Activision Blizzard co-founder breaks silence over ‘disturbing’ harassment allegations: ‘I am ashamed’

The co-founder of Activision Blizzard has written a statement in the wake of a lawsuit against the company due to harassment against women.

The lawsuit has been filed against the gaming giant by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing for its “frat boy workplace culture”, in which female employees are abused and held to different standards than men.

In a statement on Twitter, Activision Blizzard co-founder and former CEO Mike Morhaime spoke of his shame.

“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,” he said. 

“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.”

Morhaime worked for the company for 28 years and aimed for a safe and welcoming culture.

My Thoughts

Read: https://t.co/JkOwtj31Sf

— Mike Morhaime (@mikemorhaime) July 24, 2021

“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,” he said.

“I realise 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.”

Morhaime is not alone. In the past few days, many others from Activision Blizzard have opined on the lawsuit and company culture.

Chris Metzen, former senior vice president of story and franchise development until 2016, said “we failed, and I’m sorry”.

“There is no excuse,” he continued. “We failed too many people when they needed us because we had the privilege of not noticing, not engaging, not creating necessary spaces for the colleagues who needed us as leaders. I wish my apology could make any kind of difference. It can’t.”

This is later than it should have been. Here’s my response. pic.twitter.com/0h8iF6a1JR

— Chris Metzen (@ChrisMetzen) July 24, 2021

Current Employee, Jeff Hamilton, who works as senior system designer on World of Warcraft tweeted that “Activision’s statement was terrible”.

“I believe strongly in equal treatment and equal protection. Regardless of gender or race, everyone deserves a safe and supportive environment in which to work and live,” he said.

OK. I’m still hopeful my team will make a statement, but Activision’s statement was terrible, so here’s what I believe. I know many of my colleagues believe this as well:

— Jeff Hamilton (@JeffAHamilton) July 25, 2021

“I am viscerally disgusted by the horrible trauma that has been inflicted upon my coworkers, friends, and colleagues.

“I find Activision’s corporate response wholly unacceptable. I don’t stand by it, any of it. It is evil to usurp a victim’s story into a rhetorical bludgeon, and it is abhorrent to reply to these accusations with anything other than a well-thought-out plan to correct these abuses.”

Similarly, lead game designer Jeremy Feasel said the “statements made by [Activision Blizzard] do not represent us”.

Many of us will not be working today in solidarity with the women that came forward. The statements made by ABK 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.

— Muffvanas (@Muffinus) July 23, 2021

Activision Blizzard’s response includes a statement that the DFEH have been “disgraceful and unprofessional” and, more recently, an internal email from executive vice president for Corporate Affairs Frances F Townsend, who claims the lawsuit is “distorted and untrue”.

an email sent to Activsion staff from Fran Townsend doubles down on claims that the recent lawsuit is “distorted and untrue” with “out of context stories” pic.twitter.com/Cru8KBC288

— Megan Farokhmanesh (@Megan_Nicolett) July 23, 2021

Since the Activision Blizzard news broke, a video of a 2010 Blizzcon panel has gone viral, in which a woman poses a question to a panel of male employees about female representation in World of Warcraft and asks for them to be less sexualised.

The response is exemplary of the “frat boy” culture the lawsuit mentions.

Oh god, I’d not seen this before. It’s heartbreaking.

Here’s a 2010 Blizzcon panel in which a fan was brave enough to ask a panel full of men, including J. Allen Brack (left) & Alex Afrasiabi (right) whether there’s scope for some of WoW’s female characters to be less sexualised pic.twitter.com/Elaf3K7KVc

— Chris Bratt (@chrisbratt) July 23, 2021

Greg Street, a member of that panel, has since apologised saying: “Look, it was a sh*tty answer at the time and it certainly hasn’t aged well. I wish I had said something better then.”

You can’t really see the people asking the questions well from the stage, and I feel terrible now seeing the look on her face. I have more experience now answering questions live, but no doubt that won’t be my last shitty answer. I apologize for those as well as for this one.

— Greg Street (@Ghostcrawler) July 24, 2021

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