BlizzCon 2022 Is Cancelled As Abuse And Discrimination Investigations Continue
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Featured Image Credit: Activision Blizzard
Activision Blizzard has cancelled the upcoming BlizzCon online event amid the ongoing lawsuits it is grappling with, accusing the company of a "frat boy culture" in its offices, unfair labour practices, and its passivity to prevent harassment.
Yep. It’s a lot. In July, the state of California levied a lawsuit against Activision Blizzard for the treatment that women suffered in the company, from lower starting pay and fewer opportunities to unwanted advances and racist harassment. In response, employees staged a walkout and signed an open letter in support of the stories in the lawsuit, asking that their employer “improve conditions for employees at the company, especially women, and in particular women of color and transgender women, non-binary people and other marginalized groups”.
A few months after this, another lawsuit appeared from the Communications Workers of America accusing Activision Blizzard of "using coercive tactics” to discourage organisation to change the company in the interest of the employees. Then, the United States government wanted documents that showed evidence of the aforementioned complaints about harassment in its offices. Like I said, it’s a lot.
In a post titled “Reimagining BlizzCon,” the company does not specifically say that the choice to cancel the event was the result of the investigations into its alleged problematic workplaces. “At this time, we feel the energy it would take to put on a show like this is best directed towards supporting our teams and progressing development of our games and experiences,” explained Activision Blizzard.
The stories told in the lawsuit claim that the event was the location of the “Cosby Suite,” which was a nickname for the hotel room where World of Warcraft developer Alex Afrasiabi stayed during BlizzCon 2013. “During a company event (an annual convention called Blizz Con [sic]) Afrasiabi would hit on female employees, telling him [sic] he wanted to marry them, attempting to kiss them, and putting his arms around them,” stated one account in the suit. “This was in plain view of other male employees, including supervisors, who had to intervene and pull him off female employees.”
Based on photos and comments from Afrasiabi’s Facebook profile, it also was a place where he and other male employees would pose with a portrait of Bill Cosby and invite women to hang out with them in the room. Jesse McCree, formerly a lead designer at the company, was also seen in these photos and the developer has now changed the hero in Overwatch with the same name.
“We would also like to take the time to reimagine what a BlizzCon event of the future could look like,” continued the post. “The first BlizzCon was held 16 years ago, and so much has changed in the time since—most notably, the multiple ways in which players and communities can come together and feel like they are a part of something bigger. Whatever the event looks like in the future, we also need to ensure that it feels as safe, welcoming, and inclusive as possible.”