The toxic culture extends far into Blizzard's past but the merger with Activision just made it worse.
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A new report from Bloomberg has uncovered even more details about the "frat boy" like culture that has been festering for years at Activision Blizzard. This includes an incident from 2018 involving then Blizzard chief information officer Derrick Ingalls. While addressing the departure of chief technology officer Ben Kilgore, Ingalls made a crude joke about having sex with subordinates.

For some background information, Kilgore had allegedly presided "over the most notorious group of sexist drinkers at the Irvine, California, headquarters, where sexism and drinking were rampant, current, and former employees said." His departure came suddenly and was announced via an email sent out during the Summer of 2018 from Blizzard CEO Mike Morhaime.

A company meeting was called where Derrick Ingalls addressed those who were in attendance. Ingalls, in talking about Kilgore's sudden departure from the company said, "Don't sleep with your assistant, but if you're going to sleep with your assistant, don't stop." The joke was said with a representative from human resources in attendance who "stood silently by." After Ingalls' remarks, speculation about Kilgore's departure began to circulate around the office. A former Blizzard assistant said that "this sort of locker room banter was sexist and damaging to the careers of assistants and other women at the company."

Current and former Blizzard employees then took to social media to share their own experiences. More than 50 spoke to Bloomberg, and most requested anonymity over fear of reprisal. Women recalled getting accosted for dates at the office, being subjected to alcohol-fueled hazing rituals and watching male colleagues use company events as a venue to solicit sex. Six women said they reported incidents to Blizzard’s HR department and saw no results.
According to one former employees, Blizzard was full of management that took on a "rock-star mentality." Upper management, primarily made up of men, would then hire more men and would ignore inappropriate behavior. They said that "these developers were untouchable. Not only could they tell you how to do your job, but they have so much power, they could do whatever they want in line of sight with their other powerful friends."

Many executives were also reportedly dating lower-ranked employees. Mike Morhaime, for example, "courted and then married a Blizzard business director in 2010." A co-founder, Frank Pearce, left his wife for a representative working for Blizzard customer service. J. Allen Brack, who recently left Activision Blizzard after being named in a lawsuit filed by the state of California, also married a lower-ranking employee.

Those relationships were consensual, but they set a precedent that made some female employees uncomfortable, the women said. That dynamic, combined with testosterone-fueled arrogance and heavy drinking that were a regular part of office culture, led to frequent and often unwanted sexual advances. Cher Scarlett, who worked at Blizzard for a year starting in 2015, said she was groped by male co-workers at two company parties. “It didn’t even occur to me I should report this behavior,” she said, “because in my mind this behavior was normal and protected here.”
The success of World of Warcraft led to a snowball effect. The game rose in popularity, which resulted in massive attendance and focus on events like BlizzCon, which went from 4,000 attendees in 2005 to over 20,000 in 2010. It was a cultural phenomenon that served as "a turning point for Blizzard, and for its culture." Male employees began to see women at these conventions "not just as customers but as groupies."

Men at all levels traded insults that regularly involved the word rape, according to the lawsuit and interviews. Some women found themselves so isolated that they were even at odds with female co-workers, said Nicki Broderick, who worked at Blizzard from 2012 to 2019. “Because there were so few women, the women really had to compete to stand out with their peers,” she said. “It created a really toxic, competitive environment, not just between the men and women at Blizzard but the women themselves.”

Whenever a woman started in the quality assurance department, men would line up to introduce themselves, said two women who worked on the team. (Male recruits did not get their own receiving lines.) On the esports team, women frequently complained about a man who gave them unwanted backrubs, made inappropriate moaning noises during meetings and discussed his sexual exploits in detail, said Broderick, a former project manager in that department. In spite of all the complaints, “they didn’t touch him,” she said.
Mike Morheim was adored by many Blizzard employees. Stories about his kindness and creativity were shared amongst peers. Morhaime reportedly encouraged people to come directly to him with problems they had around the office.

This "warm leadership style could be a blind spot." Some employees said that he was "shielded from the misbehavior or that he gave offenders the benefit of the doubt, extended them too many chances or let them walk over him." A former assistant to Morhaime says that she had "informed him and other executives about rampant misconduct."

Morhaime's planned successor, Ben Kilgore reportedly did not share his boss's understated demeanor. Two former employees say that they witnessed Kilgore touch female colleagues inappropriately at work functions.

Technology employees reportedly got drunk during work hours or even just showed up to work drunk and hungover. Employees would get so drunk that they would vomit in trash cans, others would hold after-work hazing rituals that saw new recruits taking shots of alcohol every half hour. Blizzard attempted to curtail this behavior in 2019 when they enacted a "two-drink maximum" for after-work functions.

After Blizzard was merged with Activision in 2008, certain behaviors were made even worse. Employees, both current and former, say that Activision imposed tough deadlines and reduced resources. A result of these changes showed up with 2020's release of Warcraft III: Reforged. This release was "the result of mismanagement and financial pressures form Activision. In general, Activision's new oversight led to increased workloads and stress at the company, including "exhaustion, anxiety, depression, and more."

Bloomberg says that some Blizzard staff refer to Activision "as the Eye of Sauron." Budget cuts constantly lingered over their heads and managers for every department are constantly jockeying for resources. Due to this, "some are reluctant to report internal problems and risk drawing unwanted attention to their team from corporate overlords."

To top it off, a recent change to the performance review system forces management to give more frequent negative reviews. This leads to smaller bonuses and profit share for employees.

Several women said they fear this will give managers more opportunities to discriminate in conscious and unconscious ways—and that it will further empower the company’s supposed rock stars.