The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing's lawsuit against Activision Blizzard showed the world about a darker side of the famed video game company. But for many former employees (particularly women), the company's flaws were apparent years before they were revealed to the public--and Activision Blizzard's response to the lawsuit only served to drive more of them away.
These are just some of the revelations from a series of interviews PC Gamer's Tyler Wilde conducted with former Activision Blizzard employees, all of whom cooperated with the DFEH as the agency prepared its lawsuit. Some of their stories will be familiar to anyone who's dug into the DFEH's allegations, but what's additionally concerning is how the company's fumbling response for the rest of 2021 did additional harm to employees at the company.
One employee named "Violet" pointed to Activision Blizzard executive Fran Townsend's initial memo that stated the DFEH lawsuit "presented a distorted and untrue" picture of the company (it was later revealed that said memo was actually drafted by CEO Bobby Kotick).
Violet told PC Gamer that it felt like she and other women were being labeled as "liars" by management. She made plans immediately to quit the company. She had previously experienced sexual harassment at Blizzard Entertainment, and had filed a complaint against a supervisor for making rape jokes in a large meeting.
Said supervisor was not disciplined, and apparently attempted to find out who had filed a complaint against him. Like other employees, Violet said she did not trust Activision Blizzard's human resources department, since their staff members could often be found at many alcohol-fueled parties where alleged abusers committed their worst deeds.
Stories from other former Blizzard employees add fuel to the allegations that the company knew about and did little to prevent a booze-fueled culture of toxicity, verbal abuse, and sexual harassment.
But Violet's story stands out not just for what she experienced before the DFEH lawsuit, but after--and how it shows how Kotick and company's blundering, defensive response to this crisis seems to be causing more harm, and is costing the company valuable talent.