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Activision Blizzard workers walk out and demand CEO Bobby Kotick’s resignation

Employees at Activision Blizzard are calling for the resignation of CEO Bobby Kotick following new revelations into the role he may have played in creating the toxic workplace culture that has mired the company in controversy. On Tuesday,  published a comprehensive report on Kotick’s handling of the sexual harassment lawsuit California’s Employment (DFEH) filed against the publisher in July. In short, the outlet claims Kotick not only knew about many of the worst instances of abuse at the company, but in some cases, he may have also acted to protect employees accused of harassment.

“We have instituted our own Zero Tolerance Policy,” Activision Blizzard employee advocacy group A Better ABK on Twitter after the report came out. “We will not be silenced until Bobby Kotick has been replaced as CEO and continue to hold our original demand for Third-Party review by an employee-chosen source.” The group plans to stage a walkout today.

The claims reported by The Journal are extensive and numerous, but a handful stand out. According to documents obtained by the outlet, Kotick penned the now-infamous Frances Townsend, executive vice president of corporate affairs at Activision Blizzard, sent to employees after DFEH filed its lawsuit. In that message, the company said the complaint presented “a distorted and untrue picture of our company, including factually incorrect, old and out of context stories — some from more than a decade ago.” The response drew the ire of many Blizzard employees, who said it was “.”

The report also provides insight into the . One month after her , Blizzard’s first female leader reportedly sent an email to the company’s legal team in which she said she wasn’t convinced Activision Blizzard would turn its culture around. Referencing a moment earlier in her career at the company, she says in the email, “I have been tokenized, marginalized, and discriminated against.”

Elsewhere, the report describes an episode involving Dan Bunting, one of the heads of Activision’s Treyarch studio. In 2017, Bunting was reportedly accused of sexually harassing a female employee. Following an internal investigation, Activision’s HR department recommended he be fired, but Kotick reportedly intervened to keep him at the company.

A spokesperson for Activision Blizzard disputed The Journal’s reporting. The company’s full statement reads as follows:

We are disappointed in the Wall Street Journal’s report, which presents a misleading view of Activision Blizzard and our CEO. Instances of sexual misconduct that were brought to his attention were acted upon. The WSJ ignores important changes underway to make this the industry’s most welcoming and inclusive workplace and it fails to account for the efforts of thousands of employees who work hard every day to live up to their — and our — values. The constant desire to be better has always set this company apart. Which is why, at Mr. Kotick’s direction, we have made significant improvements, including a zero-tolerance policy for inappropriate conduct. And it is why we are moving forward with unwavering focus, speed, and resources to continue increasing diversity across our company and industry and to ensure that every employee comes to work feeling valued, safe, respected, and inspired. We will not stop until we have the best workplace for our team.

The company also commented on the impending walkout. “We are fully committed to fostering a safe, inclusive and rewarding environment for all of our employees around the world. We support their right to express their opinions and concerns in a safe and respectful manner, without fear of retaliation,” a spokesperson for Activision Blizzard told Engadget.

Amid the unrest at Activision Blizzard, Kotick has presented himself as an ally of the studio’s employees. “Our initial responses to the issues we face together, and to your concerns, were, quite frankly, tone-deaf,” he said in an he sent after the Townsend message. In that same message, he claimed he would take “swift action” to create a safe and inclusive working environment. When Kotick later announced the company’s new , he said he would take a massive pay cut until Activision Blizzard’s board of directors felt he had met the diversity and safety goals he outlined.

Even after today’s report, it’s hard to see Kotick resigning. He has been with Activision since the early 1990s, and he was the architect of the 2008 merger that created Activision Blizzard. The company’s board of directors has also said it “remains confident” in his leadership. 

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Game

Activision Blizzard Devs Walk Out, Call For CEO To Resign

Developers at Activision Blizzard are once again walking out, this time in response to a report published by the Wall Street Journal that attests CEO Bobby Kotick knew of sexual misconduct allegations against executives at the company and chose not to take action nor to intervene on behalf of the accused.

We have instituted our own Zero Tolerance Policy. We will not be silenced until Bobby Kotick has been replaced as CEO, and continue to hold our original demand for Third-Party review by an employee-chosen source. We are staging a Walkout today. We welcome you to join us.

— ABetterABK 💙 ABK Workers Alliance (@ABetterABK) November 16, 2021

The article is damning for Kotick, claiming that he knew of multiple instances of sexual misconduct at the company, including one in which a female employee claimed to have been raped by her male supervisor, and did not inform the company’s board of directors. Since the company began to be scrutinized following a lawsuit from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing alleging that sexual abuse and gender discrimination were commonplace at Activision Blizzard, Kotick claimed ignorance.

However, internal documents obtained by the Wall Street Journal show that Kotick not only knew that misconduct was widespread at the company, but did not inform the company’s board of directors. Kotick was recently subpoenaed by the Securities and Exchange Commission in an investigation into how Activision Blizzard handled reports of misconduct.

The article has prompted yet another walkout by developers at one of Activision Blizzard’s studios, Activision Blizzard King. “We have instituted our own Zero Tolerance Policy,” reads a tweet from the studio’s workers alliance. “We will not be silenced until Bobby Kotick has been replaced as CEO, and continue to hold our original demand for Third-Party review by an employee-chosen source. We are staging a Walkout today.” It is not clear if other studios under Activision Blizzard’s umbrella will follow suit.

Activision released a statement from Kotick earlier today, first sent companywide as a video, in which the CEO touted the company’s improvements thus far but said: “there is more to do.” The message ended with Kotick saying “Thank you for your commitment to a culture of respect, your appreciation for the unique talents we each possess, and for maintaining the very best environment for all of us to work. For that, I am truly grateful.”

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Computing

Walk the Great Wall of China in Google’s Latest Virtual Tour

If your pandemic-related precautions still prevent you from traveling but you’d like to take a trip somewhere far away, then how about diving into the latest virtual tour from Google Arts & Culture?

The Street View-style experience features a 360-degree virtual tour of one of the best-preserved sections of the Great Wall, which in its entirety stretches for more than 13,000 miles — about the round-trip distance between Los Angeles and New Zealand.

A section of China’s Great Wall. Google Arts & Culture

The new virtual tour includes 370 high-quality images of the Great Wall, together with 35 stories offering an array of architectural details about the world-famous structure.

“It’s a chance for people to experience parts of the Great Wall that might otherwise be hard to access, learn more about its rich history, and understand how it’s being preserved for future generations,” Google’s Pierre Caessa wrote in a blog post announcing the new content.

The wall was used to defend against various invaders through the ages and took more than 2,000 years to build. The structure is often described as “the largest man-made project in the world.”

But climate conditions and human activities have seen a third of the UNESCO World Heritage site gradually crumble away, though many sections of the wall are now being restored so that it can be enjoyed and appreciated for years to come.

Google Arts & Culture has been steadily adding to its library of virtual tours, which can be enjoyed on mobile and desktop devices. The collection includes the The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks and an immersive exploration of some the world’s most remote and historically significant places.

If you’re looking for more content along the same lines, then check out these virtual-tour apps that transport you to special locations around the world, and even to outer space.

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Game

Activision Blizzard employees will walk out on Wednesday after harassment lawsuit

One day after sharing an open letter decrying the company’s “abhorrent and insulting” response to a harassment lawsuit from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), Activision Blizzard employees plan to hold a walkout. According to Kotaku, at least 50 employees will protest the company’s recent actions in person and call on it to improve working conditions for women by at least temporarily leaving their posts on Wednesday, July 28th. The Activision Blizzard Walkout will take place in person at Blizzard’s main office in Irvine, California, and online, with the former scheduled to take place between 10AM to 2PM PT.

“We are encouraging employees to take whatever time off they feel safe to do,” a spokesperson for the group told Kotaku. “Most of us plan to take the full day off (without pay), but we understand some people like contractors and associates, and those who are paid less than they deserve, might not have the ability to do so.”

In a statement of intent the group shared with the outlet, they call on Activision Blizzard to end the use of forced arbitration for all current and future employees, adopt new hiring policies designed to increase representation across the company, publish transparency data on compensation and hire a third-party firm to conduct a review of the studio’s HR department and executive staff.

Tech and video game industry employees have increasingly turned to walkouts to advocate for change at their companies. In talking to Axios, the workers who are taking part in tomorrow’s action cited the protest Riot Games employees held in 2019 to end forced arbitration. They said they’re “following along people who have come before us, especially Riot, and what worked for them and what didn’t.”

Walkouts have shown to be effective at pushing companies to change. However, they’re not without risk to those organizing them. In 2019, following a protest staged by some of its employees over its inaction on climate change, Amazon announced its first-ever climate pledge. However, in the aftermath of the announcement, the company fired the two employees who led the action, an action the National Labor Relations Board found was illegal earlier this year.

If you want to support those protesting tomorrow, you can do so by using the #ActiBlizzWalkout hashtag on social media.

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