices.

'We will continue to be vigilant in our commitment to the elimination of harassment and discrimination in the workplace,' Kotick said in a press release.

However, reaction to the news was mixed. The Communication Workers of America (CWA), which previously had filed a complaint against ABK for allegedly using coercive tactics and intimidation, tweeted that the $18 million figure was a 'slap in the face to workers' and that it was 'mere pennies' compared to the company's full net worth. The DFEH also argued that the settlement could impact its case against the company by allowing it to potentially destroy evidence. An Activision Blizzard spokesperson, meanwhile, said the amount was agreed on with the EEOC.

Activision Blizzard subpoenaed by SEC — Sept. 20, 2021

On Sept. 20, The Wall Street Journal reported that the company, along with several leaders like Bobby Kotick, had been subpoenaed by the SEC. They've been asked to hand over documents, such as minutes from board meetings, personnel files, separation agreements, and more.

The SEC is an organization that typically protects investors against market manipulation and other financial falsehoods from companies, so the news of the subpoena was quite surprising. However, the purpose of it was to 'discern whether Activision and its executives properly disclosed allegations ... and whether any of that information should have been shared earlier with investors,' according to the WSJ.

A spokesperson for the company said in a statement issued to WSJ that, 'the company is cooperating with the SEC.'

Lawsuit updated with reports Activision Blizzard is interfering with investigation — Aug. 24, 2021

The DFEH expanded its lawsuit against the company, in a report from Axios. The documents allege that Activision Blizzard has been interfering with the investigation, including the shredding of documents related to the suit.

Essentially, the state requires employees to maintain records related to a complaint if it's filed, but the amendment says Activision Blizzard did not produce documents, saying that they didn't exist or that they were confidential. The DFEH also says that human resources personnel documents related to the investigation 'were shredded ... thirty (30) days after an employee's separation.'

The amendment also says Activision Blizzard's hiring of WilmerHale has interfered with the investigation. In other news, the DFEH also changed some wording, including calling 'employees' 'workers,' which would include temporary workers as well as employees.

Leadership steps down — Aug. 3, 2021

Blizzard president J. Allen Brack stepped down from the company in August. Jen Oneal, previously the head of Vicarious Visions and executive vice president of development at Blizzard, and Mike Ybarra, who's most known for working at Xbox before joining Activision Blizzard in 2019, will co-lead the studio moving forward. Brack was one of the names brought up in the lawsuit.

The same day, Bloomberg reported that Jesse Meschuk, the company's top HR executive, has also left the company.

Sponsorships pulled

Esports leagues are funded in part by corporate sponsorships, and that includes entities like the Overwatch League and the Call of Duty League. This week, Coca-Cola, Kellogg, State Farm, and T-Mobile were all reassessing their partnerships with Activision Blizzard's Overwatch League, according to The Washington Post. Later this week, Kellogg confirmed it would no longer advertise Cheez-It or Pringles in the Overwatch League. T-Mobile also noted it would be pausing its sponsorship.

More reports emerge

Following the walkout, numerous outlets published reports expanding on the initial allegations in the lawsuit and stating new ones.

On July 28, Kotaku published an in-depth look into the Cosby Suite named in the lawsuit. The room was reportedly a place filled with booze where people could go for parties. In addition, it featured a large portrait of Bill Cosby, who was accused of sexual assault by numerous women and was convicted in 2018 for aggravated indecent assault (although that conviction was overturned this year).

On July 29, The New York Times published its investigation into the lawsuit and subsequent walkout. One former employee interviewed for the article said that she was paid less than a former boyfriend, who joined the company at the same time and performed similar tasks. She also said that she denied drugs from her manager, which she alleges hurt her career.

'It is absolutely a rock-star mentality, and it touched almost every aspect of Blizzard culture.'

Many reports emerged on July 30. One from IGN affirmed a lot of what had been alleged of the drinking culture at the company, but also went deeper into how women, specifically pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers, were treated. One source noted how men would often walk into the breastfeeding room and stare at the women using it. Another person told IGN that they had trouble getting time off to go to the doctor as a pregnant woman. While a lot had been done to cut down on the company's drinking culture, many sources noted that it hadn't been enough, saying what was done was akin to 'putting lipstick' on the problem.

Vice resurfaced a story from 2018 where a former Activision Blizzard IT worker was arrested after putting cameras in the company's Minnesota office bathroom with the intent to spy on workers. It also published a story concerning a woman who had an indecent encounter with Blizzard employees at the Black Hat cybersecurity conference in 2015. She said, 'One of them asked me when was the last time I was personally penetrated, if I liked being penetrated, and how often I got penetrated.'

On Aug. 6, Waypoint continued its reporting with an article concerning Blizzard's chief information officer, Derek Ingalls, and how he joked about sleeping with female assistants during a meeting. Bloomberg also published an in-depth piece on what the culture was like in the years leading up to the lawsuit, and how a predominantly male workforce affected egos and workplace behavior. Many of its developers were treated like rock stars.

Activision Blizzard employees participate in a walkout — July 28, 2021

Activision Blizzard Walkout Voice Always Matters

Activision Blizzard Walkout Voice Always Matters

Source: Carli Velocci / Windows Central

In response to the lawsuit, employees within the company organized a walkout on July 28, 2021. Hundreds of employees walked out on the job, many standing in protest in front of Blizzard Entertainment headquarters. The point was to bring attention to four demands:

  • An end to mandatory arbitration clauses in all employee contracts, current and future. Arbitration clauses protect abusers and limit the ability of victims to seek restitution.
  • The adoption of recruiting, interviewing, hiring, and promotion policies designed to improve representation among employees at all levels, agreed upon by employees in a company-wide Diversity, Equity & Inclusion organization. Current practices have led to women, in particular women of color and transgender women, nonbinary people, and other marginalized groups that are vulnerable to gender discrimination not being hired fairly for new roles when compared to men.
  • Publication of data on relative compensation (including equity grants and profit sharing), promotion rates, and salary ranges for employees of all genders and ethnicities at the company. Current practices have led to aforementioned groups not being paid or promoted fairly.
  • Empower a company-wide Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion task force to hire a third party to audit ABK's reporting structure, HR department, and executive staff. It is imperative to identify how current systems have failed to prevent employee harassment, and to propose new solutions to address these issues.
  • At the time of this writing, leadership hasn't responded yet to the demands.

    The industry responds — July 28, 2021

    Ubisoft Banner

    Ubisoft Banner

    Source: Ubisoft

    On the day of the walkout, around 500 current and former Ubisoft employees signed an open letter standing in solidarity with the walkout participants and calling for collaboration between Ubisoft, Activision Blizzard, and other companies.

    'We believe you, we stand with you and support you,' the letter said.

    Ubisoft had been embroiled in controversy of its own back in 2020. Multiple high-level executives were either fired or left the company following allegations of a toxic workplace environment and harassment. The open letter states that not enough has been done internally to deal with a lot of the issues.

    'We have stood by and watched as you fired only the most public offenders. You let the rest either resign or worse, promoted them, moved them from studio to studio, team to team, giving them second chance after second chance with no repercussions. This cycle needs to stop,' the letter continued.

    Meanwhile, Jeff Strain, a former senior Blizzard employee who worked on StarCraft and Diablo and co-founder of ArenaNet and Undead Labs, wrote a letter to his employees giving them his endorsement to unionize. The letter, which was published in full by IGN, notes the number of awful stories he's heard while being in the industry and that the lawsuit left him 'disgusted and repulsed — but not at all surprised.'

    'I welcome my employees to unionize, and I'm giving my full endorsement and support to an industry wide adoption of unions,' he wrote. 'I also encourage the leadership of game-industry companies, large and small, corporate and independent, to join me in endorsing and advocating for unionization as a concrete, actionable step toward improving our industry.'

    Warcraft team removes inappropriate references from the game — July 27, 2021

    On July 27, the World of Warcraft team released a statement, noting that they had taken note of player feedback and would be removing inappropriate references from both Shadowlands and WoW Classic. Wowhead reported that this includes references to former creative director Alex Afrasiabi. Most notably, Field Marshal Afrasiabi was replaced by Field Marshal Stonebridge, among other changes.

    Development reportedly halts on World of Warcraft

    Jeff Hamilton, a senior developer on World of Warcraft, wrote in a series of tweets following the lawsuit report that 'almost no work is being done on World of Warcraft right now while this obscenity plays out.

    'Activision's response to this is currently taking a group of world-class developers and making them so mad and traumatized they're rendered unable to keep making a great game,' he wrote.

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