An Activision-Blizzard worker was arrested for bathroom peeping in 2018

    
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We represent the short-term planning guild!

We’re on day 10 of the Activision-Blizzard scandal – 10 days since we first learned California had filed a massive sexual discrimination and sexual harassment lawsuit against Activision-Blizzard following a two-year investigation. The last week and a half has been a non-stop parade of leaked memos, press statements, apologies, and nonpologies from Activision-Blizzard leaders old and new, countered by a rightly furious assemblage of workers and victims who brought receipts, fresh accusations, an open letter of condemnation for the studio, and an actual organized walkout yesterday that prompted renewed calls for unionization across the industry.

And the accusations keep coming as victims come forward and journalists keep digging. One such journalist over at Vice’s Waypoint blog has uncovered a criminal case from 2018 that makes clear the disgusting “frat house” behavior wasn’t limited to Blizzard’s headquarters in California. According to the court documents, Tony Ray Nixon, an IT staffer at the Acti-Blizz QA studio in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, was arrested and pleaded guilty to charges that he rigged up cameras in the unisex bathroom at the building in order to spy on fellow workers as they used said bathroom.

The chronology is a bit of a clusterfudge. Waypoint says the court documents indicate that it was a worker from Blizzard who alerted police to the crime after Acti-Blizz sent employees an email about its internal investigation into the matter. However, Acti-Blizz claimed to Waypoint in a statement that it had notified the authorities, seemingly contradicting the police’s account in the original court documents. The day after the worker (whistleblower?) reported the incident to the police, the police sent detectives to the offices, whereupon management told police it had already removed the cameras and sent them to California “for analysis.”

(Just for the record, when you discover a gross misdemeanor has been committed in your building, you call the police and report a crime. You don’t dismantle the evidence and send it to your corporate office in another state. We digress.)

Anyhow, apparently this Blizzard staffer admitted he’d captured footage for three weeks and was given only a suspended sentence and required sex offender treatment, though apparently he later violated his parole. Blizzard says it fired him and upped security at the studio, but, uh… the calls are coming from inside the house.

Readers will recall that Activision’s original internal memo insisted that the lawsuit “presented a distorted and untrue picture of [the] company, including factually incorrect, old, and out of context stories – some from more than a decade ago.” But as we’ve been seeing, many of the allegations are quite recent and very much in context – and here’s one backed up by an actual prosecution.

In other Blizzard news, it looks like the promised tweaks to “inappropriate” content in World of Warcraft have begun: According to players on the US forums, Blizzard has removed players’ ability to use the /spit emote on each other.

Further reading:

Source: Vice/Waypoint. Cheers, Danny.
Update
MOP reader Josh pointed us to a second piece on Vice today chronicling one female security researcher’s experience with Blizzard at a security conference in 2015; when she arrived at Blizzard’s booth to inquire about open jobs, she was harassed about her t-shirt with disgusting and sexist remarks.

“When she got to the table, she said she asked about the penetration testing position. Penetration testing, or pentesting, is the industry term for a security audit. Mitchell said she was wearing a t-shirt made by cybersecurity company SecureState, which had ‘Penetration Expert’ on the front. One of the Blizzard employees first asked if she was lost, another one asked if she was at the conference with her boyfriend, and another one asked if she even knew what pentesting was. ‘One of them asked me when was the last time I was personally penetrated, if I liked being penetrated, and how often I got penetrated,’ Mitchell told Waypoint. ‘I was furious and felt humiliated so I took the free swag and left.'”

Two years later, the researcher was an executive at a new firm when Blizzard approached said firm looking for security work. The CEO of the company instead issued a “scathing” email that told Blizzard how its employees had behaved toward the researcher and other women at the conference, demanding a 50% misogyny tax donated to women-in-tech orgs, a formal letter of apology, and verification of sexual harassment training. Blizzard apparently declined and tried to pacify the victim with lawyers instead. “They made it clear that they were not interested in agreeing to any of our terms, just a lot of empty promises,” the researcher says. “Ultimately it felt like they were more interested in gauging their own legal exposure and placating me.” Oh yeah, and the conference itself? It blacklisted Blizzard as a sponsor after the incident.

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Adam Russell

I forgot about the spit command. Yea the toxic is endemic alright. The desire to treat other people like crap is the root and they encouraged it from the beginning.

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Shibby523

All this Blizzard-Activision stuff reminds me of the time the World Of Warcraft band ” Elite Tauren Chieftain” members tried inviting my wife up to their hotel room at Blizzcon. Can’t remember if Mike Morhaime was one of the guys trying though, but he was there at the time as they had just got done performing on stage.

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Bruno Brito

Wait, what.

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Shibby523

Long time ago. They were playing at Blizzcon, we got access to a few places regular guests can’t go due to working for Stratics at the time.

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Cluedo86

At this point, people who continue to give Blizzard money are making the choice to excuse harassment and worse.

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Ben Stone

They removed the spit emote because they think its somehow related to their sexual harassment culture? Nailed it. Hope they remove Garrisons too because Afrasiabi used to cybersex in them.

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wjowski

Worried this might be going on with you favorite game dev company? Don’t worry, it is. Hopefully this is just the start of a long-overdue reckoning.

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Ben Stone

It’s happening in literally every corporate company ever. But we should make examples of them all because the boys club can go to hell.

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Peregrine Falcon

I’ve worked at large corporations in 3 different states since I got out of the military in the early 90s. In not one of those companies was anything even remotely like this happening. None of this would be tolerated any place I’ve ever worked.

So no. This does NOT happen in every company. I’m not saying this isn’t a bad thing, because clearly it is, but exaggerating the problem doesn’t help. You can’t just blame all companies and/or all men because that’s just a lie.

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Arktouros

Generally I agree. I’ve never worked in a corporation or environment where anything remotely like this is even somewhat allowed to occur except maybe in food service industry which was basically high-school the after years. If there’s even the perception you’re behaving inappropriately you’re usually sent to HR faster than you could even realize you done fucked up.

That said I’ve always just assumed on some level a lot of our creature comforts are built on some level of suffering somewhere. Maybe some third world country slave labor. Maybe some totalitarian regime. Maybe some overworked employees. Maybe some harassed people. The more we become connected and informed about the things in our lives the more likely we are to find out this is the case.

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Bryan Correll

Seems to me that pissing off an expert in testing cyber security is a really bad idea, especially for a company whose business is almost entirely online.

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Slaasher

What I think is funny is that Blizzard is taking “spitting” out of a fantasy game to try to help build goodwill for the real-life stuff they are doing.
Bring the spit emote back and stop harassing your employees.
How bout that?

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Cluedo86

@ Yangers

Really? How does an incident of bathroom peeping not relate to this lawsuit? You’re going to compare that to fucking stealing a candy bar?

This is why our culture is in the state it’s in.

Yangers
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Yangers

Not to diminish the seriousness of the events that happened, but I reckon every single company had people that do bad shit. Are we going to dredge up every incident at Blizzard that has nothing to do with this current scandal?

“Jim in accounting stole a candy bar from lunch lady doris 9 years ago!” #SEXISM

We should be rounding up blizzard employees, executing them, and burning down Blizzard HQ, clearly. /s

*As everyone tweets and hashtags outrage on their Chinese sweatshop made iphones*

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Sarah Cushaway

It shows a pattern of absolute disregard for (and this is a little worse than your snarky example of “but he stole a candy bar from doris!” btw) female employees and their safety.

If you can’t understand that maybe you should try this “critical thinking” skill you should have learned in elementary school.

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Sleepy

“Not to diminish the seriousness of the events that happened…”

“But I’m going to now diminish the seriousness of the events that happened.”

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Josiah-Lightwood

I’m quite confident he didn’t. In fact, he’s highlighting excellent points. This case against blizzard is, albeit having to come from unfortunate events and overall culture, is imperative; but, after all of this is wrapped up, we might have to start considering all of the other injustices around the world.

Am I the only one who sees the ‘slight’ irony in some Streamers ditching blizzard, for genuinely justifiable reasons, of course, yet jumping on New World, despite the terrible way they treat their employees; even going so far as to hire the SAME company Blizzard did to quash unionisation.

What’s been happening at blizzard is terrible, and is especially shocking to me because I come from a workplace that constantly strives for excellence, dignity and equality, and tries it’s damn hardest to hire people with similar values (value based interviews).

I think the original commenter purposefully put the “Not to diminish…” line because it’s quite difficult to convey CRITICAL thinking in this situation, without seeming like you disagree with the whole premise.

We are living in a world where it is often difficult to live ethically and morally. To their final point, I’m sure there are plenty of people here, myself included, who ‘ignore’ some of the ramifications of the choices we make, despite the pain they cause other human beings. Blizzard’s culture is shocking, but in the same vein, so is the culture outside of Blizzard. This is NOT to say that we shouldn’t try to do something about ANY OF IT.

I can see and understand, and agree with, the points being made, but I guess now is not necessarily the time or place.

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Utakata

I am quite confident those points are crap though. So let’s start there…

Aldristavan
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Aldristavan

They remove targeting other players with the /spit emote but, you know, the player who actively encouraged his fans to /spit on people never faced any consequences for that, so..

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johnwillo

Victims are instructed to go to Stormwind HR for arbitration and to sign an NDA. The perpetrator’s Guild Master says that this is just a case of “dwarves being dwarves” and that it is just a joke. Anduin Wrynn has denied any knowledge of the emote, and received a 20 million gold bonus.

Proto_bear
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Proto_bear

All my friends saying we won’t buy anything from acti-blizz and ubisoft until real reform has happened.

Because shit like this can’t keep happening.

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