Are you really surprised by the latest scandal out of Activision Blizzard, a company known for its bad business practices and bad treatment of employees? What's more, are you really surprised that the gaming industry, known for being a bit of a boy's club, has had yet another #MeToo scandal? We like to think that our favorite games are developed in a vacuum, separate from the stuffed-up problems of the real world. Sadly, that's rarely (if ever) the case.
It's not just game development either. The same toxicity that drives the behaviors exposed at Activision Blizzard has reflected in scandals in Video Game media. High-profile departures at IGN, reports of harassment at Rooster Teeth, it's all indicative of the situation we have found ourselves in, a 2021 Gaming Industry that is still nowhere need as accommodating to women as it really should be.
Now, let's be real. I'm a man, and have never – and like will never – experienced the kind of harassment and maltreatment that many of the women who have come forward over the last few days have experienced. I would be bereft to pretend that those of us whom have been lucky enough to avoid such situations could understand, but that doesn't mean we have to be ignorant.
I said earlier that the gaming industry has been a bit of a boy's club for a long time now, but I want to expand on that point. To add a bit of a bright side of the road, I need to point out that things are getting better. More women play games now than ever before, and more are involved in game's media and development than ever before. This is a really great thing, but can also be a hidden curse – because it opens the door for some pretty irrational arguments.
Just because the above statements I made – that more women play games and work in the games industry than ever before – is true, does not mean that we have solved these problems. Too often does it creep into our collective psyche's that inclusion solves everything. There are, to be honest, two parts of this conversation. Let's dive in.
Part 1: Even If Inclusion is the ONLY Important Thing, Activision Blizzard Proves That We're Not There Yet
Let's get straight to the point. One of the two main parts of the lawsuit being leveled at Activision Blizzard is in regards to its alleged failure to put women on an equal playing field with men. What do I mean by this? Well, take a read of this excerpt from the lawsuit...
"Unlike its customer-base of increasingly diverse players, Defendants' workforce is only about 20 percent women. Its top leadership is also exclusively male and white. The CEO and President roles are now – and have always been – held by white men. Very few women ever reach top roles at the company. The women who do reach higher roles earn less salary, incentive pay and total compensation than their male peers, as evidenced in Defendants' own records. Similar disparities exist throughout the company." — Excerpt from Lawsuit DFEH vs. Activision Blizzard, Page 3, Article 3.
Now, many people would take a look at the sentences "Very few women ever reach top roles at the company" and "The women who do reach higher roles earn less salary, incentive pay and total compensation than their male peers...", but what is more important here is that final sentence. The important thing about that final sentence is that it perfectly illustrates the problem – it's not just about the rich folks. This is a problem at every level of Activision Blizzard.
It's not just Activision Blizzard who have this problem. Inclusion and equity has not been reached across most of the gaming industry. Pay disparities run rampant, there is often very little upwards mobility for women working in the industry. The scariest thing? As disgraceful as it is, it's not the only problem that the video games industry has to address when it comes to gender...
Part 2: Inclusion Hasn't Solved Sexual Harassment and Discrimination.. Only Respect Can Solve That
When it comes to the most shocking allegations in the Activision Blizzard Sexual Harassment and Discrimination scandal, it's the harassment claims that really takes the ticket for despicability. That's what it is: despicable. Is there really anything else to say to this? Honestly, I'm not going into the details of the claims put forward in the lawsuit, but what I will do is say the following:
We can only go forward so far by making sure that women are represented equally across the video game industry. It's an incredibly important thing to see women working ubiquitously across all sectors, in journalism, in development, in PR, but that does not (in all cases) solve the problem of sexism and... in the case of Activision Blizzard... harassment.
No, I'm not surprised by this week's revelations, but in an ideal world I would be. The alleged behaviors exposed in the lawsuit should never get to the point where they are so fundamentally accepted within an organization that a Government regulator has to step in. Even more importantly, they should never – under any circumstances – get to the point where a woman feels uncomfortable, is emotionally abused, is physically assaulted (yes, groping is assault), or commits suicide. All of these things and more should never happen.
So, here's the message. If these kind of behaviors become apparent in any workplace environment (or any environment, for that matter), call them out, and cut the abusers from the arteries of your organization. They don't belong anywhere, let alone in our beloved Video Game industry. We can all do so much better.
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