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Starym

Mike Morhaime, Former Blizzard CEO, Responds to the Lawsuit Allegations

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We now have a response on the subject of the sexual harrassment and discrimination lawsuit filed against Activision Blizzard from the former CEO and co-founder of Blizzard, Mike Morhaime, as well. The investigation itself hadn't started by the time he left the company, but some of the allegations in it came during his tenure as CEO. 

Morhaime stepped down as CEO of Blizzard in October of 2018, and has since founded a new game publishing company, Dreamhaven.

I have read the full complaint against Activision Blizzard and many of the other stories. It is all very disturbing and difficult to read. I am ashamed. It feels like everything I thought I stood for has been washed away. What’s worse but even more important, real people have been harmed, and some women had terrible experiences.

I was at Blizzard for 28 years. During that time, I tried very hard to create an environment that was safe and welcoming for people of all genders and backgrounds. I knew that it was not perfect, but clearly we were far from that goal. The fact that so many women were mistreated and were not supported means we let them down. In addition, we did not succeed in making it feel safe for people to tell their truth. It is no consolation that other companies have faced similar challenges. I wanted us to be different, better.

Harassment and discrimination exist. They are prevalent in our industry. It is the responsibility of leadership to keep all employees feeling safe, supported, and treated equitably, regardless of gender and background. It is the responsibility of leadership to stamp out toxicity and harassment in any form, across all levels of the company. To the Blizzard women who experienced any of these things, I am extremely sorry that I failed you.

I realize that these are just words, but I wanted to acknowledge the women who had awful experiences. I hear you, I believe you, and I am so sorry to have let you down. I want to hear your stories, if you are willing to share them. As a leader in our industry, I can and will use my influence to help drive positive change and to combat misogyny, discrimination, and harassment wherever I can. I believe we can do better, and I believe the gaming industry can be a place where women and minorities are welcomed, included, supported, recognized, rewarded, and ultimately unimpeded from the opportunity to make the types of contributions that all of us join this industry to make. I want the mark I leave on this industry to be something that we can all be proud of.

-Mike

This follows a day of announcement and statements, as we've heard from current Blizzard President J.Allen Brack, as well as from Activision Blizzard executive Fran Townsend.

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As someone who leads development teams (not at Blizzard, not in gaming), I spent quite a bit of time thinking about how I would respond to such horrible allegations.

When I read JAB's letter, the word that I kept getting back to that was missing was "shame". While I don't think it's realistic to expect that the people who head companies with 1000s of people in them to be aware of everything that's going on, or how (in)effectual measures against things like sexual harassment are, I would feel guilty as hell regardless.

I think it's a hallmark of Morhaime's qualities as a leader that shame is the very word he uses to describe his emotional response to the allegation. And honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if his letter has more impact on Blizzard employees than JAB's does. Morhaime embodies the soul of Blizzard, and to a certain degree this is something all employees need take responsibility for.

What Blizzard needs is for all their employees to stand up and speak out against sexual harassment when it happens, and I hope Morhaime's letter inspires all the good guys (and gals, and folk) to be the heroes that do so.

Edited by Dicebar
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Man Morhaime is definitely THAT boss i would like to have a word with without having kind of fear to get kicked out for speaking, even if its constructive critic. (yes sounds to stupid to get kicked for something like that, but is my real experience). He allways had this "aura" where i believe he is a good leader and where i would watch up to and improve. I can imagine that there is a deep bond of respect within his teams now.

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I find it no surprising that president of blizzard J allen come out and acknowledged the issues that has been surrounding blizzard for years and has reached out but then you see the polar opposite in response from acti-blizz Fran Townsend showing the true colours of a politician diverting the blame and not taking any accountability towards this and we have all been wondering why the game and the company has gone downwards when people like this are in control. No accountability and basicly calling the victims that are now coming out with there stories liers shame on you activision I can only hope blizzard can recover from this and drop activision and we might one day get our beloved developers back

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4 hours ago, Dicebar said:

As someone who leads development teams (not at Blizzard, not in gaming), I spent quite a bit of time thinking about how I would respond to such horrible allegations.

When I read JAB's letter, the word that I kept getting back to that was missing was "shame". While I don't think it's realistic to expect that the people who head companies with 1000s of people in them to be aware of everything that's going on, or how (in)effectual measures against things like sexual harassment are, I would feel guilty as hell regardless.

I think it's a hallmark of Morhaime's qualities as a leader that shame is the very word he uses to describe his emotional response to the allegation. And honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if his letter has more impact on Blizzard employees than JAB's does. Morhaime embodies the soul of Blizzard, and to a certain degree this is something all employees need take responsibility for.

What Blizzard needs is for all their employees to stand up and speak out against sexual harassment when it happens, and I hope Morhaime's letter inspires all the good guys (and gals, and folk) to be the heroes that do so.

Agree to disagree - while Morhaime no longer needs to lead the company, JAB does, and his letter included everything that employees need to acknowledge and how they need to act going forward. You can't really keep leading a succesful team if you feel ashamed for what you've done or what you did not do. In that case you must resign or commit harakiri like the samurai did after failing their code of honor (although in the 21st century I think we can agree the latter is not necessary, just resign).

Shame is not a solution nor is it helpful in times of crisis, even if some people find emotional support in it.

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2 hours ago, Badadada said:

Agree to disagree - while Morhaime no longer needs to lead the company, JAB does, and his letter included everything that employees need to acknowledge and how they need to act going forward. You can't really keep leading a succesful team if you feel ashamed for what you've done or what you did not do. In that case you must resign or commit harakiri like the samurai did after failing their code of honor (although in the 21st century I think we can agree the latter is not necessary, just resign).

Shame is not a solution nor is it helpful in times of crisis, even if some people find emotional support in it.

Still shame can help people reconsider trust. As it is now, I see no reason why a Blizzard employee would TRUST JAB when he failed multiple times to do his job and hold people accountable. His response was so tone deaf. Something needs to convince people that if something happens, they can trust him to act and the idea that he is ashamed about his past failures COULD do that.

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6 hours ago, Baharok said:

Man Morhaime is definitely THAT boss i would like to have a word with without having kind of fear to get kicked out for speaking, even if its constructive critic. (yes sounds to stupid to get kicked for something like that, but is my real experience). He allways had this "aura" where i believe he is a good leader and where i would watch up to and improve. I can imagine that there is a deep bond of respect within his teams now.

From that lawsuit, it looks like a lot of it happened under his leadership. So it can't be all blamed on Brack, also there are other names in lawsuit, like Alex Afrasiabi (who silently left the company last year, which might seem suspicious). It's about old guard as much as it is about the new guard. Whether he knew and how much is another question. Not sure how much is going to happen, since their statements are quite dismissive, claiming that investigation was wrong. Brack might be safe, they could shift all blame to a lower to mid management, perhaps some fine (which will probably not be a big deal for Activision to pay) and another PR statement.

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1 hour ago, Arcling said:

From that lawsuit, it looks like a lot of it happened under his leadership. So it can't be all blamed on Brack, also there are other names in lawsuit, like Alex Afrasiabi (who silently left the company last year, which might seem suspicious). It's about old guard as much as it is about the new guard. Whether he knew and how much is another question. Not sure how much is going to happen, since their statements are quite dismissive, claiming that investigation was wrong. Brack might be safe, they could shift all blame to a lower to mid management, perhaps some fine (which will probably not be a big deal for Activision to pay) and another PR statement.

Brack seems to be the one person we know should not be safe. I mean it seems he called most of the women to talk about Afrasiabi's behaviour (I guess after a Blizzcon incident in 2016) and then effectively did nothing for the next three years, letting that man continue to lead teams with women and interact with them.

This is what is crucial; if someone is a creep that is horrible (and possibly traumatizing depending on how extreme the behaviour is). But if the person who is supposed to hold them accountable doesn't, then things change so much to the worse because now you no longer just feel harassed, you also feel powerless.

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His words ring hollow to me.  A little (and related) reminder from five years ago...
https://www.pcgamer.com/blizzard-vows-to-make-changes-following-racist-abuse-of-hearthstone-pro/

(It was another four years before they finally removed the noose spray from Overwatch.)  

These issues extend from CEOs all the way down to players, unfortunately.  What Blizzard overlooked, they supported, and this fact has negatively affected many people.  It's all very disheartening.

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JAB statement was bad. this here from Mike Morhaime isn't better. he should be ashamed because all of this developed under his nose. but of course he didn't have a clue what was going on....

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better said then JAB but seems liek alot of this happened while he was in charge guess we wont knwo the truth til it comes out in court . also happy this is the first of many articles on the subject users can actully comment on unlike the other that were locked 

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1 hour ago, elmurufdd said:

better said then JAB but seems liek alot of this happened while he was in charge guess we wont knwo the truth til it comes out in court . also happy this is the first of many articles on the subject users can actully comment on unlike the other that were locked 

Hey, so one of those locked articles was mine so I can comment on why it was locked (the first one about the lawsuit). It's not really about people saying "bad" stuff, just generally, in my experience, it's that when things are that fresh people tend to be pretty upset (rightfully so) and then they start fighting with each other. That's what we were trying to avoid with those locked threads, users here fighting with each other when everything is so raw and emotions high (as they should be).

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4 hours ago, Nym85 said:

Brack seems to be the one person we know should not be safe. I mean it seems he called most of the women to talk about Afrasiabi's behaviour (I guess after a Blizzcon incident in 2016) and then effectively did nothing for the next three years, letting that man continue to lead teams with women and interact with them.

Indeed, it would've been better if he lost his position, but I'm not certain if he is removable at this point. Depends how strong his position in company is. From his "apology" it looks like he might try to do just that, shift the blame to some lower management, like he was this good guy who tried to instill correct values in company, but some people below failed to implement them. His defense does come as insincere from the very beginning. Are we to believe that first thing he talked about with Kotick was some feminist who inspired him? Sure...

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20 hours ago, Arcling said:

Indeed, it would've been better if he lost his position, but I'm not certain if he is removable at this point. Depends how strong his position in company is. From his "apology" it looks like he might try to do just that, shift the blame to some lower management, like he was this good guy who tried to instill correct values in company, but some people below failed to implement them. His defense does come as insincere from the very beginning. Are we to believe that first thing he talked about with Kotick was some feminist who inspired him? Sure...

Honestly I'd be fairly certain he WILL be removed. Seems to me like if he is not and if serious action is not taken, the WoW team in particular will be pretty close to walking out given responses from people who are still employed there and absolutely furious with management.

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52 minutes ago, Nym85 said:

Honestly I'd be fairly certain he WILL be removed. Seems to me like if he is not and if serious action is not taken, the WoW team in particular will be pretty close to walking out given responses from people who are still employed there and absolutely furious with management.

I hope so, curious what's going to happen next. Never liked Brack anyway and his responses to questions from players, even before he was promoted to his current position, always seemed very conceited and dismissive.

Edited by Arcling

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