If calling out injustice is the duty of every Spartan, the creators of Halo are on the right track. The proverbial Forerunners of the Halo franchise hit back at Activision Blizzard on Friday for denying allegations of sexual harassment against women in the workplace. The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) filed a class-action lawsuit against the developers of Call of Duty and World of Warcraft on Tuesday on behalf of the company’s beleaguered female staff, demanding several workplace protections, including “unpaid wages, pay adjustments, back pay, lost wages, and benefits.” A spokesperson for Activision Blizzard denied these assertions and described the move as “distorted and false” and “disgraceful and unprofessional,” despite claiming to encourage complaints and good faith discussions without worry of retaliation.
Bungie, the studio behind the original Halo trilogy, tweeted out a response this morning. The developers reaffirmed their commitment to diversity, inclusion, and equal-opportunity merits, while also lamenting Activision Blizzard’s obvious hypocrisy and inability to keep itself in check. Talk about taking a leaf out of Master Chief’s collapsible Cortana. Check out the thread below:
As the Halo developer’s statement implies, the case against Activision Blizzard is as incriminating as it is comprehensive. Company executives are accused of engendering a “pervasive frat boy culture” where male hegemony takes precedence over largely female concerns and male employees can verbally defile their women counterparts whenever they please. Women comprise 20% of Activision Blizzard’s primary workforce, but most are relegated to entry-level positions and are paid lower and given less enticing opportunities. Most are passed up for promotion due to the possibility of pregnancy, while those who are already mothers are castigated for needing to pick up their kids from daycare or use lactation rooms, where they are unceremoniously escorted out so male executives can utilize the space for meetings. The same rowdy behavior is reportedly as endemic online, particularly in online servers for Call of Duty and World of Warcraft.
The few that choose to persevere regardless are subject to sexually inappropriate advances in the workplace courtesy of their male colleagues and so-called “cube crawls” — the practice of ingesting “copious amounts of alcohol” and practically crawling over to their female coworkers’ cubicle spaces to hit on them or otherwise engage in unseemly behavior. These very same men allegedly spend their work hours drinking and playing video games while their female colleagues are forced to handle their bulk of the workload, and are never properly compensated for it. These people come to work thoroughly hungover and allegedly spend each workday skipping responsibilities, joking about rape, and openly bantering about their various sexual escapades. The creators of Halo profess such behavior would not be tolerated if it had occurred in their office.
One female employee, who has not been named, even committed suicide during a business trip, owing to a male supervisor’s indecent advances. The man, who has also not been named, allegedly brought sex toys with him. Male coworkers passed around nude photos of the woman in question during a company holiday party, inadvertently playing an active part in her death. Activision Blizzard’s female staff are generally discriminated on based on gender; their identity reportedly plays a huge role in all levels of employment, especially pertaining to compensation, promotion, assignments, and grounds for termination. The Halo creators take a jab at this by promising to uphold a zero-tolerance policy against “a persistent culture” of abuse, harassment, and gender inequality.
Like the company culture Halo developers admit to have preceded it, the lawsuit was by no means an overnight decision. The DFEH had been tipped two years prior about the issue and has been carrying out an open investigation since 2019. Once enough evidence had been collected, the state of California proceeded with litigation; proceedings officially began in the Los Angeles Superior Court on July 20. The DFEH is requesting the court for an injunction obligating Activision Blizzard to address these concerns and enforcing compliance and other punitive damages. A copy of the lawsuit can be found here.
Blizzard president J. Allen Brack, who was among those directly named in the complaint, responded to the lawsuit in an email, “troubled” by the claims, and maintains his and the company’s stand against discrimination and harassment; he confesses to being a fan of feminist icon Gloria Steinem growing up and generally resenting the reality of “bro culture.” He made no attempts to disparage DFEH in his statement, but instead claims to welcome accountability in any level of employment. At present, no such controversies plague the Halo creators, but it is good to reconsider company gaming culture in light of these disturbing reveals.