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Blizzard developers criticise corporate statements on recent allegations

"The statements made by Activision Blizzard do not represent us."

A raft of Blizzard developers have taken to social media to criticise reported corporate statements issued on the recent allegations made against the company.

This week, the State of California sued Activision Blizzard over what it alleges to be a "frat boy" culture that created "a breeding ground for harassment and discrimination against women".

The lawsuit alleges a culture of "constant sexual harassment", mainly at Blizzard Entertainment, the maker of World of Warcraft, Diablo and Overwatch.

Activision Blizzard has strongly denied the accusations, calling many of the claims distorted or false.

Last night, Bloomberg reporter Jason Schreier tweeted the text of an email sent by current Blizzard president J. Allen Brack to staff addressing the allegations from the lawsuit, calling them "extremely troubling". In the email, Brack commits to meet with staff to answer their questions and "discuss how we can move forward".

"I disdain 'bro culture' and have spent my career fighting against it," Brack says in the email.

"I feel angry, sad, and a host of other emotions," he continues, "but I also feel grateful to work alongside a set of leaders and thousands of employees who join me in their commitment to continuous improvement."

Brack's email strikes a markedly different tone than that of Activision Blizzard's public statement on the lawsuit, as well as an email reportedly sent to staff by Activision Blizzard executive Fran Townsend, who was the assistant for homeland security and counterterrorism to George W. Bush from 2004 to 2008.

Schreier tweeted the text of the email from Townsend, who joined Activision in March as "Chief Compliance Officer":

"A recently-filed lawsuit presented a distorted and untrue picture of our company, including factually incorrect, old, and out of context stories - some from more than a decade ago," Townsend reportedly says in the email.

"We work at a company that truly values equality and fairness," she continues. "Rest assured that leadership is committed to continuing to maintain a safe, fair, and inclusive workplace. We cannot let egregious actions of others, and a truly meritless and irresponsible lawsuit, damage our culture of respect and equal opportunity for all employees."

According to Schreier, Townsend's email "has some Blizzard employees fuming".

Activision Blizzard executive vice president of corporate affairs Fran Townsend. Image credit Activision Blizzard.

And on social media, some Blizzard employees have denounced the corporate statements coming out of Activision Blizzard on the allegations.

"Normally, I would say my tweets don't represent the views of my employer," one member of staff at Blizzard tweeted in response to Townsend's email. "Today, I can definitely say my employer's statements do not represent my views, feelings, or core values."

"Like many of you, our team's been going through a mix of outrage and sorrow and hurt," said one member of the World of Warcraft development team. "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.

"I'm not talking about platitudes and corporate bullshit statements. I'm talking about friends and colleagues working together to pull evil out by its roots. This is important to us and to you. But right now, I gotta get back to my friends."

Another Blizzard developer said: "I'm unhappy with the corporate response up to this point. I don't feel it represents me or what I believe in. Many of us have said this internally. It feels worth saying publicly."

"I stand with the AB victims & believe their stories," another Blizzard member of staff said. "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."

"Change has to come from the top," said a member of the Overwatch team. "Grassroots rallying and nice words can't fix systemic toxicity.

"I am very lucky to be on a team now that treats me well, but being treated like a competent human being shouldn't be a matter of luck."

"I don't want to hear another 'We want to do better and encourage our employees to be better.' That should be obvious," said another member of the World of Warcraft team.

"I want to SEE a statement of 'This person was found to do x and this does not represent our values. As such, this person is no longer under our employment.' "

Blizzard Entertainment president J. Allen Brack.

One member of the World of Warcraft development team said "many" stopped working yesterday "in solidarity with the women that came forward".

"The statements made by ABK [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."

"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," a World of Warcraft developer said.

"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 another World of Warcraft developer. "The fact that [Activision Blizzard] dismissed it not once but twice is appalling."

A number of Blizzard employees are posting the following statement to social media: "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."

Activision Blizzard has yet to issue a statement on the reaction to the emails (the company has so far failed to respond to Eurogamer's request for comment).

Lawyers for the State of California said complaints about the reported harassment, discrimination, and retaliation detailed in the lawsuit were allegedly made to human resources personnel and executives, including to Blizzard boss J. Allen Brack, but "Defendants failed to take effective remedial measures in response to these complaints".

According to Bloomberg, some Blizzard staff have internally resurfaced a video from BlizzCon 2010 that shows Brack and other senior World of Warcraft developers "laughing off" a question from a woman who asked for the MMO's female characters to be less sexualised.

The question is asked at the 4:24 mark in the video below:

Watch on YouTube

"Culture issues existed long before Activision began intervening in Blizzard's operations," Bloomberg reported.

Ex-Blizzard boss Mike Morhaime has issued a statement on the recent allegations about the company, saying: "I am ashamed."

Morhaime co-founded Blizzard in 1991, when the studio was known as Silicon & Synapse, eventually becoming president in 1998, then president and CEO in 2007. Morhaime left Blizzard in 2018 and was replaced by current president J. Allen Brack.

"To the Blizzard women who experienced any of these things, I am extremely sorry that I failed you," Morhaime said.

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