Resurfaced video shows Activision Blizzard execs on panel that joked about over-sexualized female characters

The Activision Blizzard booth at the 2013 E3 expo in Los Angeles
  • A video showing Activision Blizzard executives joking about over-sexualized female video game characters in “World of Warcraft” resurfaced on Twitter.
  • The video resurfaced amid news the company is being sued, in a lawsuit accusing it of having a “frat boy” culture where women were routinely harassed.
  • Activision Blizzard called the allegations “distorted, and in many cases false” in a statement.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A video showing Activision Blizzard executives joking about over-sexualized female video game characters resurfaced this week after California sued the company, accusing the gaming giant of having a “frat boy” culture where women were routinely harassed.

The video, from 2010, shows a woman asking the executives at a panel about female characters in the online game “World of Warcraft.”

“I love the fact that you have a lot of very strong female characters, however, I was wondering if we could have some that don’t look like they’ve stepped out of a Victoria’s Secret catalog?” the woman asked.

The panel, made up of all men, laughed and asked which catalog she would rather the characters come out of.

During the panel, J. Allen Brack – now the president of the company – makes a rocker gesture with both his hands after another panelist cracks a joke about female versions of an ox-like race in the game.

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) sued Activision Blizzard – which produces hits like Call of Duty and Overwatch – and two of its subsidiaries on Tuesday, saying women at the company had been sexually harassed, paid less than their male counterparts, and retaliated against when they complained.

The bombshell lawsuit shocked the video game industry, with some influencers already reconsidering working with the company.

Activision Blizzard called the allegations “distorted, and in many cases false,” in a statement on Tuesday. In a memo leaked to Bloomberg reporter Jason Schreier, Allen wrote: “I disdain ‘bro culture,’ and have spent my career fighting against it.”

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California sued gaming giant Activision Blizzard, alleging widespread harassment of female staff. A male supervisor delegated his work to a female employee so he could play Call of Duty, the suit said.

Gaming giant Activision Blizzard's silver logo on one of its storefronts.
California state has field a sex discrimination lawsuit against gaming company Activision Blizzard

  • California sued gaming giant Activision Blizzard on Tuesday, alleging a “frat boy” culture.
  • A state agency said female staff were constantly sexually harassed and paid less for their work.
  • Activision Blizzard said the suit included “distorted” and “false” claims.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

California’s fair employment agency filed a lawsuit against gaming giant Activision Blizzard on Tuesday, accusing the Call of Duty publisher of a “pervasive frat boy” in which female employees were routinely harassed.

In one alleged incident, a “newly promoted male supervisor delegated his responsibilities to his now female subordinates in favor of playing Call of Duty,” the filing said.

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) sued Activision Blizzard and two subsidiaries – Activision Publishing and World of Warcraft creator Blizzard Entertainment – after a two-year investigation into working conditions for female staff, Bloomberg Law first reported.

DFEH said in Tuesday’s filing to the Los Angeles Supreme Court that women at the company were discriminated against, subjected to “constant sexual harassment,” groped, paid less for “substantially similar work,” and retaliated against by company HR when they complained.

“Unsurprisingly, [the] Defendants’ ‘frat boy’ culture is a breeding ground for harassment and discrimination against women,” the lawsuit said.

A spokesperson for Activision Blizzard said in a statement that “the picture the DFEH paints is not the Blizzard workplace of today.”

“The DFEH includes distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past. We have been extremely cooperative with the DFEH throughout their investigation, including providing them with extensive data and ample documentation, but they refused to inform us what issues they perceived,” the statement said.

“We value diversity and strive to foster a workplace that offers inclusivity for everyone. There is no place in our company or industry, or any industry, for sexual misconduct or harassment of any kind,” the spokesperson said.

“We take every allegation seriously and investigate all claims. In cases related to misconduct, action was taken to address the issue.”

Read more: 52 Black ex-franchisees file a $1 billion racial-discrimination lawsuit against McDonald’s, claiming the company sent them on ‘financial suicide missions’

The lawsuit detailed claims that some male workers engaged in “cube crawls” where they would “drink copious amounts of alcohol” and move between cubicles in the office, often behaving inappropriately towards their female coworkers.

Some male workers made sexual advances to female employees on the World of Warcraft team, and also made derogatory comments about rape, the lawsuit claimed.

The agency said in the filing that one female Activision Blizzard worker died by suicide during a business trip. A male coworker she had previously had a sexual relationship with was also on the trip, the suit said. Police found that the male supervisor had brought a butt plug and lubricant on the trip, DFEH said.

Another employee said the woman had suffered sexual harassment at work before her death, DFEH said.

It is not clear when the trip happened. An Activision Blizzard spokesperson said in a statement to Insider that the employee’s suicide had “no bearing whatsoever on this case.”

The lawsuit alleged that Activision Blizzard’s female workers – which it said makes up around 20% of its workforce – were also promoted more slowly, while women in executive roles earned “less salary, incentive pay, and total compensation than their male peers,” citing Activision Blizzard’s own records with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

DFEH said that it filed the suit on grounds of unequal pay, sex discrimination, unlawful sexual harassment, retaliation, and for failure to prevent discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. The agency said it was suing in the public interest and for Activision Blizzard’s female employees.

The agency is seeking compensation and punitive damages, and unpaid and lost wages for female workers, among other demands, although did not specify how much.

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