Some of the characters developed by Activision Blizzard, a company acquired by Microsoft in 2021. DADO RUVIC (REUTERS)
End point to one of the great scandals in the world of video games. A federal court on Tuesday approved a settlement whereby Activision Blizzard will pay $18 million to several victims of a toxic work environment at the company that makes best-selling games like Call of Duty, world of warcraft and candy crush. “The resolution reflects our unwavering commitment to creating a safe and equitable work environment for all of our employees,” said Bobby Kotick, the CEO of the company, which has more than 10,000 employees and has faced years of allegations of workplace harassment. gender and pay discrimination towards women.
Complaints about the toxic environment inside Activision Blizzard clouded its $75 billion acquisition by Microsoft last year. Among those named was Kotick himself, who allegedly left a message on an assistant’s voicemail in 2006 in which he threatened to have her killed. Kotick is expected to leave the company in 2023, when US regulators give the green light to the operation that strengthens the video game arm of Bill Gates’ technology company. Kotick’s departure will be far from a punishment. If the purchase clears the review, the executive will pocket 390 million dollars.
That episode, for which Kotick has apologized, is just one of 700 that The Wall Street Journal has documented over the years, a figure that the company dismisses assuring that some problems were minor or are duplicated. However, Kotick, who has been with the company for 30 years, has been facing an investigation since September into her conduct and repeated accusations of discrimination against female employees. California authorities opened the investigation after the testimony of eight former employees who left the company complaining of a culture similar to that of “a university fraternity.” This group was followed by several more who complained of frequent invitations to have sex by men in positions of power. Some of these arrived on business trips or at work meetings where alcohol was abundant. If the women reported to human resources, the aggressors took revenge or threatened them.
The compensation agreement for the victims, which has only benefited workers since 2016, was offered by the company at the end of September. This still awaited the approval of Judge Dale Fischer. In addition to the amount to be paid, Activision Blizzard must make several changes required by the federal Equal Employment Commission to make the land accessible to women. Among the measures that must be adopted are the hiring of an expert in the fight against discrimination and the periodic supervision of internal policies by an external consultant.
The scandal has been transforming the interior of the company for years. At least that is what it assures in a press release issued this Tuesday after the judicial resolution. The company has created a series of positions that help monitor its equity objectives, it has made salaries within the company transparent, and it prepared its first representation report last October. They have also donated a million dollars to an organization that provides scholarships for women in the industry.
The company has only 24% women among its ranks, a figure similar to that of the industry. The number drops to less than 20% at Activision and 22% at Blizzard, percentages well below other studies. The group also admits that it has difficulty keeping its employees on payroll. 29% of its hirings are women, but 26% of dismissals are from the same group. Latino and black employees are also scarce.
The case is repeated within other giants of the industry. In the middle of this month, eight women joined the court case against Sony for discrimination. Since last November, the Japanese company has been facing a collective lawsuit by former workers who denounce a sexist environment. The case was initiated by Emma Majo, a computer analyst, who went to court to complain of unfair dismissal. In her writing, she assured that a male superior refused to answer her for the sole fact of being a woman. She, too, was unable to compete for raises and promotions because of a “male-dominated work culture.” The situation was widespread, she said. Ubisoft and Riot, competitors of Sony and Microsoft, face similar accusations. In the video game industry, machismo is the protagonist.