Professional eSports athletes face a unique set of challenges and obstacles. When they win, they are celebrated for their achievements. When they lose, they are called out for their perceived failures, and may face bullying and harassment. One of the most high-profile gaming personalities in the world—and one of the most respected game developers in the industry—is publicly stating that he has “felt unwelcome in the industry because of who I am,” and it is time for the games industry to accept and embrace female eSports athletes in their professional competitions.
Blizzard Entertainment co-founder and game director Chris Metzen has apologized for the company’s long-standing culture of “harassment, inequality, and indifference” in a blog post that seeks to address the lack of diversity within the company.
Chris Metzen took the better part of an extra day to write his own letter to the industry in response to the situation surrounding the explosive California state lawsuit alleging systemic sexual harassment and discrimination at Activision-Blizzard. Perhaps having seen how badly Mike Morhaime’s apology to the women of Blizzard backfired, Chris Metzen took the better part of an extra day to write his own letter to the industry in response to the situation surrounding the explosive California state lawsuit alleging systemic sexual harassment and discrimination at He starts by expressing his “sincerest regret” for his “role in fostering a culture of harassment, inequity, and apathy.”
“There is no justification. We failed too many individuals when they needed us because we had the luxury of not noticing, not participating, and not providing the appropriate space for our colleagues who need our leadership. I’m hoping that my apologies will make a difference. It isn’t possible.”
He’s “having difficulty reconciling the place [he] knew, loved, and worked in for so long with the harsh truth that has been revealed over the past few days,” he writes, describing his “horror, revulsion, and fury” at the tales.
“It’s as though I’m looking at two completely distinct universes. However, this is not the case. It’s only one planet, and the chasm between my perspective from the top and the terrible reality many of you have faced makes me feel very ashamed. Words are inexpensive. I’m not sure what big, overarching promises accomplish. People are the foundation of accountability. ‘Values’ cast in iron around a statue, not businesses, platitudes, or ‘values’ wrought in iron around a statue.”
He particularly addresses males, urging them to set a better example by “walking in much more awareness, compassion, and understanding for the women around us.”
This is far later than it should be. Here’s what I had to say. pic.twitter.com/0h8iF6a1JR
July 24, 2021 — Chris Metzen (@ChrisMetzen)
He also talks about his connection with former Blizzard developer Alex “Furor” Afrasiabi, who is mentioned in the complaint as a serial harasser who has been accused of sexually abusing numerous women.
“Alex, on the other hand. Working with him and cramming in story meetings was a blast. On the work, he was someone I admired, but we never spoke outside of story jams and the like. I was never his superior. Aside from performing the job and taking smoke breaks, we never actually interacted. We haven’t collaborated closely since WotLK. I never heard anything about him except that he could be a jerk to his teammates or an asshole at times. So knowing all of this in the last week has been a complete shock. It’s just terrible nonsense.”
Following a two-year investigation into claims of sexual harassment and discrimination that allegedly led to (among other things) the death of one Blizzard employee, the state of California Department of Fair Employment and Housing filed a harsh lawsuit against Activision-Blizzard last week. Activision-Blizzard responded with a vehement denial and a scathing assault on the DFEH, which investigated and prosecuted Riot Games over identical accusations. Privately, Blizzard’s J. Allen Brack released a letter naming Gloria Steinem and declaring his opposition to “boy culture,” while Activision went on the attack with its own leaked document. Activision Chief Compliance Officer Fran Townsend, who has only been with the business since March and is likely working from home during that time, slams the complaint as factually inaccurate and misleading, prompting existing workers to claim that the statement did not represent them.
Mike Morhaime, the former president of Blizzard, issued an apology yesterday; although he is not named in the complaint and did leave Blizzard in 2019, he ruled over the business for more than two decades, including most of the time covered by the lawsuit. Hundreds of current and former employees have come out with tales and volunteered themselves as witnesses since then, some of them openly accusing Morhaime of knowing about the issues but doing nothing to fix them during his tenure. One employee, for example, received a letter to Morhaime from 2018 warning that Blizzard’s predators will ultimately “cost the business money and its good image.” Another cited an instance in which speaking out resulted in retribution, which she said was ordered by Morhaime personally. Even a man engineer described being sexually harassed by “several male leaders,” adding to the hundreds of tales clearly demonstrating that the HR department did nothing to assist.
Staffers have identified several former Blizzard players as offenders, including Robert Bridenbecker, Frank Pearce, and Ben Kilgore. Kilgore is referred to in the complaint as the former CTO rather than by his full name, and he is accused of “groping intoxicated female workers” and “making recruiting choices based on the appearance of female candidates.” Kilgore’s participation is also noteworthy since he was under investigation by the business as early as 2016 but was promoted in 2017, and it’s difficult to believe that Blizzard’s top personnel were ignorant of the inquiry while ordinary employees were.
Metzen isn’t mentioned in the lawsuit either. He departed the business in 2016, after more than two decades of service.
Jeff Hamilton, Senior Systems Designer for World of Warcraft, sent a strong statement of his own, much more passionate than what former executives who hold real accountability have written.
“OK. I’m still hoping for a response from my team, but Activision’s statement was awful, so here’s what I think. I think, as do many of my colleagues, that all accusations of sexual harassment should be handled seriously and in good faith, and that any offenders of sexual harassment should be fired and criminally investigated. I am a firm believer in equal treatment and protection. Everyone, regardless of gender or color, deserves a safe and supportive work and living environment. Our society is often unequal, and individuals with less systemic power as a result of marginalization need greater systemic protection to guarantee that they are treated fairly. Human Resources has clearly failed to provide systemic protection. The horrific pain perpetrated on my employees, friends, and colleagues makes me sick to my stomach. Activision’s business reaction is just unacceptable to me. I don’t agree with any of it. Usurping a victim’s tale as a rhetorical bludgeon is wicked, and responding to these charges with anything less than a well-thought-out strategy to rectify these injustices is reprehensible. I’m at a loss on what to do. I’m not an expert in everything. I can tell you that virtually no work on World of Warcraft is being done right now as this nonsense plays out. Nobody profits from this: not the gamers, not the developers, and certainly not the stockholders. Activision’s reaction is to enrage and traumatize a bunch of world-class creators to the point that they are unable to continue creating outstanding games. I adore my colleagues and have complete faith in them. I’ve suggested this location as a lighthouse to individuals I care about, and it has proven to be that beacon in my own life. But it’s self-evident that that experience isn’t shared by everyone. People who have been wounded by abuse deserved to have that experience as well.”
Ken, thank you so much.
This article broadly covered the following related topics:
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