Former Blizzard developer says the industry “needs unionization”

No company that has “respect and civility for female, POC, LGBTQ+ employees” has anything to fear from unions

Following the news that Activision Blizzard faces a lawsuit after accusations from employees that they’ve faced “constant sexual harassment, including groping, comments, and advances” in the workplace, a former senior employee has written an open letter calling for industry-wide unionization.

Shared via IGN, Jeff Strain’s ‘It’s Time’ letter starts with Strain saying how “the Activision Blizzard disclosures this week have left me disgusted and repulsed — but not at all surprised.”

Having joined Blizzard Entertainment in 1996 as a games programmer, Strain was involved with Starcraft and Diablo. He was also briefly the team lead and lead programmer of World of Warcraft.

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However in 1998 “after a cataclysmic meeting with one of the founders over our objections to dismembered and impaled female body parts in the beta version of Diablo, my wife and I began planning to leave Blizzard.” He went on to help found ArenaNet in 2000 and Undead Labs in 2009.

His time at Blizzard though “Showed me how abusive cultures can propagate and self-amplify over time; how ‘hardcore gamers only’ is a smokescreen for ‘bro culture’; how fostering a sense of exceptionalism inhibits people from speaking up because they should just deal with it if they love the company and its games; and how passive leadership that turns a blind eye can ultimately be the most abusive thing of all.”

Continuing, the former Blizzard senior member of staff said: “The tone and tenor of the entire industry is set by the giants, the places with the largest number of entry-level jobs, and the places with the largest, most profitable titles”.

He admits that there have been some positive changes with some studios and developers “but those efforts, while commendable, can’t address the chronic issues in our industry systemically. In order to do that, game industry employees need advocacy and representation”.

Put simply “we need unionization”.

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In the letter, Strain explains that “unions were started in this country to protect workers from abusive, cruel, abhorrent, unacceptable and illegal treatment from companies.

“I know that I have nothing to fear from unionization, nor does any company that pays employees fairly and equitably, provides quality health insurance, models respect and civility for female, POC, LGBTQ+ employees, and supports a healthy, whole life.”

He finishes by writing that “the giants of this industry have shown us this week that we cannot trust them to moderate and manage the wealth and power that players and fans have given them.”

In other news, it’s been revealed that Activision Blizzard has hired the renowned union-busting legal firm, WilmerHale, to review the company’s policies.

Previously best known for its work with Amazon when it came to handling workers demanding better pay and working conditions, WilmerHale is generally considered to be an anti-union legal firm.

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