Notice: To display this embed please allow the use of Functional Cookies in Cookie Preferences.
Former Blizzard boss Mike Morhaime has said he’s “ashamed” of recent allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination against women at the company.
Writing on Twitter, Morhaime – who co-founded Blizzard and worked at the company for nearly three decades, before his departure in 2018 – said that “it feels like everything I thought I stood for has been washed away.”
This week Activision Blizzard was sued by the state of California because of its reported failure to handle sexual harassment and discrimination against female employees.
Since then, numerous Blizzard developers have criticised the company publicly via social media, in particular taking issue with a statement made by Activision Blizzard executive Fran Townsend, who appeared to dismiss the claims made in the California lawsuit.
Blizzard co-founder Morhaime wrote on Saturday:
I have read the full complaint against Activision Blizzard and many of the other stories. It is all very disturbing and difficult to read. I am ashamed. It feels like everything I thought I stood for has been washed away. What’s worse but even more important, real people have been harmed, and some women had terrible experiences.
I was at Blizzard for 28 years. During that time, I tried very hard to create an environment that was safe and welcoming for people of all genders and backgrounds. I knew that it was not perfect, but clearly we were far from that goal. The fact that so many women were mistreated and were not supported means we let them down. In addition, we did not succeed in making it feel safe for people to tell their truth. It is no consolation that other companies have faced similar challenges. I wanted us to be different, better.
Harassment and discrimination exist. They are prevalent in our industry. It is the responsibility of leadership to keep all employees feeling safe, supported, and treated equitably, regardless of gender and background. It is the responsibility of leadership to stamp out toxicity and harassment in any form, across all levels of the company. To the Blizzard women who experienced any of these things, I am extremely sorry that I failed you.
I realize that these are just words, but I wanted to acknowledge the women who had awful experiences. I hear you, I believe you, and I am so sorry to have let you down. I want to hear your stories, if you are willing to share them. As a leader in our industry, I can and will use my influence to help drive positive change and to combat misogyny, discrimination, and harassment wherever I can.
I believe we can do better, and I believe the gaming industry can be a place where women and minorities are welcomed, included, supported, recognized, rewarded, and ultimately unimpeded from the opportunity to make the types of contributions that all of us join this industry to make. I want the mark I leave on this industry to be something that we can all be proud of.
The California lawsuit, which was filed on Tuesday at the Los Angeles Superior Court, claims that despite being headquartered in California “where the nation’s strongest anti-harassment, equal pay and other equal employment opportunity protections exist for employees”, Activision has failed to make improvements in these areas.
“Unlike its customer base of increasingly diverse players, Defendants’ workforce is only about 20% women,” the suit states, adding: “Its top leadership is also exclusively male and white. The CEO and President roles are now – and have always been – held by white men.
“Very few women ever reach top roles at the company. The women who do reach higher roles earn less salary, incentive pay and total compensation than their male peers, as evidenced in Defendants’ own records.”
The suit goes on to cite multiple alleged incidences of sexual harassment and discrimination at Activision Blizzard.
Activision Blizzard executive Fran Townsend, who was previously the assistant for homeland security and counterterrorism to President George W. Bush, reportedly wrote in an e-mail to staff stating that the 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.”
One Blizzard staff member wrote on social media, following the e-mail’s publication: “I stand with the AB victims & believe their stories. 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.”
Another added: “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… 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.”