A photo of the Anaheim Convention Center. A large sign says "BlizzCon". Five banners below it highlight some of Blizzard's games.
Photo from 2014 BlizzCon by Jen Thorpe

Could a lawsuit result in the death of what once was a beloved gaming company?

A lawsuit has been filed by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing against Activision Blizzard. By now, you may have heard about the details in the lawsuit that describes the abusive behavior that some of the people who worked for these companies inflicted upon their fellow workers.

In short, the lawsuit points out unfair practices in the workplace that included starting women at a lower pay than their male peers. Women were passed over for promotions, in favor of selecting a less-qualified man who had only been with the company for a short time. Women had to do the work of their male co-workers (in addition to their own) because the men chose to spend their time playing video games. Women had their ideas stolen from them by men who took credit for those ideas themselves.

The lawsuit also pointed out some of the many situations where women were sexually harassed or sexually abused at the workplace (or at conferences). If you want more details about that, you can find it on Twitter. An avalanche of stories were shared by victims about the abuse they suffered.

I’ve never worked for a gaming company, but I have been sexually harassed in the workplace. These kinds of awful experiences started at my first job when I was fifteen years old. In addition, I have survived sexual abuse that I won’t discuss in detail because it would give you nightmares. Reading the awful experiences shared by women who were abused has brought up old trauma. I am not ok, but I am safe.

In many ways, the situation has broken the community. Several podcasts that usually focus on one or more of Blizzard’s games did episodes about this whole mess. Blizzard-focused podcasts have gone on hiatus, are in the process of rebranding, or have come to an end. I’m the host of Shattered Soulstone, a podcast focused on the community that loves the Diablo series of Blizzard’s games. I’ve done not one, but two, episodes about the things that have happened. At the time I am writing this, I’m not sure what’s next for Shattered Soulstone.

People who have been playing Blizzard games for a long time have decided to stop doing that. Some chose to delete all of their Blizzard games and never look back. Others have allowed their World of Warcraft subscriptions to lapse. That includes me, but I would have done that anyway because I’m going to be very busy this month.

There is a rift in the community about what the most moral course of action is. One faction strongly feels that everyone should either delete their Blizzard games or stop playing them until Blizzard Activision makes significant changes. One faction points out that current Activision Blizzard employees have made it clear that they want people to continue playing their games. The workers do not want a boycott.

All of this is hard. For me, personally, I’m struggling with whether or not I’m going to continue to play Diablo III. This may sound strange, but the Diablo games have always been one of my comfort zones. When I was working three jobs in an effort to afford housing and food, I found it cathartic to play hours of the original Diablo game. Diablo III has gotten me through days when my chronic illnesses inflict so much pain upon me that I can’t work.

Slaying demons, metaphorical or pixelated, brings me peace.

My emotional state right now includes grieving and a sense of betrayal. Like many other people who have been playing Blizzard’s games for years, I feel betrayed by the people in the company that likely knew about at least some of the rot that was growing around them. They chose to ignore it, while presenting a misleading image of how wonderful it was to work for Blizzard. I don’t see how I can trust their words ever again.

I’m also grieving. It feels like I’m watching the slow death of a gaming company that I used to love. It dawns on me as I’m writing this that I’ve felt these same emotions in the aftermath of an extended breakup of a long term, terrible, relationship.

Blizzard gave me hours upon hours of fun games to play. The few BlizzCon’s I’ve attended were fun – especially because I got to hang out in person with friends who live far away. The Diablo team highlighted Shattered Soulstone (as well as other Diablo podcasts and streamers) on Battle.net and in their social media. At the time, I was super excited that my show was included.

Activision Blizzard’s stock has fallen off a cliff. Maybe the company will make changes that eventually cause their stock to rise again. Maybe not. The stock exchange is volatile. What Blizzard won’t get back are the players who have deleted their games or stopped playing them. Players are the lifeblood that keeps a gaming company going. Without them, the company will die.

#Blaugust2021

Grieving and a Sense of Betrayal is a post written by Jen Thorpe on Book of Jen and is not allowed to be copied to other sites.

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3 comments

  1. I’m not a WoW player, though I have spent time in Warcraft 3 years ago, and have enjoyed Diablo since early Diablo 2. It’s been a while for me, though.

    Despite not really having a horse in this race, I’ve been keeping up with this news as it’s been unfolding (something that’s rare for me). My heart goes out to the victims, innocent workers, and players and fans who have to sort through the emotional fallout in the wake of this knowledge.

    I can only hope the proper paths will be taken going forward.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Spot of Mummery. This blog post was hard to write, but I felt the need to say something about the Activision-Blizzard situation (beyond what I said on my Shattered Soulstone podcast).

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