Activision-Blizzard walkout organizers respond to Kotick, Kotaku exposes ‘Cosby suite’ attendees

    
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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.

Further reading:

Source: Axios
Update
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.

Update
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.

Update
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.”

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draugris

In all honesty, No. The Blizzard case is something that needs to be solved in the court and internally. For me as a gamer i care about the quality of a game and whether i have fun with it. Both is subpar with WoW in it’s current state and thats why i don’t play it.

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lispychicken

Watching fake-woke blizzard crash is amusing. What do you think happens in the future? 100% perfect hiring and a great workplace for everyone without any and I mean, any issues, or particular hiring of people who arent likely to complain at the drop of a hat? (not disregarding the actual issues these days). The former means they create garbage, the latter means they are a “good ole people club” in totality.
Edit: not like they have created much of interest lately..sadly.

There’s no defending the Cosby suite.. EWW WTF

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Bruno Brito

So…

yeah.

Jokerchyld
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Jokerchyld

Its becoming harder and harder for me to understand those who are still playing Blizzard games. At this point its beyond “separate the art from the workers” and more about the principle of just being flat out wrong. They can’t learn if you keep paying.

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Armsman

Jesus H. Christ, the fact Blizzard devs openly call a con hotel suite “The Cosby Suite”; and refer to the devs participating in the activities there “The Cosby Crew”…

That just goes to show the level of mental depravity of these guys. Yes Bill Cosby was recently released, But from the court cases that originally delivered guilty verdicts, it’s pretty clear Bill Cosby was himself guilty of drugging and raping many young actresses in his home and at hotel suites.

That supposedly grown men would name a con party suite after Bill Cosby, and participants part of his crew given The original outcome of the Bill Cosby sexual assault criminal cases at the time…

That’s just unimaginably disgusting, and just goes to show the mindset of the devs involved, whether they be rank and file employees, a part of Blizzard management, or Blizzard executives.

In light of the above it’s really amazing that Blizzard’s first response to the California lawsuit was to say it was without merit after a two-year investigation into things just like the above that obviously have been occurring at Blizzard since the company itself was formed and doing business for the last 20+ years.

I don’t see how they can say either no one in a management or executive position can claim they had no idea things like this were going on with a straight face.

The Blizzard corporation should have just settled with the State of California; and at this point to continue to try and claim the investigation results are either heavy-handed or unwarranted… Yeah their bullshit stinks to high heaven; and of course they won’t but they should just walk into court, plead guilty, and save the California court system a shitload of trial time.

No one who participated in things like this should retain their position at Blizzard in any capacity whatsoever. Disgusting isn’t a strong enough word to describe that kind of behavior.

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Ken from Chicago

It’s the oldest response to corporate (or government) scandal by those in charge:

I’m evil

Or

I’m ignorant.

The same execs who plaster ads all over about how I’m touch they are with the market, with customers, with what gamers want will somehow turn deaf, blind and stupid to whatever legally liable problem that’s going on two inches in front of them.

And then it becomes a matter of proving someone knew something. That’s where you get people posting emails of complaints sent directly to the exec in question. Depending on said exec’s level of shame, said exec might claim they don’t recollect ever seeing such email, posting and / or letter.

At that point it’s a matter of whether a judge or jury believes such a denial.

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taugrim

I don’t believe for a moment that none of the participants were genuinely ignorant as to why it was called that.

I wonder whether DFEH was able to get a hold of some of the text and email chains on the ‘Cosby Suite’, because it would be hard to claim ignorance if there are references to Cosby that imply knowledge.

These people are utterly despicable.

I could not imagine working at a company that was that unprofessional.

My prior company had very strong support for diversity and for women in leadership. Most of my peers and all of my bosses over an 8.5 years were all women, and I was delighted to work with such high IQ, high EQ leaders.

My current employer is very much the same for D&I.

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Josh
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traja

Wowhead made the same error that I did by jumping to conclusions based on looking solely at the ActiBlizz stock. Turns out that it was a much wider phenomenon yesterday and for example EAs stock looks remarkably similar.

So far I haven’t seen any indication that the stock market has reacted to the lawsuit in any meaningful way. It is unfortunate because money is the only thing that the company leadership cares about.

Jokerchyld
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Jokerchyld

Markets don’t react instantly in terms of trends. The sharp up and downs you see are typically day traders. Watch the stock over the next 3 to 6 months and that will give you a better indication of impact on their revenue.

Keldyn
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Keldyn

Except when it doesn’t. Go to hell Blizz.

sGGlHLz-YumhBdP7o84PWJET8EQ_6Eu9NfSvDwCHbxw.jpg
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kelvar

Guess Ghostcrawler found the perfect place / fits right in over there at Riot Games. F*#$ing gross.

Celestia
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Celestia

I took a peek at r/WoW and saw this posted by Scott Johnson of The Instance podcast.

Titled it, ‘No Way Home’ from wow

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Kickstarter Donor
Ken from Chicago

Picture says a thousand words. 😭😭😭😠😠😠

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Kinya