I'm pretty sure if you spend any sort of time at all on Twitter and/or spend any sort of time playing videogames, you are by now at least aware of the lawsuit brought forth by the State of California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing versus Activision Blizzard, Inc., et al. From this point on, I'll add a Content Warning for folks who are sensitive about sexual assault, suicide, and discrimination based on sex, gender, and skin color, as well as crude humor around and about sexual assault, and what the State of California refers to as "a pervasive 'frat boy' culture" around Act/Bliz, especially in the World of Warcraft-associated departments.
Just reading the complaint is hard rowing, even with the clinical legalese in place. The complaint itself is relatively short; 29 pages laying out ten Causes of Action (basically, "these are the legs on which our lawsuit stands"). I'm not sure I have the vocabulary to properly express how awful the citations are in the complaint. And I also know that for every woman who was cited, there are dozens, possibly literally hundreds of women who experienced the same thing and then were unable to speak their truth, mostly because none of us were listening and almost none of us cared.
I'm 46 years old and at this point I've worked in IT one way or another for 25 of them. I never worked in games, but from the stories told by my friends and acquaintances game dev is "like IT, only moreso". And so based on that, I wish I could say that anything in the lawsuit surprised me. I would like to say that a group of men hounding a woman until she killed herself was somehow beyond the pale. But it's not. None of the stories told here are particularly special; the damage and disdain and destruction wrought on the women spotlighted here are exactly the same sort of thing men have been doing to women in the IT industry for (at least) 40 years. At this point the only thing that surprises me is that the State of California has decided to take on a powerful and well-funded corporation in public, speaking explicitly to the terrible behavior of men towards women as the cause.
I wasn't a particularly good person for a big chunk of my life, but I'd like to think that in the last 10 years or so I've become the sort of person who advocates for, believes, and uplifts others around me, especially women and non-binary folk and People of Color. As one manager at one company in one segment of the workforce, I've done my best to support and when necessary drive change. I was not always successful. But it's not up to me to determine how I've performed. As I said on Twitter: I take the test. I don't get to grade it. But there needs to be A Reckoning in this industry. Setting aside basic human decency for a moment, discrimination doesn't even make good sense in Capitalism. And that's saying something.
My dream is that the State of California wins this suit and leverages compensatory damages so severe, so extreme, that Activision as a company ceases to exist. No, I don't think everyone at Blizzard deserves to lose their jobs (fair labor and proper labor is a discussion for another blog post). In order to encourage change in a system, you must make change preferable to the status quo. And the only way to do that, as far as I can tell, is by hammering a bunch of men in power absolutely flat broke. Until and unless that happens, then everyone will just pretend things are "better" but make no real effort to improve. And I don't think the end of Activision, or honestly even the end of Blizzard, would mean most people would lose their jobs; WoW and Overwatch and the other assets under that umbrella will get snapped up in the dissolution. If the State of California takes on Activision and wins, it's a message to every other company out there: get your Shit In Line.
That's my dream. That's the world I want to live in, where people are paid fairly to do work they want to do in a way that doesn't harm their health or well-being. That's what I'm working towards. You have to decide if I'm doing enough.