Mike Morhaime to female Blizzard workers: ‘I am extremely sorry that I failed you’

Metzen's weighed in now too

    
85
El barfo.

In response to the situation surrounding the explosive California state lawsuit alleging systemic sexual harassment and discrimination at Activision-Blizzard, former president Mike Morhaime posted a letter to the industry and specifically to his former Blizzard colleagues overnight. In sharp contrast to the combative, deflective memo issued in private at Activision and the Gloria-Steinem-namedrop memo leaked from J. Allen Brack, this letter is an actual apology that expresses shame and regret for what Morhaime characterizes quite specifically as his own failure as the former leader of the company.

“I have read the full complaint against Activision Blizzard and many of the other stories. It is all very disturbing and difficult to read. I am ashamed. It feels like everything I thought I stood for has been washed away. What’s worse but even more important, real people have been harmed, and some women had terrible experiences.

“I was at Blizzard for 28 years. During that time, I tried very hard to create an environment that was safe and welcoming for people of all genders and backgrounds. I knew that it was not perfect, but clearly we were far from that goal. The fact that so many women were mistreated and were not supported means we let them down. In addition, we did not succeed in making it feel safe for people to tell their truth. It is no consolation that other companies have faced similar challenges. I wanted us to be different, better.

“Harassment and discrimination exist. They are prevalent in our industry. It is the responsibility of leadership to keep all employees feeling safe, supported, and treated equitably, regardless of gender and background. It is the responsibility of leadership to stamp out toxicity and harassment in any form, across all levels of the company. To the Blizzard women who experienced any of these things, I am extremely sorry that I failed you.

“I realize that these are just words, but I wanted to acknowledge the women who had awful experiences. I hear you, I believe you, and I am so sorry to have let you down. I want to hear your stories, if you are willing to share them. As a leader in our industry, I can and will use my influence to help drive positive change and to combat misogyny, discrimination, and harassment wherever I can. I believe we can do better, and I believe the gaming industry can be a place where women and minorities are welcomed, included, supported, recognized, rewarded, and ultimately unimpeded from the opportunity to make the types of contributions that all of us join this industry to make. I want the mark I leave on this industry to be something that we can all be proud of.”

Morhaime announced his departure from Blizzard in 2018 but technically stayed on in an advisory role into 2019; a year ago, he founded Dreamhaven, which has been attracting plenty of Blizzard talent. He is not explicitly named in the lawsuit, but since even the Activision memo acknowledges incidents older than a decade, he was certainly in charge for the vast majority of the time period at issue here and presided over the formation of the toxic culture and staff who generated the abuse. We’ll certainly be watching to see how exactly he uses his influence, as he says, to drive that positive change when it comes to the culture and hiring at Dreamhaven. The women of Blizzard and our industry deserve more than words.

As for current Acti-Blizz staffers, PC Gamer has compiled messages from some current Blizzard employees who are standing in support of their colleagues and against the companies and corporate memos – and some of whom are boycotting work in solidarity with victims. Perhaps most notable to MMORPG players is Steve Danuser, the former SOE dev who moved to Blizzard to head up World of Warcraft’s narrative team a few years ago.

“Now we gotta roll up our sleeves and fix this shit,” he says. “As a company. As an industry. I’m not talking about platitudes and corporate bullshit statements. I’m talking about friends and colleagues working together to pull evil out by its roots. […] Don’t speak up for companies. Speak up for people. And our team has amazing, wonderful people who need support right now. That’s what I’m going to focus on today.”

Further reading:

Source: Twitter
Update
Blizzard’s Josh “Devolore” Allen has refuted Morhaime’s suggestion that Morhaime didn’t know what was going on.

“‘If I’d known this was happening I would have stopped it’ says the man who was told repeatedly that it was happening and did nothing to stop it. I’ve refrained from giving my own comments on the situation at Actiblizz because frankly, there are more important people you should be listening to right now. But that statement from a certain former leader was 100% bullshit and I’m furious about it. He knew. He did nothing. Don’t get me wrong, current leadership is fucking up hard right now too. But please don’t believe for a second that the culture that allowed all of this to happen for the last couple decades was somehow built by the guy who’s been in charge for 3 years.”

To drive it home, one former staffer released a letter she’d written to Morhaime about the very serious culture problems within the company while he was still there. “Women will continue to be a smaller portion of Blizzard’s audience will men, it means fewer women will work at Blizzard, and it means, over time, Blizzard will be added to the list of Companies That Are Bad For Women,” she wrote in 2018, urging Morhaime to act. “I truly believe men who behave like [a specific unnamed predator] will cost the company money and its good reputation.”

Update
Cher Scarlett, who is the former Blizzard staffer with the open offer to connect victims with the DFEH attorneys for the suit, also counters Morhaime’s narrative that he knew nothing. She specifically calls out Alex Afrasiabi for assaulting multiple women, including herself; says former Blizzard VP Robert Robert Bridenbecker “traumatized” workers; and suggests co-founder and current CPO Frank Pearce created a “toxic” environment for staff. Afrasiabi is explicitly named in the lawsuit.

“Taking responsibility and apologizing for your role in this is paramount, Mike, and I really appreciate it. When things got really bad in bnet – many of us felt abandoned by you, and what’s worse, when I was threatened with physical harm and panic cc’d you about it, I was later reprimanded for doing that, completely ignoring how terrified I was that my trying to save someone’s life had somehow put my job in jeopardy, and that I was going to be assaulted at a work event because of it. It felt like I was never given any grace, despite so many men in leadership being repeatedly excused for their behavior, and often being made to feel that the sexual harassment was totally normal and ‘not that bad’, and even a compliment because of how normalized it was in bnet and wow. When I think back specifically to how many women Afrasiabi harassed and assaulted, myself included, and how many people were traumatized by Bridenbecker, the toxic environment that Pearce’s EA’s had for so many years… it’s hard for me to think that you couldn’t have enabled it.”

In a second thread, she clarifies more about her run-in with Morhaime.

“Mike was directly responsible for the chain reaction of events that got me nearly fired for cc’ing him about Tia Zimmerman threatening me with violence for contacting emergency dispatch when she threatened suicide. While he didn’t tell anyone to do it, he was the leader of the company and made comments about how was causing problems for the company and that ‘things need to be taken care of immediately’ which was interpreted as ‘fire Cher.’ My immediate supervisor put his job on the line – for me, and as a result, the compromise was to label me as a low performer and cut my bonus and my pay. Don’t tell me you wanted us to come to you. I came to you. And you destroyed my self worth.”

Former Blizzard Senior Systems Engineer Terra Field also replied to Morhaime, pointing out that the investigation into former Blizzard CTO Ben Kilgore began in at least 2016, long before Morhaime left, and was well known to internal company organizations, meaning it defies belief that Morhaime was unaware and in fact promoted him after the allegations were made. Kilgore is not mentioned by name in the suit; for some reason, the allegations against him are attributed to his title rather than his name: “Defendants’ former Chief Technology Officer was observed by employees groping inebriated female employees at company events and was known for making hiring decisions based on female applicants’ looks.”

Many thanks to the readers who keep sending us these so we can keep compiling.

Update
Apparently male developers were also subjected to sexual harassment – by male leads at Blizzard. Former Hearthstone developer Brad Crusco has spoken up about the harassment he endured:

“During my time at Blizzard, I experienced sexual harassment from multiple male leads. Explicit descriptions of sex acts they wanted to perform on me, propositioning my wife and I for sex, back rubs. It goes on. This often occurred in front of my other coworkers, who said nothing. Going to HR wasn’t an option. You only went to HR if you wanted your story immediately shared throughout the entire studio. On the handful of occasions when I tried to talk to someone about this, I was never taken seriously. ‘Boys will be boys’ they’d say. ‘I’m sure they’re just joking.’ Sexual harassment isn’t funny. I just wanted to make great games. So, I sucked it up, let it continue, and just tried to ignore it the best I could. “This wasn’t worth risking my career over”, I’d tell myself. This remains one of my biggest regrets. I knew the more I put up with it, the more I enabled them to act this way towards others. I’m sure more people were hurt because of my inaction. I’m struggling with whether now is the right time to share this story. The last thing I want to do is divert attention away from the women in this industry whose voices are rightly being amplified right now. But the culture at Blizzard was toxic and it impacted many, many people. We need to do better.”

Readers will recall that male harassment by male leads was a problem in the Riot Games scandal (and treated as inadequately). Crusco is one of the several developers who left Blizzard for Second Dinner, the Ben Brode-led studio.

Update
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Cluedo86

Morhaime’s words are hollow, in my view. He was the founder and CEO of Blizzard for 3 decades, and he’s been gone for only 3 years. Toxic cultures and systemic harassment/discrimination don’t pop up over night. He may not be in charge now, but he was complicit and is responsible for enabling the problem to fester this long.

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somber_bliss

Can we just start refering to Dreamhaven as Creephaven? A lot of the old guard ended up in there and Mike already has a history of protecting them.

Celestia
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Celestia

Chris Metzen has posted on the situation. https://twitter.com/ChrisMetzen/status/1419076394546470913?s=20

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Nathan Aldana

in b4 someone points to evidence he was also compl,icit.

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Danny Smith

already happening on twitter.

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taugrim

His wife worked at the company and experienced / observed harassment.

If she knew, he for sure knew.

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Dennis VonBeck

The hypocrisy and “crocodile tears” after getting caught is so aggravating it actually makes me mad. In today’s day and age too many people do or say despicable things, then say their sorry especially on social media and it seems all will be forgiven.

These so called “grown men” are equivalent to children… …”Oops I got caught, I’m sorry, please don’t punish me.”

They had to know this crap was happening yet did nothing or little about it. I truly hope (which I doubt) they and the company suffer in either losing jobs or market shares. I’d like to say they suffer as the victims did, but that would be too lurid.

Thoroughly disappointed in this whole grubby affair.

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traja

To me it seems that people are not forgiven when they apologize. I mean just read these comments here, they are overwhelmingly negative towards Morhaime and for good reason too. He was the leader so he is responsible no matter what he says he knew or didn’t know. It reads like something that was approved by a lawyer and people are noticing.

I think that reality is the opposite of what you say and it’s not a good thing either. That apologies, even sincere ones, matter very little. What seems to work is doubling down, denying or not saying anything.

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Bruno Brito

I think that reality is the opposite of what you say and it’s not a good thing either. That apologies, even sincere ones, matter very little. What seems to work is doubling down, denying or not saying anything.

Apologies are meant as a way of fixing things. Some things can’t be fixed or apologized to. “Sorry” doesn’t cut it in this situation.

Also, apologies have to be directed and truthful. Morhaine saying “sorry” and then saying “i didn’t knew” when he clearly did, is not truthful, nor does it address the staffers who DID look for him for protection.

I’m not supposed to forgive people who go “uh, i suppose i’m sorry you feel that way.” That’s not how it works. Apologies are a precursor of change. If you can’t show you’re repentant, then don’t waste your time.

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traja

That is very reasonable but reasonable voices don’t tend to be the dominant ones. To apologize sincerely you have to admit to actual wrongdoing and courts of the legal sort or ones of public opinion don’t reward that. That’s why none of these former old timers are coming out saying that they knew it all along and apologizing for willfully ignoring it. The incentive to be sincere isn’t there.

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Bruno Brito

I’m aware. The thing is, if you don’t play by the court of public opinion, you get decimated publicly, and i don’t see the issue. The humane thing is to assume your mistakes and pay for them, and none of them want that. Hence why they’re lawyering up and putting these “i didn’t see nothing” statements.

If you don’t want to walk the walk, you get booed. That’s how it goes. Forgiveness requires atonement and atonement is supposed to be painful and punishing.

Them wanting to be rewarded and excused just with a few words while someone died and hundreds others got predated upon is utterly adorable. Not going to happen.

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Schlag Sweetleaf

Dear Mr. Morhaime

28 years at Blizzard

how could you not see

comment image

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Munchmeat2

Not sure if the youngins here will get this Schlag! Well done though!

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Schlag Sweetleaf
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Utakata

Not sure you need to get the reference. The nuance of it is pretty clear.

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Schlag Sweetleaf

Was hoping for the haiku bonus with the homophone kicker on this one;p

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Utakata

Yeah…homophones always trip me up when I’m trying to make a point. And the inability of the spell checking mechanics to pick them out. Sew I sorta sea what you mean… >.<

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Schlag Sweetleaf

Nice:)

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Sleepy

Blame it on your pea sea.

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Sims Smith

He was fully aware of these nefarious activities taking place in his back yard. In fact people are now coming out with correspondence that was sent to him directly to take action.

I know Sarbanes–Oxley makes it a crime to shred financial and business “paper” trail. Does SOX cover “HR” files where I am sure there were 100s of complains and exit interviews fully documenting the crime. Otherwise, I image Blizzard HR will be busy shredding papers.

CA should not only prosecute current but any and all former employees that were involved or purposely kept silent starting with Morhaime. I admire what he did for Blizzard but there is no forgiveness for this.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

There are retention requirements for all kinds of crap you wouldn’t believe. But IIRC the outside limit is 10 years. Personnel files can be shredded and usually are once the statutory limit is past, which I’m not going to guess at since I’ve been retired a number of years.

It used to be companies kept this stuff just forever, but all the litigation and discovery of ancient records showed companies the error of their ways. Not to mention the storage expense.

I would guess that most modern companies have retention policies in accordance with statutory requirements so that employee files are shredded as soon as they can be legally, XX years after termination.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t discoverable tidbits lurking in non-HR files or emails. There’s always something. No companies cleaning is that good.

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Arktouros

Why would you voluntarily jump into a situation like this? Just hold that head down and hope enough people don’t remember you used to run the joint. Dreamhaven needs to hire some PR/HR person asap. His response to this whole thing shoulda been Surprised Kirk meme and hope your old company doesn’t try to put all this on you later.

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Bruno Brito

I spent the entire day coming to this thread, because i felt the visceral need of speaking against Blizzard one more time. This shit ruined my weekend.

And maybe, that’s how it’s supposed to be. Maybe i should feel bad, maybe it should ruin my day. Maybe the mere concept of workers being unsafe in the structures that should value them the most should give us all pause on what we built and what we let continue.

I want to say something, for all the “don’t put politics in my game” crowd: This is how your games are made. This is how the tools you use are created. This is how your life is paved:

In the blood and sweat of others.

The next time you argue for art to be apolitical, i want you to remember that the shit you play was probably made by someone who couldn’t escape in their own little world. For them, Blizzard was that dream world, and it became a nightmare.

And i want people to also realize that we’re only doing this shit right now because of how culture changed. For all you fucks who talk about cancel-culture and the #MeToo movement, it was thanks to the changes to how we perceive minorities and these same minorities finally finding the strenght to hit back, that we can see how things really are.

Remember: This news came one week later after most research threads on MOP were rampant with people denying the impact of toxicity.

You don’t get to close your eyes and pretend it doesn’t exist. You’ll all feel bad together with me. Suffer through it. Grow with it. Help the people that need the help. It’s a dogshit feeling and yet, i know it’s necessary. It helps us all remember the side we’re on. Evil should feel icky and bad and disgusting.

It’s because Blizzard lacked powerful voices from diverse groups that one group couldn’t understand how it was impacting the other. It’s clear even the people who cared about it, downplayed it. Harassment hits differently for different people, and all the ways it affects us are valid, but you need to have people who understand all those aspects ( i know, because i was a victim of sexual harassment and it affected me differently than it affected my sister ).

Enough devil’s advocates. Enough “voices of reason”. Enough controllers of outrage. People suffered. Hurt. Died. Maybe we should be screaming to the void and making the void answer back. Maybe we should be doing better to listen to the work force.

Maybe we should stop this crap of trying to detach ourselves from reality while others suffer through it to bring us the shit that allows us the privilege in the first place.

As for Morhaine…One of my favourite songs puts it perfectly:

‘I am extremely sorry that I failed you’

“…You never felt the answers, were aimed at you my friend.
Did you find yourself lost? In this world we swore to protect.

If you could see it.
If you could see it through my eyes.
Why are we so different?

Want you to feel it.
Want you to know what it was like.

Then maybe you’d understand.”

In Flames – Through My Eyes.

——————

I would kill this entire fucking legacy of some good games if it meant one person wouldn’t be hurt anymore. There’s no ammount of nuance from armchair experts that will change the fact we live in times where this shit thrives. And i can see, i can feel, i can smell the rot that we allowed to keep festering in our lives and societies just to pretend our individual indulging are more important than the suffering of others. We can pretend this is a Blizzard issue until it happens again and again and again and again.

I’m done.

Morhaine, do a lot of soul-searching if you really want to help the victims of this. And while you’re on that trip, do me a personal favor:

Take one more step and go fuck yourself.

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Bruno Brito

And just one more thing: I said this to boss-Bree and i think it’s worth mentioning:

There is a HUGE chance that the entire Blizzard history is forged in this shit. And considering that Activision meddling made them sloppy to keep their leaks in check, we know that now.

But back at their golden age? Without #MeToos and BLMs? It was probably WORSE. Blizzard was the shining city on top of dreams. You don’t get to keep that reputation for almost 15 years by simply letting employees under duress run their mouth.

It must have been a fucking shitshow. Imagine the oppressive culture that kept everyone silent while all of us outside dreamed working for these psychopaths.

GODFUCKINGDAMNIT I HATE THIS FUCKING COMPANY TO DEATH.

BURN IN HELL.

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Munchmeat2

There’s no ammount of nuance from armchair experts that will change the fact we live in times where this shit thrives. And i can see, i can feel, i can smell the rot that we allowed to keep festering in our lives and societies just to pretend our individual indulging are more important than the suffering of others

Have some hope Bruno, I know the world can seem rather bleak at times, but our species has made a ton of progress in the last 50 years. The fact that our justice system has stepped up and taken on this behemoth for these victims shows that people are tired of this shit and that our modern society isn’t going to tolerate this behavior in the work place anymore. I realize that there is still a ton of work to be done, but don’t forget all the progress that has been made as well.

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Bruno Brito

I get that, and i am hopeful. Just not the weekend because a lot of the fixing we must do is pretty hard to apply practically.

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Utakata

“‘Boys will be boys’ they’d say.”

…but these are grown adult men. WTF, Blizz!?

Leo
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Leo

I am glad he did this stupid move of trying to pretend he had no knowledge of it. Because now more and more are speaking publicly, letting all the dirty laundry out. Let none of these terrible people get off with hiding behind the typical ‘I didn’t know’ or ‘I wasn’t aware the of extent’ bullshit.

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Jeremy Barnes

Ahh, the running of the bulls..err…developers to put out statements about how they’re ever so sorry and had no idea, but now that they know they will “be better”! has begun. Complete with BS statement of ‘accountability’ and no details on how they’re going to actually change or rectify the problem.

I love this time of the year.

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Nathan Aldana

“guys i totally had no idea, pls buy shit from my new company so it can also become a toxic hellscape in years to come” -Mike Morhaime