J Allen Brack addresses Blizzard staff over sexism scandal, Activision doubles down on deflection

Brack: 'I disdain bro culture'

    
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When we came into work this morning, we started wondering where the leaks from inside Blizzard have been. Usually, the company is a sieve for leaks about what’s going on internally. There’s always a memo, and surely, faced with a massive set of sexual harassment and discrimination allegations and a state-backed lawsuit to hold it accountable, the studio has addressed this internally to angry staff.

And yep, it has. Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier published a leaked memo from Blizzard’s J. Allen Brack reportedly issued last night. Obviously, Brack doesn’t actually admit fault and says he can’t comment on the specifics of the case – which by all accounts is exactly what Blizzard should’ve done two days ago and didn’t – but he does stress that the company rejects harassment and wants staff to feel safe coming forward. He specifically insists “claims can be made without fear of retaliation,” likely a nod to one of the more pointed allegations in the lawsuit that women are retaliated against when delivering their complaints up the corporate chain.

Brack then refers to feminist activist Gloria Steinem, calling her a “revered saint” to his family. “I disdain ‘bro culture,’ and have spent my career fighting against it,” he says. “Iterating on our culture with the same intensity that we bring to our games is imperative, with our values acting as our north star.”

We note here that J. Allen Brack is specifically mentioned in the state’s lawsuit; he is characterized as having taken “no effective remedial measures” when it came to the behavior of staffers like Alex Afrasiabi, who was accused by name of multiple harassment infractions. The suit alleges that Brack “had multiple conversations with Afrasiabi about his drinking and [the fact that Afrasiabi] had been ‘too friendly’ towards female employees at company events but gave Afrasiabi a slab on the wrist (i.e. verbal counseling) in response to these incidents.” Brack took the helm of Blizzard from Mike Morhaime almost three years ago.

Meanwhile, the story is on day three of trending across social media as major newspapers, including The New York Times, have picked it up. As we’ve noted, players across Reddit and in-game have been protesting the company’s behavior and response, with at least 28 staffers releasing public statements about the company’s internal problems. Former Blizzard worker Cher Scarlett has issued an open invitation to affected workers to be added as witnesses or victims in the California suit.

Further reading:

Source: Twitter. This article was expanded after publication to note that and how Brack was named personally in the lawsuit.
Update
Axios has published a separated leaked memo. Signed by controversial Activision Chief Compliance Officer Fran Townsend, who has been with Activision-Blizzard only four months while the company is still largely working from home, this memo repeats Wednesday’s corporate claims that the California lawsuit “presented a distorted and untrue” picture of the company and included “factually incorrect” stories, some “from more than a decade ago.” Using terminology very similar to the earlier statement, she calls the lawsuit “truly meritless and irresponsible” and insists that the company is “committed to continuing to maintain a safe, fair, and inclusive workplace.” We note again that Blizzard staff who have witnessed or experience Activision-Blizzard being anything but a safe, fair, and inclusive workplace should get in touch with the folks working on the lawsuit.

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MilitiaMasterV
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MilitiaMasterV

I wish I could say that any of this surprises me….but it doesn’t.

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Dystopiq

Imagine being a woman and seeing that email come from another woman. Imagine being a woman and having another woman tell you you’re claims are distorted and untrue. That’s gotta sting more than hearing it from a man.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

This is not a creator I usually follow, but I absolutely loved every thing he had to say:

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Bereman99

Discussing “how we can move forward” sounds an awful lot like “We don’t really want to address this head on, we want to put it in the past as quickly as possible and not really deal with it in any meaningful way, so that we don’t have to think about the consequences of our actions or inaction over the years because it makes us feel uncomfortable and makes us look bad.”

Just using less words.

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Jack Pipsam

Honestly Brack is just a dickhead.

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Khrome

I suddenly realized WHY Townsend was hired.

Whipping the staff into compliance and acting as a spindoctor.

I think he also wrote that first response.

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Jeremy Barnes

“She”

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Kherova

Which makes it even worse IMO

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Khrome

You’re right, i confused her with the other hire Activision made a while ago, who also came from the Trump campaign team…

Coincidence?

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ASDDASADSS ASDASDDASASDD

-Weeooo Weeeooo ~ RED ALERT ~
WE NEED TO WRITE SOMETHING GOOD FOR THE PUBLIC TO SAVE INVESTORS MONEY.
~QUICK, ALLEN… ALLEN !!!
MAN THE TYPEWRITER, AND “LEAK” THAT SHIT PRONTO!

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Bruno Brito

I don’t think that leak saves anything. So…yeah.

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Dennis VonBeck

After reading most if not all of the articles regarding this topic and then the posts here, it just makes me wanna take a really long really hot shower.

C’mon World we can do better than this!

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Ashfyn Ninegold

As an HR professional for 20+ years and working at one of the top 10 lawfirms in the U.S. for 25 years, here’s a few things to consider:

1. Even if the company has a culture of openness and equality, people behave in a shitty fashion to each other. It’s unavoidable. Even when they know there are dire consequences, they still do it.

2. Power is an aphrodisiac. Money is an aphrodisiac. Whether you (as an employee) know it or not, sex is happening all the time wherever one of these two exists where you work. If it isn’t actually happening, it’s being planned. It’s being thought about. It’s just a matter of time.

3. It requires constant, and I mean constant, oversight to keep a confabulation of people from descending into the wretched mess that is Blizzard and probably most companies.

4. Men in power will always protect each other. They will always be understanding and forgiving of each other. (See, e.g., the Catholic Church pedophile scandal.) (This is why it is essential that women share power with men, because until that happens, nothing will change.)

5. It takes a very strong, fiercely led HR department to fight back the tide of power, entitlement and money that is constantly pushing back. Because the power structure is always protecting itself. Many HR departments have long since capitulated and are simply tools of the power structure rather than independent arbiters.

However bad this looks from the outside, the reality is a 1000 times uglier. Trust me.

However much evidence DFEH has, there is a shit ton more that they don’t have quite enough evidence to allege.

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Utakata

Can we /feature this, Ms. Bree?

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Schmidt.Capela

The only part I disagree with is the idea that all men protect each other, or that women are somehow impervious to that. Both decent men and power-drunk women (including women that act as enablers for abuse towards other women) exist. You need to identify and break apart the cliques that protect each other from accountability, regardless of the gender of those in the cliques or the gender of whoever you promote in order to take power away from the cliques.

That being said, identifying and removing the barriers preventing women and minorities from achieving positions of power is a worthy objective in itself. Just don’t assume succeeding in it will automatically fix the self-protecting-cliques issue.

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Utakata

She didn’t say all men protect each other, but all men in power protect each other. Quite a bit of difference. While you can debate what Ms. Ashfyn said is true for all men in power, cis, identified as or otherwise, she did not make the claim that all men protect each other.

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Schmidt.Capela

It doesn’t really change anything. The issue isn’t that the people in power are men, but that they often form cliques who shield each other from accountability. Cliques they usually ferociously defend by, for example, co-opting people who are climbing the corporate ladder while sabotaging the career of anyone who refuses to join, regardless of gender.

Women and minorities can be co-opted into those cliques, and even used as a leveled up version of the “I’m friend with black people, so I can’t be racist” defense; a practical, if sad, example is Brazil’s current administration, where the president, who is misogynist and racist, found a woman who shares his misogynist views to handle (i.e., hinder) policies for the protection and empowerment of women and a black person who shares his racist views to similarly handle policies for the inclusion and advancement of black people.

Now, just to make it clear, the absence of women from positions of power is an issue, and certainly should be tackled. But it’s a separate issue, as solving it won’t necessarily solve the issue of upper management rigging the deck to avoid accountability.

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ihatevnecks

Brack hates bro culture? Funny, he sure seemed to revel in it alongside Alex Frasiabi when they straight up laughed at this girl’s Blizzcon 2010 question concerning sexualization of female characters.

In no uncertain terms: Fuck that guy.

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Bryan Correll

It was a very loaded question. I doubt Victoria’s Secret featured many Gnomes, Dwarves, Orcs, Tauren, etc. Or Trolls or Draenei cause the VS models are usually not so curvy.
There are lots of games where the female character outfit choices run from tramp to supertramp, but WoW isn’t really one of them.

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Bruno Brito

I think WoW is tamer than other MMOs ( specially asian MMOs ) but only because of graphical quality and maybe the age rating.

I think if they didn’t had that concern, they would absolutely go for the more sensual stuff.

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Greaterdivinity

She was talking about the leading ladies in WoW lore, most of which up to that point were all NE, human, non-decomposing forsaken and…that’s kinda it. I don’t recall many female leaders from the not-so-pretty races on either side. I’m sure there may be a few, but none at the level of Jaina or Sylvanas or Tyrande etc.

Sure, it may have been a bit of a loaded question, but it’s also a fair question from a fan of the games. And it’s a fair question that’s responded to, quite frankly, pretty terribly across the whole table.

“Could you see Sylvanas looking any other way?”

Apparently Blizzard sorta could, because they eventually gave her more practical armor instead of the usual sexy armor that female characters receive(d).

I say all of this as a big fan of fanservice too. I just like some variety/equal opportunity when it comes to both fanservice and more realistic portrayals of characters in games.

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Bruno Brito

I’ll just…leave this here.

Warcraft-3-Reign-of-Chaos-Campanha-Night-Elf.jpg
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Greaterdivinity

I prefer my night elves like my Lara Croft, oddly angular and pointy.

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Vincent Clark

It’s not so much about the question she asked as it is about the response she got. Jesus, that Alex is a fucking creep.