Blizzard Entertainment isn’t the only video game studio experiencing backlash from its employees over sexism and abuse. The Division 2 maker Ubisoft has long been weathering its own parallel scandals stemming from years-long instances of misconduct and discrimination.
Over 500 current and previous employees of Ubisoft-owned studios signed a letter this week that both proclaimed solidarity with Blizzard’s staff, chastised Ubisoft for failing to take significant action to clean house, and called for industry-wide reform.
“It is clear, from the frequency of these reports, that there is a widespread and deeply ingrained culture of abusive behavior within the industry,” the letter states. “It is time to stop being shocked. We must demand real steps be taken to prevent them. Those responsible must be held accountable for their actions.”
The letter most significantly called for “a set of rules and processes for handling reports of these offences” that will be implemented as a standard across the video game industry.
In happier news, the Ashes of Creation team at Intrepid Studios sent the workers love and support – and food, by way of lunch yesterday.
“I was brought to tears today with such a simple gesture of kindness and support by Intrepid,” an anon Blizzard developer wrote on Reddit. “I don’t know much about this project or company, but I can safely say that the industry needs more leaders like Steven and John.”
“When my colleagues and I arrived in front of the main gate, we were surprised to find a food truck, directing us to their window for complimentary meals. When I asked the staff of the truck who was providing this amazing treat, they said an ally ‘Steven Sharif’ and the team at Intrepid Studios, then pointed to a sign saying as much by the side of the window. After seeing the sign I immediately googled the company and searched their socials for any mention of this treat, assuming this may have been some publicity stunt. But, I found no such tweet, or post anywhere mentioning this good deed. And I must say, having spent much time around marketing types, I was completely flabbergasted. So I wanted to give a little recognition. It takes a certain kind of person to do something like this for strangers, and a competitor none the less, and seek out no rewards for the deed. From many of us at Blizzard, we send our love and thank you, to you and your community for the support.”
The Guild Wars 2 team sent its love as well.
A bunch of us Seattle devs are out here today in support of the #ActiBlizzWalkout!
And a lot more are supporting from home. pic.twitter.com/7eLx7MjCza
— Connor Fallon (@ConnorEFallon) July 28, 2021
And now back to bad news. In his letter to Activision-Blizzard earlier this week, CEO Bobby Kotick told workers to contact his newly appointed outside law firm.
“I have asked the law firm WilmerHale to conduct a review of our policies and procedures to ensure that we have and maintain best practices to promote a respectful and inclusive workplace. This work will begin immediately. The WilmerHale team will be led by Stephanie Avakian, who is a member of the management team at WilmerHale and was most recently the Director of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission’s Division of Enforcement. We encourage anyone with an experience you believe violates our policies or in any way made you uncomfortable in the workplace to use any of our many existing channels for reporting or to reach out to Stephanie. She and her team at WilmerHale will be available to speak with you on a confidential basis and can be reached at ATVI@wilmerhale.com or 202-247-2725. Your outreach will be kept confidential. Of course, NO retaliation will be tolerated.”
However, as we noted, Avakian’s expertise is literally helping private companies navigate “the challenges of government investigations” rather than helping workers, so it didn’t seem like the best idea for victims to contact the company’s representation. Moreover, multiple lawyers in our own comments stressed that Kotick nowhere actually said the law firm was there to investigate any type of wrongdoing, just to review policies. And now, the internet’s had a few days to dig up even more, noting that the specific firm specifically advertises itself for “advising on union awareness and avoidance” – i.e., union busting. Readers will recall that Riot did exactly the same thing when faced with an uprising over its own bro culture.
Activision-Blizzard is working with a union-busting firm, "Wilmerhale" – the same one that Amazon is using. pic.twitter.com/lUTDThV77g
— big poster character (@JDespland) July 29, 2021