Damning allegations about company culture and abuser workplace practices were known about by the highest level of Blizzard management, according to information released as part of the investigation into Activision Blizzard by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) this week. According to reports, Blizzard President J. Allen Brack was personally aware of allegations against a senior games designer, and chose to speak with him rather than take disciplinary action.
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California sues Activision Blizzard over sexist "frat boy" culture
The documents allege that Alex Afrasiabi, a former creative lead on World of Warcraft, was so notorious within the company for his behavior that his suite was named "The Cosby Suite" in a reference to the celebrity rapist of the same name. At Blizzard, he was "permitted to engage in blatant sexual harassment with little to no repercussions", the case alleges, and would "hit on female employees" at Blizzcon, which included both verbal and physical harassment.
More damningly for Blizzard, this would apparently take place in plain view of other employees, who had to "intervene and pull him off female employees" and was known about throughout the company, with Brack himself deciding on verbal counseling as a suitable punishment for repeated and sustained sexual harassment. According to the DFEH documents, this lack of consequence for Afrasiabia led to him groping another employee, as well as propositioning a woman, grabbing her hand and trying to lead her back to his hotel room.
Afrasiabi has since left the company to little fanfare (back in 2020) but the excerpts concerning his behavior run counter to Activision-Blizzard's claims they were proactive in trying to stamp out problematic behavior. It is far from the most shocking claim in the suit, which also alleges that one employee was driven to suicide following harassment which included "co-worker passing around a picture of the deceased’s vagina".
Blizzard community reacts to frat culture lawsuit
So far, reactions to the suit have been limited, with popular Hearthstone creator Alexandra "Alliestrasza" Macpherson deciding to delay her part in the release of a new card rather than cancel her participation or go ahead with the scheduled promotion. According to her statement, she has delayed the release to show support for the victims and bring attention to the issue.
"It is our responsibility, as individuals — if you see something, or if your intuition tells you that something is not right, and you suspect harassment, or discrimination, or whatever it may be - we all have the responsibility to speak up for what is right," she said. She also went on to say that this is not exclusive to Blizzard, claiming it happens "everywhere all the time, it's extremely prevalent." She is yet to schedule a new date for her card reveal but gave no indication she will stop working with Blizzard over the revelations.
Popular World of Warcraft streamer Asmongold also reacted to the news, calling for criminal charges against the people involved and imploring his fans to treat victims with respect and empathy. In a statement given to The Verge, Activision-Blizzard criticized the actions of the investigators, claiming to have been kept in the dark, and that many of the claims were distorted or inaccurate.
"The DFEH includes distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past," Blizzard said. "We have been extremely cooperative with the DFEH throughout their investigation, including providing them with extensive data and ample documentation, but they refused to inform us what issues they perceived. They were required by law to adequately investigate and to have good faith discussions with us to better understand and to resolve any claims or concerns before going to litigation, but they failed to do so."