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December 2021 - Activision Blizzard | Winner

If Activision Blizzard isn’t careful, it’s going to have more harassment and discrimination lawsuits than game franchises. With new HR initiatives in place, what are the chances its reputation can recover (or should we say respawn)?

Where should we start with Activision Blizzard? Member of the Fortune 500 and S&P 500, this colossal video game holding company is perhaps best known for the Call of Duty (COD) and World of Warcraft franchises; it also owns Diablo, Candy Crush, HearthStone and Overwatch. In other words: you can’t turn on a smart device or gaming console without brushing up against this brand or one of its subsidiaries. It’s unfortunate, to say the least.

Sexism and discrimination have always been hot topics in the video game industry—be it gatekeeping within audience communities or workplace prejudices among developer teams—but Activision Blizzard really takes the cake. The company’s “frat-boy culture” is so bad that it’s been hit with a harassment and discrimination lawsuit by the state of California.

Noteworthy incidents include the reveal of a so-called “Cosby suite” as well as an account of company recruiters asking about a prospective employee’s sexual activity. Activision Blizzard seems to be taking this seriously, as 20 employees (and counting?) have been fired since the news broke. But the company’s overall response to the claims has been far from seamless.

Particularly, feedback from company executives has been more infuriating than input lag during a 1-v-1 Call of Duty: Warzone throwdown. First, they came out saying the accusations were “distorted and untrue” despite there being photographic evidence to the contrary. They then condemned all actions in an internal email…only to turn around and hire a union-busting firm as employees started to mobilize around the issue.

Industry pros—from niche media publications, streamers and professional players to other video game developers—are now waiting on Activision Blizzard and its new executives to follow through on their plans to do better. But apparently the company would rather twiddle its thumbs and try to stall lawsuit progress. Whatever floats (read: sinks) its boat.

We love clipping heads in COD as much as the next person, but Activision Blizzard deserves to be removed from everyone’s computers and devices for this. It’s all fun and games—until it’s not.

The titan of AAA gaming should really think about snatching up ActivisionBlizzard.Sucks before someone else does—say, to highlight the meaningful changes it’s making to counteract what’s happened. But we also wouldn’t mind if a competitor or consumer used it to show the company that its actions have serious reputational (not just monetary) consequences. Who’s game?

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