The video game industry is one of the most lawless and unregulated industries in modern society. Most industries have laws in place to protect workers from being exploited, sexually harassed, underpaid and mistreated. However, the gaming industry seems to bypass a lot of those things somehow. They won’t even let workers unionize. Because of this, years of workplace abuse, toxic work culture and unfair practices go on unchallenged. Just last year, the gaming industry had its own #MeToo era with countless stories of rape, sexual assault and misconduct finally came to the surface. Ubisoft had one of the biggest crackdowns of workplace abuse and coverup than any video game company in the industry. Unfortunately, they faced no real backlash or repercussions. No one really held them accountable for their actions. I do believe that most people do in fact care about the wellbeing of these victims, but we compartmentalize things so we can enjoy our favorite games guilt free. I’m guilty of that too, because I’m still waiting on another Prince of Persia game and would more than likely still buy it despite these reports that have come out. I am part of this larger problem.
I’m not even a little bit surprised that a company like Activision/Blizzard has been accused of workplace abuse. This is the same company that underpays their workers, has massive layoffs even after celebrating record-breaking success and grossly overpays their CEO. After a two year investigation, the state agencies files a massive lawsuit against the company. As reported by Bloomberg:
According to the complaint, filed Tuesday in the Los Angeles Superior Court, female employees make up around 20% of the Activision workforce, and are subjected to a “pervasive frat boy workplace culture,” including “cube crawls,” in which male employees “drink copious amounts of alcohol as they crawl their way through various cubicles in the office and often engage in inappropriate behavior toward female employees.”
The agency alleges male employees play video games during the workday while delegating responsibilities to female employees, engage in sexual banter, and joke openly about rape, among other things.
Female employees allege being held back from promotions because of the possibility they might become pregnant, being criticized for leaving to pick their children up from daycare, and being kicked out of lactation rooms so male colleagues could use the room for meetings, the complaint says.
Female employees working for the World of Warcraft team noted that male employees and supervisors would hit on them, make derogatory comments about rape, and otherwise engage in demeaning behavior, the agency alleges.
The suit also points to a female Activision employee who took her own life while on a company trip with her male supervisor. The employee had been subjected to intense sexual harassment prior to her death, including having nude photos passed around at a company holiday party, the complaint says.
I’m pretty sure this will blow over in a few weeks. The hype machine behind Activision/Blizzard will no doubt be singing their praises as soon as the next Call of Duty or World of Warcraft expansion is released. Activision/Blizzard has such a massive market share in the video game industry. There are industries outside of the company that are dependent on their success, including gaming outlets like IGN, eSports teams and streamers. IGN will cover this story, but turn around a few weeks later with a huge Call of Duty promotional week for the next game. It would take a collective “cancel” for Activision to change their ways and behavior. I don’t see a boycott happening anytime soon. Nor a company-wide strike either. The only way for a huge corporation to take any tangible accountability is if their revenue is severely compromised due to public backlash. One day, I hope we put more value on human lives than the next pretty-shiny FPS game or MMO.