The great P.T. Barnum once said “there is no such thing as bad publicity.”
One hundred and thirty years after his death, Activision Blizzard has proven the legendary showman wrong with another notch on the hangman’s post – or rather, a deeper notch. News broke mid-Thursday about a lawsuit being filed against the makers of World Of Warcraft by an individual identified as “Jane Doe,” who is citing not only the company but several of its employees by name for sexual misconduct, a toxic “frat house” working environment, and for suppressing complaints via pressure on victims and retaliatory behavior against those who spoke out.
As part of our ongoing coverage of the slow implosion of Activision Blizzard, we covered the initial strikes that took place back in December. As part of this coverage, we brought attention to a woman calling herself “Christine” who went public with her story regarding the rampant abuse within the company. Represented by Lisa Bloom, the same attorney who filed the suit on behalf of Doe in the Los Angeles Superior Court, the claims made in the suit and the actions requested therein strongly indicate that Christine and Jane Doe may be the same person – who, as is being reported, is still currently working for the company.
While many details of the disgusting abuses and misconduct have been making the rounds, this suit brings to light new and horrifying details to add to the cesspool that has become the company’s reputation. Describing the environment working as a senior administrative assistant to the IT department since 2017, Doe has referred to it it as “an alcohol-soaked culture of sexual harassment.”
Along with the rampant sexism and discrimination we’ve heard about, not to mention the “cube crawls” that took place, Doe has outlined not only uncomfortable forms of initiation such as being pressured to share an “embarrassing secret” at a dinner that took place on her first day of work, but also to consume alcohol on the clock and participate in the aforementioned cube crawls. After hours, workplace events such as playing Jackbox (a party based video game collection requiring participants to formulate and share answers to various prompts) often turned blatantly sexual with the various answers provided by employees during the course of an event.
“Damaging the Company”
None of this is very new, but in further evaluating the lawsuit, Doe further details her attempts to escape the harassment by dressing more conservatively. This harassment included sexual advances from her supervisors, and when she levied complaints was told to keep silent to avoid “damaging” the company.
Doe further tried to run from the abuse by applying to different open positions within the Activision Blizzard. All of applications were rejected, and when she finally wrote to the president of the company at the time, J. Allan Brack, detailing her experiences in this toxic environment, she felt compelled to accept the job she was subsequently offered. The position resulted in a demotion within the company structure, and a lower salary – and according to the suit, Ms. Doe’s supervisor often set her up to fail in her new position.
Finally, when Doe chose to speak out in November, and later applied for an executive position within the company, she was rejected as a means of retaliating for her written complaints to the company president and her open discussion of the abuses within the company.
Bear in mind, at that time, November of 2021, this was taking place in the thick of the exposure of Activision Blizzard via the lawsuit levied by state regulators.
As it stands, the suit is seeking numerous court orders that would, among other things, require the company to retain a neutral investigation firm, install a rotating human resources department to squash any conflicts of interest, and require the firing of CEO, Bobby Kotick.
Beyond the Mere Facts
These are the facts, but this story is so much more than that.
As a journalist, it is my duty to remain impartial when reporting the facts, but if you’ve been following the saga along with me, you’ll note that often times these pieces turn editorial. The reporting is important, sharing the cold, sometimes monotonous data is vital to the public process of accountability—not cancel culture, but raising awareness to allow for the populous to make their own judgments about who they support and who they do not with their voices, their dollars, and their own presence in society, be it large or small.
However, in a world where many often cry ‘cancel culture’ when there is a case of public shaming, there is equal importance in framing things so that their weight can be felt. Outrage can be too easily dismissed or inflamed, scandal can too often be cast in a more positive light for the illicit appeal of its salaciousness. In the place where emotion and reason meet, the heart of any matter when justice is found not in tabloid venom but in empathy, I believe that feelings do have a place in news coverage.
This was not merely a case of a few bad apples running around an office flirting indecently or having secret affairs. This particular case was one where a woman was running like hell at every turn to escape a relentless amount of unwanted touching, sexual attention, and obscene behavior and being cut off at every turn, cornered until she felt she had no other alternative but to diminish her own career in the name of safety.
What’s more, this is but one single facet of a larger case of systemic corruption that has, to date, resulted in a laundry list of victims, one of which is now dead.
We can only hope that the right people will finally feel the weight of this fact, in the place where emotion and reason meet. It is my fervent hope that, sooner rather than later, I will not have to add another of these stories to the media timeline.
Liz Carlie (she/her/he/him) is a regular book, TV, and film reviewer for SCIFI.radio and has previously been a guest on ‘The Event Horizon’. In addition to being an active member of the traditional fandom community, she’s also an active participant in online fan culture, pro wrestling journalism, and spreading the gospel of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. She resides in Southern California with her aspiring superhero dog, Junior, enjoying life one hyperfixation at a time.