World of Warcraft creators walk out over allegations of sexist treatment

·3-min read
Staff at the company behind the World of Warcraft franchise will walkout in protest at harassment allegations (Getty Images)
Staff at the company behind the World of Warcraft franchise will walkout in protest at harassment allegations (Getty Images)

Staff at the makers of the popularWorld of Warcraft franchise will stage a mass walkout to protest the company’s response to a discrimination and harassment lawsuit.

At least 50 employees of Activision Blizzard at the company headquarters at Irvine, California, plan to stop work to protest what they says is the company’s failure to take allegations of sexism seriously.

The gaming company, which also created Call of Duty, is being sued by the state of California over its alleged “hostile work environment”.

In a lawsuit filed last week, the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) said the company has “fostered a pervasive ‘frat boy’ workplace culture”, using a phrase commonly associated with “boisterous or foolish” behaviour in college fraternities.

They also allege that female employees are assigned to “lower paid” jobs and have faced assault, discrimination and harassment in the workplace.

Staff were reportedly angered by a statement by Activision Blizzard which refuted the “distorted” picture painted by DFEH as not being the “Blizzard workplace of today”.

An internal email from its Chief Compliance Officer Frances Townsend has also been cited as being behind the growing staff anger.

Several current employees toldThe Washington Post that 50 staff members planned to gather at the Blizzard Campus Wednesday and would remain off work from 10am to 2pm.

Most of the workforce has been operating remotely during the pandemic, and a virtual walkout will take place from 9am to 6pm.

The Independent has approached the company’s PR representatives for comment about the planned walkout.

On Monday, 1600 current and former staff members signed an open letter criticising what they described was the company’s “abhorrent and insulting” response to the California court filings.

“We believe these statements have damaged our ongoing quest for equality inside and outside of our industry,” the open letter stated.

“Categorising the claims that have been made as ‘distorted, and in many cases false’ creates a company atmosphere that disbelieves victims.

“It also casts doubt on our organisations’ ability to hold abusers accountable for their actions and foster a safe environment for victims to come forward in the future.”

A source told Axios that while some senior staff spoken about supporting employees, the company’s top executives are in “PR mode, crisis management, trying not to commit directly to things”.

Axios reported staff are asking for the company to adopt new recruiting, hiring and promotion policies to improve diversity at the company.

Sexism and discrimination has long been rife within the gaming industry.

Exclusive research shared with The Independent last month found 35 per cent of women had been sent inappropriate content or messages from other gamers.

The study by Young Gamers & Gamblers Education Trust in the United Kingdom found some 28 per cent of female gamers have been sexually harassed by fellow gamers and 40 per cent verbally abused by gamers while playing online multiplayer games.

The publicly-listed Activision Blizzard’s stock price was down nearly 7 per cent at 3pm on Tuesday to just under $84. It had quarterly earnings for the first three months of 2021 of $2.28 billion.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare had more than 10 million average monthly players in July, according to the Activeplayer.io live player count.

World of Warcraft attracted just under 7 million players over the same period.

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