Acti-Blizz Lawsuit

I guess it’s current affairs and game related…

Riot Games had a similar suit in the past, which had relatively small impacts in their organization. There were a fair amount of reports on it too, Kotaku’s of note. Curious to the larger outcomes. The $10m payout is peanuts for that company.

In this case, Acti-Blizz is getting his with a state-level lawsuit over discrimination. Personal lawsuits in the US are a dime a dozen. State-level efforts, that frankly millions of dollars invested just making a case. They don’t get issued without a rather high level of confidence that it can be proven. The penalties are not financial – Acti-Blizz revenues are $2b per quarter, so $10m is a hiccup. The penalties here are public, which is weird that we’re in the mode today.

High odds here that there are few execs that are shuffled, maybe a could lose their jobs (Afrasiabi left last year), but I would be really surprised is anything meaningful happens outside of some larger pay-outs to some impacted people. I say this because the executive leadership within that company has been extremely consistent that the only thing that matters is money.

Sidebar – I am convinced that EA has been doing an internal review for years prepping for their eventual suit.

I do understand how these events come to pass. Gamer culture for most of its existence was a “bro” culture, in particular in the more competitive space. Hell, IT culture was full of “a/s/l” questions and then pouncing on anyone that claimed to be female. Picking on Acti-Blizz here, but it’s rampant across the industry. It’s better now, but that’s like comparing a forest fire to a house fire. There are still some big issues to sort out. Riot Games is an interesting example here, as they went to great lengths to build a corporate culture that was reflective of their gaming culture – competitive and aggressive. Wilting flowers got nowhere. Acti-Blizz seems on another level though, where it was outright abusive, and top brass was aware.

What I find the most interesting in all this is the response that Acti-Blizz put out afterwards (emphasis mine).

We are sickened by the reprehensible conduct of the DFEH to drag into the complaint the tragic suicide of an employee whose passing has no bearing whatsoever on this case and with no regard for her grieving family. While we find this behavior to be disgraceful and unprofessional, it is unfortunately an example of how they have conducted themselves throughout the course of their investigation. It is this type of irresponsible behavior from unaccountable State bureaucrats that are driving many of the State’s best businesses out of California.

I have experience in how this process works, though obviously in another country. The company is made aware of pending litigation (if individuals are not indicted), giving the company some time to prepare their statements. The legal team at Acti-Blizz had time to prepare this statement and get it approved. The wording is purposeful.

Ad-hominem arguments are an extremely effective defense – they question the ability of an individual. You’ve seen enough where the defense questions the integrity of a witness, not the actuals facts of the case. The media has conditioned us to look past the facts and at the ideas – Nancy Grace is the best example that comes to mind. But this only works on individuals. It’s a big challenge to sway public opinion on an organization that is established to support people’s rights.

I remain curious as to where this path goes.

4 thoughts on “Acti-Blizz Lawsuit

  1. It’s interesting (and unusual) to hear someone openly acknowledge the “incidental cost of doing business” aspect of these kinds of cases. Because the fines sound large to us as individuals its all too easy to forget how small they are, not just in comparison to the profits being made but to the benefits being accrued from persistently underpaying.

    That said, I struggle to understand how upper management would want to persist with the obvious timewasting and non-working during working hours that was reportedly the norm for a large number of male employees. Surely that can’t be adding to the bottom line? Even if the bosses are all misogynistic sociopaths, I’d have thought they’d be keen to get the hours worked they were paying for.

    Also, in Blizzard’s case, there’s the persuasive argument that this culture is leaking money like a sinking ship. Before this story broke all the Blizzard news for months has been related to underperforming games and departing customers. It would seem as though whatever the frat boys used to do that made all the money, they haven’t been doing it as well, if at all, for a long time. Again, in the evidence of such failure to produce results under the system in place, why would you seek to shore it up?

    The thing that most puzzles me, though, is why all of this is centered on civil law. Aren’t many of the sexual incidents being reported violations of the criminal law? They certainly would be where I live. Given that people are coming forward to make specific statements about named individuals, why aren’t the criminal authorities taking an interest? I am sure that even if Act-Blizz can shrug off a multi-million dollar fine, few of their line employees will be so sanguine about shrugging off a conviction (or even a trial) for sexual assault.

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    • I can say with 100% certainty (through experience) that it is less costly to work in an oppressive environment than an inclusive one. As long as the resources (people) are infinite, you can treat them like garbage. They quit, you find another. This is fundamental to Amazon and Walmart’s business models.

      The law in the US does not criminalize this type of abuse. Physical abuse, yes. Mental abuse, no.

      This is a painful thing to say, but the financial people will decide what to do about this. Maybe these devs can find a better place to work… but when all if industry is like this, then what?

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    • For the particular incidents that could be considered criminal, I think the issue is one of burden of proof. It would be so much harder to successfully convict a criminal case than to prove civilliy they have a shitty culture that doesn’t do enough to protect its people to the standard required by the state.

      The Riot case is one I’d love to have an update on. The $10m settlement never went ahead though I think. It’s unclear. News said Riot agreed to pay the $10m as a preliminary settlement, I don’t know whether they did. New counsel for the plaintiffs decided to go big — up to a $400m claim. The latest update I can find suggests they’re trying to reinstate an arbitration process. https://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2021-01-29-riot-games-seeks-arbitration-in-gender-discrimination-lawsuit

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