Blizzard co-founder and former president and CEO Mike Morhaime has issued a statement saying that he is “ashamed”, following a California lawsuit which accuses Activision Blizzard of a ‘frat boy culture’ rife with sexual harassment.
While the statement does not make it clear if Morhaime was aware of the culture at the studio, he does admit that it was “not perfect.”
“I have read the full complaint against Activision Blizzard and many of the other stories,” said Morhaime. “It is all very disturbing and difficult to read. I am ashamed. It feels like everything I thought I stood for has been washed away. What’s worse but even more important, real people have been harmed, and some women had terrible experiences.
“I was at Blizzard for 28 years. During that time, I tried very hard to create an environment that was safe and welcoming for people of all genders and backgrounds. I knew that it was not perfect, but clearly we were far from that goal. The fact that so many women were mistreated and were not supported means we let them down. In addition, we did not succeed in making it feel safe for people to tell their truth. It is no consolation that other companies have faced similar challenges. I wanted us to be different, better.
“Harassment and discrimination exist. They are prevalent in our industry. It is the responsibility of leadership to keep all employees feeling safe, supported, and treated equitably, regardless of gender and background. It is the responsibility of leadership to stamp out toxicity and harassment in any form, across all levels of the company. To the Blizzard women who experienced any of these things, I am extremely sorry that I failed you.”
Morhaime went on to address the women at Activision Blizzard directly, saying: “I hear you, I believe you, and I am so sorry to have let you down. I want to hear your stories, if you are willing to share them.” He also noted his position as a “leader in our industry,” promising to drive “positive change and to combat misogyny, discrimination, and harassment wherever I can.”
The Blizzard co-founder left the company back in 2019, and was replaced by current Blizzard president J. Allen Brack. In an email to staff, Brack acknowledged the allegations as being “extremely troubling.”
“It is completely unacceptable for anyone in the company to face discrimination or harassment,” said Brack. “It takes courage to come forward, and all claims brought to the company are investigated by internal and (when needed) external investigators.”
Brack was personally named in the lawsuit as having failed to prevent another developer, Alex Afrasiabi, from consistently harassing female co-workers.
Brack’s email is in a remarkably different tone than Activision Blizzard’s initial response to the lawsuit, which describes the accusations as “distorted, and in many cases false,” and referred to the the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing as “unaccountable State bureaucrats that are driving many of the State’s best businesses out of California.”