Over 20 current Activision Blizzard employees, including World of Warcraft lead game designer Jeremy Feasel, have publicly criticized the company's response to the sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit filed against it earlier this week. Some WoW developers also stopped work today “in solidarity with the women that came forward,” Feasel said.
The suit, filed by a California government agency, alleges that women at the company have faced “constant sexual harassment” and discrimination, especially women of color. The response from Activision Blizzard executives has been inconsistent. In its first statement to press, the company called the suit “distorted, and in many cases false” and characterized the agency behind it as a group of “unaccountable bureaucrats.” In an internal email, chief compliance officer Fran Townsend also said that the suit “presented a distorted and untrue picture” of Activision Blizzard, and criticized it for “including factually incorrect, old, and out of context stories.”
Internal emails from Blizzard president J Allen Brack and Activision president Rob Kostich struck a different tone, calling the behavior alleged in the lawsuit “unacceptable” and “disturbing,” although neither affirmed that such behavior has occurred at the company.
On social media, dozens of former employees expressed support for the stories told in the lawsuit and, in some cases, corroborated details. Now over 20 current Activision Blizzard employees have expressed public disapproval of Activision Blizzard's response to the suit, with dozens more showing support by retweeting their coworker's statements.
Many of us will not be working today in solidarity with the women that came forward. The statements made by ABK do not represent us. We believe women, and we will continue to strive to do better and hold others accountable. Actions speak louder than words.July 23, 2021
“Many of us will not be working today in solidarity with the women that came forward,” wrote lead game designer Jeremy Feasel. “The statements made by [Activision Blizzard] do not represent us. We believe women, and we will continue to strive to do better and hold others accountable. Actions speak louder than words.”
The World of Warcraft team has been “going through a mix of outrage and sorrow and hurt,” said narrative designer Steve Danuser, who went on to say that he's interested in fixing the company and industry, not “corporate bullshit statements.”
Like many of you, our team’s been going through a mix of outrage and sorrow and hurt. Been listening to one another, looking after our friends, and finding ways to support and care for each other.Now we gotta roll up our sleeves and fix this shit. As a company. As an industry.July 23, 2021
Many more employees expressed similar feelings:
“I'm unhappy with the corporate response up to this point,” said game designer Brian Holinka. “I don't feel it represents me or what I believe in. Many of us have said this internally. It feels worth saying publicly.”
“These past few days have made me furious at the COMPANY I work for, but so proud of the PEOPLE I work with,” tweeted a user named Burk, who works at Blizzard as an associate producer. “Everyone is rallying together, listening, speaking out against the atrocious responses, and demanding action. We are here, angry, and not so easily silenced.”
These past few days have made me furious at the COMPANY I work for, but so proud of the PEOPLE I work with.Everyone is rallying together, listening, speaking out against the atrocious responses, and demanding action. We are here, angry, and not so easily silenced.July 23, 2021
“I stand with the [Activision Blizzard] victims & believe their stories,” tweeted Blizzard UX researcher Nikki Crenshaw. “To claim that these stories are 'factually incorrect' or 'untrue' is a slap in the face to current & former employees, & does not represent my core values.”
“Really hope that Blizzard puts out a statement on this situation that I actually agree with and can support, and not more legal defense posturing,” wrote Kyle Hartline, a server and live ops producer on World of Warcraft. “Because the stuff said so far is unacceptable and doesn't represent me. And I know I'm not alone in feeling that way here.”
“I've heard horror stories all of which I know are true and shouldn't be dismissed,” tweeted Elsbeth Larkin, a tools software engineer for World of Warcraft. “The fact that [Activision Blizzard] dismissed it not once but twice is appalling.”
In addition to personal statements, many developers are also tweeting statements that read: “This tweet is my own and does not represent the views of my company. I do not support any attempt by AB to diminish the very real damage done to victims of harassment at Blizzard. We absolutely must hear and support the women at our company, both current and past.”
At the time of writing, Activision Blizzard has not responded publicly to these expressions of distrust and frustration from employees. We've asked for comment from the company, and will have more as the story develops throughout the next week and beyond.