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Blizzard faces lawsuit claiming sexism, gender discrimination

Blizzard’s reputation has taken a great deal of damage over the last few years, and there are no signs of that changing given new revelations regarding a lawsuit being filed against the development giant.

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing has filed a major lawsuit against Blizzard for allegations of sexism and gender discrimination against women in the company. The lawsuit makes claims similar to those seen in a number of other major video game studios, most notably Riot Games. The lawsuit was uncovered by Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier. 

The lawsuit claims a “pervasive ‘frat boy’ workplace culture” persists at Blizzard that includes various forms of sexual harassment being normalized at the company. This includes a “cube crawl” where male employees get drunk and “crawl” between the cubicles of women in the company to “engage in inappropriate behavior.” Male employees are alleged to have come into work hungover, handing off their duties to women in the company in order “engage in banter about their sexual encounters...and joke about rape.”

The lawsuit also alleges systemic issues regarding women’s pay and ability to advance in the company. Multiple cases are discussed where women were passed over for promotions despite being overly qualified, while male employees were allegedly given preferential treatment by supervisors.

Blizzard quickly issued a statement on the matter to Schreier and categorically denied all claims made by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. 

“The DFEH includes distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past...they rushed to file an inaccurate complaint, as we will demonstrate in court...While we find this behavior to be disgraceful and unprofessional, it is unfortunately an example of how they have conducted themselves throughout the course of their investigation,” a Blizzard spokesman said.

Blizzard then labeled the lawsuit from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing as “irresponsible behavior” and called the agency “unaccountable state bureaucrats.”

Blizzard’s bad reputation with gamers continues to sour

Blizzard was once a beloved institution within video games, with StarCraft, Warcraft, and Diablo being among the most popular video games franchises in the world. Over the last few years, this has been almost completely undone as the company's reputation has been left in tatters.

In 2018 Blizzard began what would become an almost constant cycle of layoffs. Though it started at a relatively small scale, 2019 and 2020 saw multiple rounds of layoffs through which hundreds of people were removed from their jobs. 

As time went on, the company endured scathing criticism from fans for delivering a suspension and fine to pro Hearthstone player Ng Wai “blitzchung” Chung for voicing his support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong. The backlash was so harsh as players protested BlizzCon that the official Blizzard subreddit was shut down.

It hasn't just been publicity issues that have plagued Blizzard. The company released a much-maligned remaster of Warcraft 3, titled Warcraft 3: Reforged. Blizzard quietly cut a long list of promised features for the game and, despite those cuts, the game still had serious performance issues. The remaster currently has a 59 media rating on Metacritic and a 0.6 average user rating.

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