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Activision Blizzard was their dream job. The workplace was a nightmare

February 9, 2022, 11:00 AM UTC

Nicki Broderick arrived promptly at 9:30 a.m. on June 13, 2011, for her first day as an employee at the video game developer Blizzard Entertainment.

Lined up in front of her keyboard she found a row of shots—she thinks they were Fireball Whisky—apparently to acknowledge that it was also Broderick’s 21st birthday. She’d never done shots before, at any time of day, but downed them with her manager. It was the first time Broderick, who spent eight years at Blizzard, felt forced to drink at work. But it was far from the last. Later, during a work trip to Korea, Broderick says she was instructed not to refuse any drinks on a celebratory evening out with colleagues from a company that had partnered with Blizzard on an e-sports event, lest the vendor be offended. 

“They made me drink until I was blackout drunk,” Broderick tells Fortune. “I don’t even know how I got back to my hotel that night.” 

Broderick’s experience was extreme, but hardly unique. More than two dozen women told Fortune that for most of Blizzard’s three-decade history, and until very recently, they felt they were treated differently from men. In fact, they say, the demeaning and bullying behavior often began the moment a woman arrived. During new employee onboarding, men would walk by to, as some put it, “check out the crop”—meaning, of women. When a woman arrived for her first day of work, “there would literally be a group of men around her so you couldn’t even see her,” says a female current longtime employee. In the quality assurance department, according to multiple employees, including Broderick, for a time there was a spreadsheet to rank new hires on a “hotness” scale from 1 to 10—listing a woman’s best features and whether she was available or not.

Portrait of Nicki Broderick, former Activision Blizzard employee
Nicki Broderick, a former Activision Blizzard employee, in Mission Viejo, Calif. Employees are speaking out against harassment and toxic work culture at Activision Blizzard.
Photograph by Lauren Justice

Some women say they quickly learned to avoid answering questions about relationship status. “Otherwise, these guys wouldn’t work with me, or wouldn’t go out of their way to help me out or get me engaged on a project,” a female former employee tells Fortune.

When men would stop by their desks, women say they felt pressure to be polite, but then would get feedback that they were too sociable. If a man yelled, that was okay because it was seen as passion; if a woman cried she would be written off as too emotional. At the same time, women at Blizzard say they could almost convince themselves that bad behavior by the men should be excused as a byproduct of shared enthusiasm. “That’s why you’re there, is because you love gaming,” says Cher Scarlett, a software engineer at Blizzard from August 2015 to August 2016. “It’s very confusing when you love something so much.”

Blizzard, the 31-year-old video game powerhouse known for World of Warcraft and Overwatch, is a division of Activision Blizzard, which ranks No. 373 on the Fortune 500. In 2008, Activision acquired Blizzard’s parent company, and the video game maker became a unit of Activision. Still, Blizzard long retained its own distinctive culture—one that many former and current employees describe as toxic.

The workplace issues at Blizzard have come to the fore thanks to a July 2021 suit brought by California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) alleging gender discrimination, harassment, and retaliation—this after a more than two-year investigation into the company that began in 2018. The 29-page court filing and the subsequent 35-page amended complaint assert that the company “fostered a sexist culture” by paying women less than men despite instances in which employees performed substantially similar work; assigned women to lower-level jobs and promoted them at slower rates compared with men; fired or forced women to quit more frequently than men; and subjected women to “constant sexual harassment.” As the amended complaint reads, “Female employees almost universally confirmed that working for Defendants was akin to working in a frat house, which invariably involved male employees drinking and subjecting female employees…to sexual harassment with no repercussion.” The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) also filed suit against the company in September for sexual harassment and pregnancy discrimination. 

Those legal actions were followed by a bombshell acquisition announcement in mid-January. In the largest cash acquisition of a U.S. company ever, Microsoft said it planned to acquire Activision for $68.7 billion. If the transaction is finalized as planned, Phil Spencer, the CEO of Microsoft Gaming, will oversee Activision Blizzard. But Bobby Kotick, Activision’s CEO for more than 30 years and a polarizing figure in the gaming world for his bottom-line mentality, will remain at the helm of Activision Blizzard—and his holdings will be worth some $375 million if the purchase is completed.

The deal still must be approved by regulators. And the Federal Trade Commission is reportedly planning to review the acquisition, rather than the Justice Department. That raises the possibility that the FTC could object to Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision Blizzard on antitrust grounds—the combined entity would be the third-largest gaming company in the world. A spokesperson for Microsoft declined to comment for this story.

Assuming that Microsoft is able to complete the Activision Blizzard purchase, it will be taking on a company that is still in the process of reckoning with allegations of corporate misbehavior that go back more than two decades.

Fortune’s interviews with 29 former and current Blizzard employees reveal a dark and complicated picture of how Blizzard, a vibrant and outrageously successful gaming startup that for its first three years employed not a single woman, became part of a Fortune 500 company that routinely allowed women to be harassed, belittled, and discriminated against. (Some of the women Fortune spoke to feared retaliation for speaking out or had signed nondisclosure agreements. Others had been required to sign non-disparagement agreements, something that was cited in the amended California complaint.)

Blizzard fostered what the California complaint described as a “hostile work environment,” in which previously anonymous developers became celebrities, emboldened by their newfound importance. Many employees say they were deeply distrustful of HR, where, according to the amended complaint, employees were discouraged from complaining, as HR staffers “were known to be close to alleged harassers.” The amended complaint cites Blizzard’s own internal investigation of HR, which noted that there was “a big lack of trust” and that “HR was not held in high regard.” This was all set against an ever-increasing focus on the bottom line, an environment in which, according to the amended complaint, “high-ranking executives and creators engaged in blatant sexual harassment without repercussions.”

In response to a request for comment from Fortune, Activision draws a bright line between the Blizzard of yesteryear and what exists today: “The Blizzard you portray from years past is not the Blizzard of today. Virtually no one you mention from Blizzard is still with the company, and the events and processes you highlight are not a reflection of today’s Blizzard—nor have they been for years. The leadership team at Blizzard is focused on creating the best possible environment for every member of our team. Across Activision Blizzard, our goal is to set an example for our industry with a truly safe and respectful workplace. Mr. Kotick is focused on ensuring that we live up to our values and aspirations without exception, and we are working hard to take the actions necessary to do so.”

Activision added that there is no record of HR complaints for many of the incidents described in this story, and that when the company is made aware of allegations, it investigates and takes action. According to Activision Blizzard, following internal reviews of complaints that were filed, since July 37 employees have exited the company and another 44 have received written reprimands, formal warnings, or other discipline. The company also sent Fortune a list of 15 recent changes it had instituted to improve workplace conditions, including a November policy to ban alcohol in the workplace, and waiving required arbitration of individual sexual harassment and discrimination claims.

The story of Activision Blizzard takes place, of course, in the gaming industry, which has been associated with misogyny “practically since the first line of code was written,” as one current Blizzard employee puts it. But at its heart, it’s a chilling case study of how extreme and even blatantly illegal behavior can become so normalized inside an organization that it doesn’t just infringe on the culture, it becomes the culture.

The early years

Blizzard (originally named Silicon & Synapse) was founded by three college friends from UCLA in 1991. It was a place where nerds ruled. The core was a tight-knit group of men who lived and breathed games in “a work environment that was thankfully more like a frat house than a business,” as a 10th anniversary video released in 2001 put it. “We just wanted guys who were really into games and really into computer coding,” cofounder Allen Adham recalled in a later video, talking about the types of programmers the company wanted to hire. Micky Neilson, who arrived in 1993 and stayed for 22 years, wrote of the time in his memoir: “We all worked together and we all partied together and one informed the other…I would even go so far as to say that the foundation of what Blizzard is today was built on a bedrock of karaoke, [fighter game] Samurai Shodown, and Jack and Coke.”

One of the company’s early offerings was Warcraft: Orcs & Humans, released in November 1994, a quirky real-time fantasy strategy game set in the mythic kingdom of Azeroth. It was the company’s first hit, immediately spawning two sequels and paving the way for a multibillion-dollar franchise known as World of Warcraft.

Around this time, three years after its founding, Blizzard hired its first female employee, an event of such significance it was touted in the 2001 video with a voiceover saying the woman brought “calm and serenity” and her “little-sister-like demeanor brought a bit of sunshine.”

Women remained so scarce at Blizzard through the early 2000s that everyone I approached from that period told me they would be easily identified even if quoted anonymously. And women at Blizzard had the same burden they had in the industry in general—or as players—which is to prove they were “real” gamers. Christine Brownell, who arrived in 2003 to work in quality assurance (or QA), a team that checks to make sure the game works as expected and nothing is broken, says hardly anyone talked to her for two weeks and no one invited her to lunch. Until, that is, she came in second in a Saturday event the company held to test the tournament functionality on its game Warcraft III: The Frozen Zone. “Then everything changed,” says Brownell, who looks back at her two years at Blizzard fondly (and says she was never harassed).

Like many of her colleagues, Brownell was excited just to be working at one of the coolest companies in the industry. It was the kind of place where some developers “avoid eye contact and are awkward conversationalists,” recalled John Staats, one of World of Warcraft’s original level designers, in an interview with Fortune (he also wrote a memoir about the making of World of Warcraft). But they were so passionate with the games they were creating that they voluntarily worked on weekends because they wanted extra time to focus on pet projects, Staats says.

Game development is a huge gamble: You can invest years and millions, and yet there’s no real way to tell if a game is going to be fun to play until people experience it. So when Blizzard released World of Warcraft in November 2004, after nearly a decade in development, its wild and unprecedented success surprised even Blizzard. The multiplayer fantasy game—featuring an innovative business model requiring players to pay for a subscription—transformed the company almost overnight into one whose biggest expenditure was the dozens of customer service representatives it had to hire to handle all the players, as Staats wrote in his memoir.  

And World of Warcraft‘s success had an equally seismic effect on the company’s culture. Before, no one publicly took credit for what they did on a game, so everyone in the company could take ownership. That began to change. Developers were suddenly rock stars complete with adoring fans (Blizzard held its first fan convention, BlizzCon, in 2005) and company parking lots suddenly began to be dotted with Lamborghinis. (At the time, Blizzard shared profits with employees, with percentages based on their roles and how long they’d been there.)

World of Warcraft “just really blew things up,” says a former employee who spent more than a decade there. “That same level of trust and that same level of friendships just can’t really scale.”

Difficult monsters

Even before the release of World of Warcraft, however, the three founders of Blizzard—Allen Adham, Mike Morhaime, and Frank Pearce—recognized signs that the culture at Blizzard needed reining in. “All of the ingredients for Blizzard’s current problems were already there,” says one former employee. A female instructor was brought in to teach all of the roughly 300 employees at the time a four-hour course on hostile work environments, including detailed information about California’s laws on harassment. (Adham, who is still at Blizzard today, declined to comment on questions about Blizzard’s work environment. Morhaime did not comment on the record, and Pearce did not respond to a request for comment.)

But even as Blizzard was educating its employees about hostile work environments, it was elevating men who showed a deep disregard for women with whom they worked. Exhibit A: a developer named Alex Afrasiabi, who was brought in to work on World of Warcraft in 2004 and is one of two men named in the DFEH complaint. He engaged in “blatant sexual harassment with little to no repercussions,” according to the complaint. The other man named in the complaint: J. Allen Brack, Blizzard’s former president, who allegedly failed to sanction Afrasiabi. Neither Afrasiabi nor Brack could be reached for comment.

Rob Pardo, World of Warcraft’s lead designer, was said to be opinionated and liked to hire people who were equally so. He sometimes found them by scouring game forums. Pardo and Afrasiabi spent so much of their free time playing EverQuest, a 1999 Sony Online Entertainment game of the Dungeons and Dragons ilk, that each ran guilds, or groups of players who decide to band together for common goals, like taking on difficult monsters. According to Blood Plagues and Endless Raids, a 2017 book by Anthony Palumbi about World of Warcraft, the EverQuest guild Afrasiabi helmed, called Fires of Heaven, solicited nude pictures from female applicants and circulated those photos among its membership.

Afrasiabi was a difficult coworker, say multiple colleagues at the time, who could be openly contemptuous in person and on emails. His early infractions were probably borderline, say several women, causing them to ask themselves, “Okay, was it really that bad? Do we really have to do anything about this?” says a female former employee. “And even if a man got talked to, there were never any consequences.”

The amended complaint notes that Brack “allegedly had multiple conversations with Afrasiabi about his drinking.” Yet alcohol was as integral to Blizzard’s culture as late-night Dungeons & Dragons sessions. “Cube crawls”—which were also cited in the complaint—might include Jell-O shots and vodka-soaked gummy bears, starting at 4 p.m. and going on until 2 or 3 in the morning, say former employees. Beers with lunch were not uncommon, nor was other daytime drinking. (Staats, by contrast, says that the worst behavior he’d seen or heard about in his 11 years at Blizzard were about “one or two people who drank too much at a company event.” The holiday and launch parties he attended were “very tame, corporate affairs.”)

Female former employees report casual sexism (“You got this job because of your looks”), jokes about rape and sex trafficking, and unwanted hugs and touches on the waist. This type of harassment was also referenced in the complaint, which states that male employees “talk openly about female bodies and joke about rape” while female employees were “having to continually fend off unwanted sexual comments and advances by their male coworkers and supervisors and being groped at the ‘cube crawls’ and other company events.” The unwanted advances became bolder when the men drank. “They didn’t have a lot of social skills and they didn’t have ill intentions, but they made mistakes,” says a woman who worked there circa 2006.

Cher Scarlett, a developer formerly employed by Activision, poses for a portrait on Jan. 14, 2022.
Photograph by Chona Kasinger

Soon it was an open secret that some men, of which Afrasiabi was perhaps the most notable, would touch women inappropriately at Blizzard parties, but the behavior was normalized and excused as drunken hijinks. Scarlett, the former Blizzard software engineer, says Afrasiabi groped her at a Blizzard wrap party, and that she was told by a friend who’d had Afrasiabi grope her at BlizzCon the year before: “He’s a drunk idiot and he does that all the time.” (The amended complaint referred to Afrasiabi as “a blatant example” of the company’s “refusal to deal with a harasser because of his seniority/position.”)

Leveling up

In late 2007, Blizzard moved into a new headquarters more befitting its status as a gaming juggernaut. The old building had been an unguarded, nondescript office park where employees had toiled (often in windowless rooms, which are actually better for avoiding glare on monitors) in anonymity; the new ones had a guarded entrance with “BLIZZARD” welded atop a flat black gate.

It was around this time the founders decided they needed to codify the company’s core values—though one early employee suggests this may have been done so that they could be inscribed on the compass points of a 12-foot-tall, two-ton bronze orc warrior statue they had commissioned for the new headquarters. The founders came up with eight—including “play nice, play fair,” “embrace your inner geek,” “lead responsibly,” and “every voice matters.”

But that last core value was not the case for anyone who complained to HR, said multiple women who spoke to Fortune

Broderick, the employee whose first day started with shots, says that initially she felt too green to approach HR herself when harassed. So a mentor reported an incident on Broderick’s behalf. A coworker allegedly said to Broderick: “Oh, my God, your ass looks so great in those shorts.” HR’s response: The coworker was from Europe and “didn’t understand American culture.” (Broderick’s mentor confirmed this account to Fortune.) Later, Broderick asked HR if she could switch managers, since she felt like hers was blocking opportunities and taking credit for her work. HR’s response, Broderick says, was, “You’re just being a brat”—actually using the word “brat”—and “you need to stop trying to get somewhere better.” 

Employees recount a revolving door of HR hires that made it hard to build up trust. And if HR did take action on complaints, according to some employees, it was often just to move the problem person to another team. There was rarely, if ever, a paper trail. If HR came back and said, as they did with one woman, “It’s a misunderstanding. We’ll talk to him,” there was no proof that they did. The former software engineer Scarlett says that after she posted about her experiences at Blizzard on Twitter, including negative encounters with HR, she heard similar stories from more than 300 employees and alums. Multiple women told Fortune that they didn’t feel they could trust the HR process and that speaking out might in fact be used against them.

The California DFEH filing draws the same conclusion. The complaint noted that Blizzard “failed to take effective remedial measures” in response to reports of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation. Furthermore, it found that employee complaints were “treated in a perfunctory and dismissive manner and not kept confidential. As a result of these complaints, female employees and contingent or temporary workers were subjected to retaliation, including but not limited to being deprived of work projects, unwillingly transferred to different units, and selected for layoffs.”

Topping the charts

By 2008, World of Warcraft had some 9 million players worldwide, making it the most successful online gaming franchise in history. And Bobby Kotick—chief executive of Activision, maker of games like the Call of Duty franchise—wanted to add it to his company’s growing game portfolio. So he orchestrated the blockbuster merger of the games division of Vivendi (which had acquired Blizzard as part of a 1998 deal) and Activision.

Kotick was well-known for his focus on the bottom line. “He made his name with a laser focus on building a shareholder-friendly company in a business more often swayed by the latest fad,” noted an article naming him a finalist for MarketWatch’s 2008 CEO of the Year award. Kotick’s public candor about his desire to maximize profits has at times alienated gaming purists. Online, Kotick has even been portrayed as the devil, with photoshopped horns.

But the Kotick effect didn’t start to be felt at Blizzard until February 2012, when the company laid off 600 employees after World of Warcraft subscriptions dropped from their 2010 peak of 12 million to 6.8 million. Before long, some Blizzard employees teased each other when they’d hear a colleague allude to the bottom line. “Be careful, your Activision is showing,” they’d say.

Worse on the way down

If things were hard for women when business was booming, they only got more difficult as the business faltered. After the 2012 layoffs, Blizzard “became more of an asylum of fear than an asylum of creativity,” says a former employee from that time. “You lost a lot of that freedom and that energy because you didn’t know if any day was going to be your last day.”

At the same time, according to employees, Blizzard became like a high school cafeteria, with its cliques. To get on projects or to get help, employees say they got the message from management that you have to network. This push to network, some women told Fortune, increased the pressure on them to stay late, drink more, go to late-night parties.

Cliques of four or five men controlled promotion decisions, according to former employees. In the Austin, Texas, office this was referred to as “coleslaw,” which came from Cole’s law—meaning Wyatt Cole, who came out from Irvine in 2013 to head customer service operations for North America. Cole had several tenets, including, “Have purpose when you speak.” But “of course in a boys’ club, women don’t have purpose,” says a female former Austin employee. The California complaint also referenced the boys’ club dynamics, noting that female employees were “further delayed or passed over for promotions in favor of male counterparts who lacked the same experience or qualifications but who were friends with the male head of the unit.” (Cole did not respond to a request for comment and is no longer with the company.)

Women’s issues

Blizzard is a company that loves email, with Listservs on topics from hobbies to food. In 2012—inspired by news that women in gaming at companies like Microsoft and Sony were also banding together—the women of Blizzard finally got their own email group.

It was such a small thing, female employees say, but it helped to be able to see “sheer numbers of people saying, ‘I have the same problem,’” says one female former employee. Eventually the email group was split into two: one called “Fabulous,” for chatter about lifestyle topics, and another called “Women at Blizzard,” for job-related problems and notices.

The latter is where Blizzard’s women’s council had its roots. But it wasn’t until late summer of 2017 that the company gave the council its blessing.

It did so with a Champagne toast outside on the main campus. There were finger sandwiches and desserts and a bingo game icebreaker where participants had to find a woman who had, say, been to Guatemala, or who had gone to school in New York. Alice White, Blizzard’s global director of recruiting, gave a speech as a handful of female directors looked on. It didn’t escape some women’s notice that there were no female directors from the gaming side, only from marketing, HR, and community, the so-called softer side of the business. (White is now at Google.)

There were Lean In circles, otherwise known as buddy groups—safe spaces where women could get together and share their stories. These groups of about five to eight women met monthly, often outdoors, but the sessions often felt “like a gossip session” or “like a book club,” say multiple employees who attended, because there was little productive that could come out of it besides venting. Anything that bubbled up could only be taken to HR, where women talked about being hesitant to go in the first place. Eventually, the buddy group momentum fizzled out. 

“I feel like Blizzard was genuinely trying to help,” says one current employee. “But I think they were afraid to tackle the true problem of sexual harassment in the frat boy culture.” At the time Activision Blizzard was also being publicly lauded for being an exciting place to work, including by Fortune, where the company won spots on the “100 Best Companies to Work For” list from 2015 to 2019. Employee surveys taken by the Great Place to Work Institute reported that “91% of employees said that it’s a fun place to work.”

Employees from that era at Blizzard say there seemed to be little attention paid to what women really wanted, like how to get promoted when they were working just as hard as the men. As the California complaint noted: “Defendants promote women more slowly and terminate them more quickly than their male counterparts.”

In late 2018, two employees of Riot Games filed a class-action lawsuit accusing the company of gender-based discrimination and harassment. (The suit was settled in December 2021, with Riot agreeing to pay $100 million.) Around the same time, Blizzard hired a new diversity, equity, and inclusion expert. But current and former employees say that she was given little in the way of resources or funding to support her mission. (Activision says it did begin to focus on and build its DEI efforts across the organization in 2017, and that in 2021 the teams were combined under one leader to coordinate DEI focus and efforts across the different divisions of the company.)

As new waves of layoffs spread through Blizzard in 2019, women at the company say they were disproportionately targeted and unfairly treated once again. In one example, a woman who’d been given a lot of extra responsibilities in Blizzard’s global broadcast department after the layoffs was later denied a promotion. When she questioned it, she says she was told that the company wanted to keep everything “stagnant” after the job cuts. But in the next two days, four men got promoted. She shared the promotion email with Fortune, along with a note she sent to her boss asking if they could talk. In response, Activision says that promotions continued as scheduled in 2019 for both men and women.

In a statement to Fortune, Activision reiterated that the human resources personnel and leadership for the company’s different units operated within their respective organizations and did not all report directly into Activision Blizzard until 2019 and that “the commitment to independence occasionally allowed some employees to conduct themselves in truly regrettable ways.” They added, “We recognize that, in some instances, even with the company’s systems and policies to prevent and encourage reporting of inappropriate conduct, we fell short of ensuring that all of our employees’ behavior was consistent with our values and our expectations. In retrospect, we could have done better.” 

Zero tolerance?

The sexual harassment lawsuit brought against Activision Blizzard by the state of California is still ongoing. In September, the day after the EEOC filed suit, Activision Blizzard agreed to settle that case for $18 million—or less than 0.5% of the company’s 2020 revenue. (Activision denied “all allegations of wrongdoing” and said it had agreed to the settlement to avoid “the expense, distraction and possible litigation associated with such a dispute.”) In January, California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed an objection to the EEOC settlement as “unfair, inadequate, and unreasonable,” saying it enables Activision “to escape accountability.” The settlement, the DFEH says, would allow Activision to destroy evidence relevant to California’s case, and that the approximately 13,000 female employees who are possible claimants could receive as little as a few hundred dollars. (By comparison, the DFEH’s settlement with Riot Games was for $100 million, with $80 million of it to go to 2,365 female employees and contractors.)

Kotick has pledged to employ a zero-tolerance harassment policy, waive arbitration in sexual harassment and discrimination claims, and expand the number of women and nonbinary people it employs by 50%. Kotick himself took a 2021 pay cut—from $1.75 million per year to $62,500 per year, California’s state minimum—until the board of directors feels certain diversity and inclusion goals are met. (Kotick earned $155 million from the company in 2021 via a bonus awarded earlier in the year.) For its part, Microsoft’s Spencer told the Wall Street Journal regarding the workplace issues in the unit, “We see the progress that they’re making that was pretty fundamental to us deciding to go forward here.” Microsoft itself announced in mid-January, however, that it was reviewing its own sexual harassment and gender discrimination policies after an activist shareholder won a proposal at its shareholders meeting demanding greater disclosure about how it handled past investigations.

Many leaders mentioned in this story have left Blizzard, including J. Allen Brack, who resigned following the California lawsuit. Since July, Activision Blizzard has cut ties with 37 people, and 44 more have been disciplined. As for Afrasiabi, he was fired in 2020 for misconduct, according to Blizzard.

For the women of Blizzard, the reckoning has been both painful and cathartic. Many are doubtful that the lawsuits or the Microsoft acquisition will lead to real change, but they fervently hope they will. A female employee who’s been at the company nearly a decade says the past few months have been both awkward and somber. “It’s definitely been the hardest time in my career,” she says. “But for the women who are staying, we do it because we believe overall Blizzard is capable of changing and being better.”

Others seem relieved to have moved on. Years of having their bodies ogled, their projects shelved, and their comments talked over in meetings—while seeing promotions go to less qualified men—just takes a toll.

About a month after surviving the 2019 layoffs, Nicki Broderick resigned to take a producer job at another game company. It wasn’t just the panic attacks she’d begun to have while driving to work that made her leave, but also the realization that she truly didn’t love her job anymore and felt like a “sleazy car salesman” pushing Blizzard’s products. “I always thought I was going to retire at Blizzard,” she says, echoing a sentiment I heard from almost every woman I spoke with. “I thought I was going to love this company and be there till the day I die. But it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be, and it didn’t get better in seven years, which is a long time.”

Another woman in the publishing department recalled a story she said pretty much summed up her time at Blizzard, and perfectly illustrates what the amended California complaint describes as “male coworkers belittling…or minimizing their contributions.” During 2018’s BlizzCon, she ran into a tipsy male colleague on the walkway between the Marriott and the Hilton. He stopped her and exclaimed, “I’m so glad you were there so I could take credit for all the work you did!”

Then he hugged her, and walked away.

Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this story stated incorrectly that Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick will receive a $375 million bonus if the Microsoft acquisition closes. The $375 million reflects the value of his equity holdings. 

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