Late Wednesday it emerged that Activision Blizzard is being sued by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing over a toxic workplace culture that’s allegedly led to years of harassment and abuse targeting women. Later in the week, a number of popular World of Warcraft streamers have publicly commented on the emerging lawsuit. Many others remain silent.
Content warning: Sexual harassment
The initial Bloomberg story showed that on July 20, after a two-year investigation by the CDFEH, the department filed a lawsuit against the Call of Duty, Overwatch, and Diablo publisher to force it to comply with California workplace laws and regulations. The suit contains allegations of some truly awful offenses committed by men at the company, including “constant” sexual harassment, frequent groping, and other examples of truly horrible behavior. In addition, it describes an institutional lack of help or support for the victims from management or higher-ups.
Since the story broke, fallout has been widespread, with developers and creators across Twitter and other social media sharing their disappointment, shock, and in some cases personal stories about harassment and toxic behavior they experienced while working in the game industry.
Some of the most popular World of Warcraft streamers explained how disappointed and sad they were to hear the news. Top WoW Twitch streamer Asmongold, in a public statement shared on Twitter, said he was “hurt” by the news as a longtime fan of the publisher.
“Shameful to hear about what’s been reportedly going on at Blizzard,” Asmongold wrote. “As a 20+ year fan it really hurts to see how things have devolved in such an awful way. Just makes me sad.”
He followed this statement up with a video on July 23. In the Twitter video, he explained that devs at Blizzard shouldn’t be harassed by players online over the details of the lawsuit. He also said it wasn’t fair for people to ask streamers who only played World of Warcraft to stop playing the game.
“If they go to another game, their stream is going to be fucking dead. You know it, I know, everybody fucking knows it.” Asmongold said. “I don’t think it’s fair to ask or expect someone to throw away their career because of something they had nothing to fucking do with.”
Naguura, a Twitch streamer who frequently plays World of Warcraft and has over 260k followers on the platform, said she was saddened by the “disgusting behavior” in a Tweet sharing an article covering the lawsuit. She also criticized the publisher’s statement.
“It’s so sad to read through all of this and knowing that it has been going on for years and years probably,” Naguura wrote, “Just absolutely disgusting behavior and seemingly so many higher-ups just ‘let it happen’. And this statement just isn’t it either.”
She followed up with an additional comment pointing out that this type of toxic behavior against women happens all the time, and asked for folks to “speak up” for women and not look the other way if they witness such “absolutely disgusting behavior.”
A popular World of Warcraft streamer, Towelliee, has even said they will no longer stream the MMORPG until they see a plan from Activision Blizzard to combat the accusations found in the lawsuit.
“I wasn’t planning on playing WoW on stream for the next week,” said Towelliee, “And now I won’t stream it afterward until there is some sort of statement with a plan of action and explanation. I don’t know how deep this rabbit hole goes and I am scared at the end result.”
Other popular World of Warcraft streamers have come out to publicly acknowledge and in some cases condemn the behavior cited in the suit, including Slootbag, TipsOut and Maximum. Fence Macabre, a WoW role-play guild, is leading a protest against Activision Blizzard inside the game itself. Polygon reports that hundreds of players are raising funds for charitable group Black Girls Code while participating in a sit-in protest in one of WoW’s large social hubs.
However, many other popular World of Warcraft clans and streamers have yet to say anything about the situation. As of this writing, only one of the top 10 WoW streamers (as per TwitchMetrics.net), Maximum, has released a statement or tweet about the lawsuit. Many others remain silent, tweeting about other topics.
Kotaku has reached out to all the streamers mentioned in this article for comment.
It’s surprising to see so many popular World of Warcraft streamers staying quiet, though I also understand that this is not a subject that everyone wants to read about or deal with. The suit contains descriptions of some truly horrific, sad events, and I respect if people don’t wish to read or engage with content they might find triggering.
That said, clans and larger streamers could have other reasons to avoid the topic. Some will have legal obligations or financial arrangements with sponsors and other companies that could make calling out Activision Blizzard feel difficult. Others might fear punching up at such a powerful target. There’s also the sad reality that, based on the comments and tweets replying to the streamers who have spoken out, some may be worried about alienating their fans.
However, the fact that some well-known WoW streamers have already commented shows that there is in fact a path to speaking up against the awful allegations revealed by the lawsuit. And as more stories about women being sexually harassed and discriminated against continue to be reported across more and more studios and publishers, women will need more support from bigger, more widely heard voices if there’s to be any hope to improve this industry and reform its oft-toxic culture.