Shockwaves rippled through the gaming industry, and it wasn’t because of a new game. As last week, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed a lawsuit alleging gender discrimination against Activision Blizzard. That’s the company behind World of Warcraft, Overwatch, and Call of Duty. Games which are some of the world’s most popular.
The Lawsuit alleges everything from gender discrimination to discrimination against pregnant female employees, among other allegations. As well as more serious allegations like physical sexual harassment. According to it, Activision Blizzard has a “frat house” culture. As a result of this, female employees do not receive the same pay as their male counterparts. At the company, offensive and punitive acts against female employees are widespread, including termination, belittling, and harassment. Further, in the past, the company has ignored harassment, discrimination and retaliation complaints from female employees.
Many employees of the company are now speaking out about the issue. While as per IGN, some WoW (World of Warcraft) players are participating in “virtual sit-ins” as a means of protest.
A Toxic Industry
For years, accusations of misogyny and inequality have dogged the video game community and industry.
Women’s actions are restricted in both the games and the industry. Female gamers, for example, usually avoid using voice chat functions because they fear being harassed; it’s a dreadful atmosphere. The game developers have failed to address such issues. Even at Blizzard, female employees felt as if they couldn’t grow or obtain promotions without cozying up to their male bosses.
Furthermore, women’s portrayal in video games has a long history of being demeaning. Developers have just recently begun fighting for progressive representation in video games across a wide range of settings. This is especially important now that the player base has expanded beyond the initial demographics of young males.
It is, therefore, reasonable to claim that toxicity is rampant in video game culture, whether it’s in a game’s online voice chat or within the company itself. As prolonged silences over such matters have enabled the poison to develop both within and beyond the gaming industry.
Blizzard Employees Walkout: Hope For Change?
According to Bloomberg, Activision called the accusations “false and distorted” in a statement issued last week, and Fran Townsend, Executive Vice President of Corporate Relations, addressed a letter to staff repeating the same. The company’s “abhorrent and insulting” attitude, as well as the poor handling of the matter, astounded employees.
As a result, an open letter condemning corporate leadership and requesting “compassion for victims” has gathered more than 3,000 signatures, prompting a work stoppage request. Workers at Activision Blizzard are now taking further measures. Overall, the requests call for better working conditions for all employees, particularly women, transgender women, women of color, other marginalized groups and non-binary people.
The gaming industry is in dire need of change, and it looks that these workers are committed to making it happen.