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Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Yeah, Activision is Dumb for Having In-Office Alcoholic Drinks

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - They're still dumb to this day.

The only dedicated article KoopaTV has on the Activision Blizzard sexual misconduct story was mocking Rosen Law Firm's class action lawsuit... less on the merits on the case and more that it's filed by a joke legal company that files class action suits en masse (in ambulance chasing style) that don't seem to go anywhere. And they ignore my repeated requests for information.

Since then, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has attempted to settle with the American videogame company for $18 million... which was OBJECTED to by the original government party seeking action against Activision, which is California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing. Apparently, that federal agreement would have allowed for Activision to deny wrongdoing and weasel out of the other lawsuits, like California's gender discrimination one. The EEOC then had its own OBJECTION, saying that the DFEH's lawyers have a conflict of interest against Activision, and of course Activision will agree with the EEOC and asked for the whole Californian lawsuit to be thrown out. Apparently, those DFEH lawyers worked for the EEOC in an earlier time when they were investigating Activision for prior misdeeds... so it looks like they're just out for revenge, or something. It sounds like a decent Ace Attorney plot, actually, especially since it even takes place in California. At least in this case, it seems like the Californian prosecutors are the good guys and the feds are the bad guys, which is the opposite of what was going on back when Kamala Harris was a Californian prosecutor and not a member of the federal executive branch. (Obviously, everywhere she goes turns bad. That's a really nice plot.)

Anyway, today there was yet another new development that makes Activision look bad, this time from the Wall Street Journal, that implicates CEO Bobby Kotick as knowledgeable of many transgressions and apparently approving of wrongdoing. He's described as quashing internal allegations and discipline, and not informing the board of directors. For their part, the board of directors, as a response to the article, put out a short statement expressing their confidence in Bobby Kotick. That statement is short enough I'll quote it in full before getting to the real point of this article as foretold in the title:

“The Activision Blizzard Board remains committed to the goal of making Activision Blizzard the most welcoming and inclusive company in the industry. Under Bobby Kotick's leadership the Company is already implementing industry leading changes including a zero tolerance harassment policy, a dedication to achieving significant increases to the percentages of women and non-binary people in our workforce and significant internal and external investments to accelerate opportunities for diverse talent. The Board remains confident that Bobby Kotick appropriately addressed workplace issues brought to his attention.

The goals we have set for ourselves are both critical and ambitious. The Board remains confident in Bobby Kotick's leadership, commitment and ability to achieve these goals.”

That definitely undercuts the argument that Bobby Kotick was a bad Chief Executive Officer towards the board of directors, though it also raises questions on how dumb the board of directors is. The gist of Activision's argument is that everything bad happened in the past, and Activision Blizzard is looking to the future, a future where they are a perfect company that happens to not be anything like what the past (and present) Activision is like, so please don't scrutinise the company. Why, if you get rid of this brilliant visionary (that was ultimately responsible for all of the bad stuff), you might stop Activision from becoming better, and no one wants that!

Anyway, nothing I've written or will write is me making a legal judgment against Activision... but I will make a value judgment. They're dumb. They're still dumb. My evidence is this from the Wall Street Journal article:

“A lawyer for a former employee at Sledgehammer Games, an Activision-owned studio, alleged in the email that her client had been raped in 2016 and 2017 by her male supervisor after she had been pressured to consume too much alcohol in the office and at work events.”
“Mr. Roehrich [a Sledgehammer Games employee] confirmed he was investigated for a harassment incident at an office party in 2017, and said ‘it was unclear what exactly did and did not happen, since a lot of alcohol was involved.’ He added that ‘it was stupid of me and totally uncalled for to get that drunk.’ He said he was given a two-week paid leave and allowed to remain at Activision in a different position.”
“Excessive drinking has been associated with numerous complaints of alleged employee misconduct at Activision, according to former employees. Ms. Klasky [an Activision spokeswoman] said the company will soon ban alcohol in the office.”

2016 and 2017, of course, aren't far in the past. And while Bobby Kotick would deny direct involvement in these personnel matters (and he's probably correct), I'd say he surely knows about the general alcoholic beverages served in the workplace issue, especially since the spokeswoman knows about it. If the company will ban alcohol in the office “soon”, that means that it's still there to this day. (Unless it was removed in the time between the spokeswoman saying it and the article being published, but still 2021!) You gotta be a real idiot to have a workplace that serves alcohol on the regular. I've witnessed it at workplaces (especially tech start-ups) trying to use it as a hiring perk to exemplify a “work hard, play hard” mentality. (Side note: You should consider companies that tell you they work hard and play hard to be a red flag on top of the other bad work conditions I identified before. Especially if they treat alcohol like they would coffee.)

I wrote at the start of this year about how I personally abstain from drinking any alcoholic beverages. It's for the same sort of reason that Mr. Roehrich got in trouble for, where it's unclear what happened because he was so drunk he can't even remember. It's a classic excuse provided by dumb people trying to dodge accountability and responsibility. Of course, there's the responsibility of the drinker... and the responsibility of the people serving the alcohol, which is Activision Blizzard at the office. I'm not really sure how they expect people to drink at work and still be productive employees. This is in the office. During work.

I can't think of a single reason why an employer would do that. It's certainly a toxic ingredient both for your body and for workplace culture, which is how you get things like how the article describes “a party for an Activision development studio [former Blizzard co-head Jennifer Oneal] attended with Mr. Kotick around 2007 in which scantily clad women danced on stripper poles. At the same party, a DJ encouraged female attendees to drink more so the men would have a better time, according to another person who was present.” As well as “behavior such as workplace drinking, comments about women’s appearances, the sharing of explicit content and staff-organized trips to strip clubs were common, and they didn’t feel comfortable complaining to human resources.”

Sure, that happened in 2007... but I don't see any tangible evidence on that improving from then to now!

Ludwig would prefer to never mix alcohol and work (or mix alcohol by itself for its own sake), but if you must, it should at least be after work is over. And in a public place. With ways to get people home without having creepy drunk predator employees be driving vulnerable people back. And yes, Ludwig did first-claw see a tech start-up company advertise its in-office alcohol bar, which he was astounded and bewildered at. He asked more about that than the actual company or job because he didn't understand why a company would have that. And he never did, since that start-up never talked to him again. He doesn't know if they're still around. Activision Blizzard is still around, however. Unfortunately.

KoopaTV is far from the only industry player with a reaction to this. The big three console manufacturers have reactions as well.
Protesting Activision's office culture makes sense. Protesting Activision doing something good for once for employees? Naah.


  1. What will r/antiwork think of in-office alcohol bars?

    1. I tried searching for an existing post about this and couldn't find one. :(

      They'd see it as a cynical thing because they view alcoholism as a result of psychological damage of being wageslaved... so it's an all-in-one view where they can just give you the alcohol where you work!


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