Activision Blizzard Employees Storm Out In Protest

Recently many employees of the gaming company Activision Blizzard organized a rally outside the company's headquarter in Irvine, California to protest against how it handles discrimination and sexual harassment charges. The employees have four demands, which also includes removing mandatory arbitration clauses from their contracts. These demands aim to improve the working conditions at the company, especially for "women of colour and transgender women, nonbinary people, and other marginalized groups." A statement by the employees mentioned "[W]e believe that our values as employees are not being accurately reflected in the words and actions of our leadership."

Things started to get heat up after Activision Blizzard got sued by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) alleging the existence of a "frat boy" culture in the company, which resulted in constant harassment of female employees. A walkout representative told The Verge "Until these demands are met, we won’t stop fighting." The suit also mentioned that an employee of the gaming giant gave his room during BlizzCon 2013 the nickname "Cosby Suite." An investigation done by the publication Kotaku found the above to be true, with several people being aware of the name. "We’re really glad to see these stories are being told and appreciate the journalists who are telling these stories," said a walkout representative to The Verge adding "we stand by the victims and are appalled by what we read. This only makes us more committed to our task." In addition to the walkout, an open letter to the company was signed by more than two thousand of its employees. Many employees also showed their support using the hashtag ActiBlizzWalkout on Twitter.

An employee of the company mentioned that the demands are “a starting point for us to work with leadership,” adding “there’s no sound bite or single page of words that can describe the amount of work that needs to be done in order to create the culture we want to see.” At first, the company denied all the allegations, however, soon after the walkout, the company’s chief executive officer Bobby Kotick issued an apology in which he apologized for Activision Blizzard’s response and promised to take action. The company has chosen to work with WilmerHale, a law firm. Many walkout representatives told WIRED that their course of action is inspired a lot by what happed at Riot Games. In fact, many Riot employees have been in constant contact with the employees of Activision Blizzard. “It’s great to see other companies’ workers realizing that organized action (whether formally unionized or not) is one of the best ways to exert pressure on company leaders,” said a Riot employee adding “it’s heartening and humbling to see Blizzard referencing Riot’s own actions here, and a good reminder that we’re ultimately all workers in the same industry, dealing with many of the same problems.”

Walkouts in general are not something that’s very common in the gaming industry, since most are inspired by their passion to be part of an industry where jobs are underpaid and many times very demanding.