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.
“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.