A number of current and former Activision Blizzard employees have been sharing their stories publicly since Wednesday’s walkout in response to a California Department of Fair Employment and Housing lawsuit alleging sexual harassment and discrimination at the company.
The stories have come in a number of different forms, some on Twitter that shed light on certain anecdotes made in the State of California’s lawsuit, others have begun sharing their stories with news outlets both on and off the record.
A few of the latter stories give crucial context for how far discriminatory behavior and harassment spread within the company. One such anecdote comes from security researcher Emily Mitchell who told Waypoint that Blizzard employees made sexually disparaging remarks toward her at the company’s booth at the Black Hat security event.
(Disclaimer: Black Hat and Gamasutra are both owned by Informa Tech.)
Mitchell said that she approached the company’s sponsored booth in 2015 to ask about jobs at the company. Blizzard staffers apparently ignored her request, instead asking “where her boyfriend was” and making lewd jokes in reference to a T-shirt she was wearing that referred to the infosec practice of pentesting (short for “penetration testing”).
Mitchell contacted Black Hat’s organizers in 2017 to inform them of the incident, at which point she was informed Blizzard would not be invited back to the event as a sponsor.
Waypoint unearthed a second documented incident of sexual harassment at Activision Blizzard in the last five years—the conviction of Tony Ray Nixon, a Minnesota Activision Blizzard employee who was investigated, fired, charged, and convicted for installing cameras in the bathroom to spy on other employees in 2018.
Nixon was charged again when a detective discovered videos on his phone where he appeared to be filming up another employee’s skirt. Nixon later pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor charge of “Interference with Privacy,” and was later required to register as a sex offender after violating his parole.
Lastly, IGN spoke with 7 current and former Activision Blizzard employees about their experiences with the company, and corroborated stories from the California DFEH’s lawsuit.
One source told IGN that the company’s breastfeeding rooms did not have locks, and that male employees would enter unannounced and stare at breastfeeding mothers. Others reported avoiding company social events that involved alcohol for fear of being groped or harassed as recently as 2015.
IGN’s reporting helps shine a light on how Blizzard employees have mobilized in the wake of management’s response to the lawsuit. An organizer of the walkout explained to IGN that Fran Townsend’s memo to the company rightly felt as if that statement downplayed the lawsuit by describing reported events as “untrue” or “out of context.”
Meanwhile, employees who expressed concern over retribution to Gamasutra this week during the Wednesday Walkout appear to have had their concerns validated by the realization that the law firm Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick announced would be responsible for the promised audit of the company's practices is none other than WilmerHale, the firm that, allegedly helped Amazon fight unionization efforts at the company.
All of these incidents seem to validate employees’ anger at Activision Blizzard’s pushback against the State of California’s lawsuit. Even with Kotick’s concessions earlier this week, the company appears eager to not face the full repercussions for its actions, direct and indirect, that allowed so many employees to be mistreated and ignored by those responsible for their safety.