An internal investigation into discrimination and harassment at Activision Blizzard has attempted to exonerate the company of wrongdoing.
The reports of toxic workplace conditions at Activision Blizzard will go down as one of the most important milestones in modern gaming. Not just for being a wake-up call as to how the whole industry treats its employees but for the fact that the resulting drop in share price made it possible for Microsoft to buy the publisher.
The controversy will go on to have wide reaching effects for decades to come and yet according to a newly published internal report it didn’t really happen.
Despite all the public claims, and high profile company exits, over the last several months, the report insists that, ‘there was no widespread harassment, pattern or practice of harassment, or systemic harassment at Activision Blizzard or at any of its business units.’
Not only that but the report concludes that, ‘based on the volume of reports, the amount of misconduct reflected is comparatively low for a company the size of Activision Blizzard.’
The report is not going to go down well with employees who have demanded better conditions, and shared their own stories of harassment and discrimination; especially as some have already managed to unionise.
The issue initially came to light thanks to a two-year investigation by the Californian Department of Fair Employment and Housing, which described a ‘frat boy’ workplace culture at both Activision and Blizzard.
Subsequent investigations by other government bodies, and additional lawsuits by both employees and investors, painted the company in such a negative light that for a time it ended up removing its own logo from its games.
One of the key complaints was that the board of directors knew about the problems and did nothing, with CEO Bobby Kotick specifically accused of withholding information.
The Activision Blizzard report suggests that there is no evidence that senior executives, ‘ever intentionally ignored or attempted to downplay the instances of gender harassment that occurred and were reported. That work also has not unearthed any evidence, directly or indirectly, suggesting any attempt by any senior executive or employee to conceal information from the Board.’
‘While there are some substantiated instances of gender harassment, those unfortunate circumstances do not support the conclusion that Activision senior leadership or the Board were aware of and tolerated gender harassment or that there was ever a systemic issue with harassment, discrimination or retaliation.’
There was never likely to be any other conclusion from a company investigating itself, but it will cause new owner Microsoft (assuming the acquisition deal goes through) additional embarrassment, especially as they are obligated to pay Bobby Kotick a substantial fee as part of the process.
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