In response to Activision-Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick’s letter to staff last night, organizers of today’s walkout have issued a response arguing that his letter “fails to address critical elements at the heart of employee concerns,” including their demands for forced arbitration, worker oversight of hiring and promotion, pay transparency, and third-party auditors not chosen by the executives.
“Today’s walkout will demonstrate that this is not a one-time event that our leaders can ignore,” they write. “We will not return to silence; we will not be placated by the same processes that led us to this point.”
Last week California filed a massive sexual discrimination and sexual harassment lawsuit against Activision-Blizzard following a two-year investigation. Since then, there’s been a steady stream of leaked memos, press statements, and apologies from both current and former Activision-Blizzard leaders, as well as an outraged chorus of workers raising their voices to call out abuses and lies. Earlier this week, employees began signing on to an open letter condemning the corporate response. As of last night, it had over 3200 signatures, and an employee walkout is slated for this afternoon. Players are being asked to avoid the games and use the #ActiBlizzWalkout hashtag on Twitter in solidarity with workers.
Kotick stayed silent for a week before his public letter late last night, during which he apologized and called the company’s initial responses “tone deaf.” He insisted that the company will investigate every claim, hire staff and resources to do so, add moderated safe spaces for speaking up, re-evaluate managers and terminate anyone “found to have impeded the integrity of [the company’s] processes for evaluating claims,” and create additional diverse hiring “compliance resources.” But the letter also refers workers with complaints to an external law firm that actually specializes in helping companies navigate government investigations rather than ensuring safety and diversity.
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Metzen’s tweeted support.
Organizers – or at least some of the organizers – have apparently requested that people not post video of the event to protect the employees attending, but there’s still plenty of video of the ongoing walkout on offer across social media. Journalist Kevin Hitt reports around 300 people so far.
Kotaku has this afternoon released an expose on the “Cosby suite”
– the nickname for a BlizzCon hotel suite notorious for the very frat-boy atmosphere alluded to in the lawsuit. A former dev at Blizzard apparently forwarded along old Facebook photos and chats that implicate other developers beyond Alex Afrasiabi; Dave Kosak, Jesse McCree, Cory Stockton, Greg Street are all named as participating in “BlizzCon Cosby Crew” chat discussions about the suite. Kotaku includes a photo of eight male Blizzard developers inside the room, piled on a bed and hoisting a framed photo of Bill Cosby, who even in 2013 had been long accused of sexual assault; Redditors have identified them
as Greg Street, Cory Stockton, David Kosak, Josh Mosqueira, Alex Afrasiabi, Paul Cazarez, Jonathan LeCraft, Jesse McCree. Stockton, LeCraft, and McCree are still reportedly at Blizzard. “An employee brought these 2013 events to our attention in June 2020,” Blizzard told Kotaku. “We immediately conducted our own investigation and took corrective action. At the time of the report, we had already conducted a separate investigation of Alex Afrasiabi and terminated him for his misconduct in his treatment of other employees.”
As we type this, Greg Street’s Twitter account still includes public references to the suite from 2013. Street is now at Riot Games heading up the LOL MMORPG.
The walkout continues.
Blizzard protest is in full swing! [Outside of Blizzard HQ] from wow
The walkout has even made it to the BBC.
Greg Street clarified his involvement in the Cosby suite mess. “The suite was a green room at BlizzCon that many of us at the time used to take a break and relax during the convention,” he says, acknowledging the drinking that went on but saying he never saw any of the harassment in the allegations. “Looking back, I am embarrassed at the nickname of that room, given all that we know now. At the time in 2013, it was nothing more to me than a silly reference to an old flea-market portrait. I wasn’t even aware of Cosby’s reputation until after I left Blizzard and the allegations became more well-known, and I certainly would not have tweeted about the suite if I thought it was something terrible at the time.”