“The goals we have set for ourselves are both critical and ambitious,” reads a statement from Activision-Blizzard’s board of directors. “The Board remains confident in Bobby Kotick’s leadership, commitment and ability to achieve these goals.”
This defensive pronouncement came hours after a bombshell report from Wall Street Journal about the alleged deceptions, threats, and acts of sexual harassment from Activision-Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick. The story detailed Kotick reportedly intervening in a rape accusation from one of his employees against their supervisor to effectively cover it up. It detailed Kotick reportedly threatening an assistant’s life and settling the complaint out of court. It explained how Kotick reportedly fired a flight attendant who complained about a pilot sexually harassed her on a plane he owned, with Kotick saying he would destroy her during a lawsuit.
And he allegedly did all this while not informing the board or shareholders of any of it. Say all you want about the moral imperative of leaving a man who reportedly did those things in charge, but even the craven and cynical lizard brain cell should flare up at the idea that he is committing the worst sin of all: costing someone somewhere money.
Let’s also not forget Kotick’s name and email were in Jeffrey Epstein’s little black book of clients, found before Epstein’s death in jail while awaiting sex trafficking charges. I say let’s not forget because it really does seem like we have all forgotten or are choosing to ignore this.
Bobby Kotick must resign. Hell, he should have resigned months ago when the state of California first sued Activision-Blizzard for workplace harassment and the buck stopped with him. That he has hung on this long, despite both logic and symbolism, seems to falsely give him the idea he’s bullet-proof. He shouldn’t be. The video game industry suffers for his presence, and it’s an affront to both the medium and the vaguest, slipperiest idea of American business ethics that he’s still in power.
The problem, however, is not just solved by a Kotick-shaped hole in the walls of Activision-Blizzard’s headquarters. The executive team that stands by him, a motley crew of septuagenarians and villains from decades past, holds just as much culpability for bathing in the profits he brings in while refusing to acknowledge the harm he exudes for the company and its associated brands. The entire executive team, including ABK’s board that put out the statement of support, needs to go.
What allegedly happened at Activision-Blizzard is not the case of a few men and women behaving badly. There’s no Hollywood ending where the arrogant executive gets dragged out in handcuffs by people in blue jackets while the good and moral executives take their place in power without resistance or friction. It’s an institutional and foundational problem that can only be fixed when the people who let this happen are forcibly booted out and they’re replaced with those who value the products they create and the labor that creates them.
Activision needs to be a different company, both in terms of executive makeup and cultural foundation. That doesn’t happen overnight, but it also doesn’t happen, period, without the right environment. Activision-Blizzard’s current executive team has shown this cannot happen under their leadership, as they continue to suck the blood out of the company as long as it personally enriches them.
It will take more than a labor lawsuit, or a news story, or the finger-wagging of video game executives until they put their money where their mouths are. It will take a hit to their pocketbooks and continued pressure from people who think this matters. The entire industry is due for a change, and here is where it should start.
The video game medium deserves better than the status quo, and the world needs better than people who don’t care about other people.