Everything You Need to Know About the Activision Blizzard Walkout

Sam Blake

Sam primarily covers entertainment and media for dot.LA. Previously he was Marjorie Deane Fellow at The Economist, where he wrote for the business and finance sections of the print edition. He has also worked at the XPRIZE Foundation, U.S. Government Accountability Office, KCRW, and MLB Advanced Media (now Disney Streaming Services). He holds an MBA from UCLA Anderson, an MPP from UCLA Luskin and a BA in History from University of Michigan. Email him at samblake@dot.LA and find him on Twitter @hisamblake

Everything You Need to Know About the Activision Blizzard Walkout

Hundreds of Activision Blizzard employees in Irvine and many more remotely walked off the job on Wednesday to protest a misogynistic workplace culture. They carried signs like "Send the Frat Boys Back to School" and "Every Voice Matters."


The move came after California filed a blistering lawsuit against Activision Blizzard last week that portrayed the company as having a pervasive "frat boy" culture where male workers and bosses torment women and executives don't deal seriously with the complaints. The company's initial reaction, it later admitted, was "tone deaf," but infuriated employees and organizers said it galvanized the workers.

"It's no longer about individual victims. The time for individual victims to be heard is in the lawsuit. The time for us to enact systemic change is here," said an Activision employee and one of the organizers, who requested anonymity for fear of retaliation.

The protests sparked a nerve among gamers who called for a day boycott of the company's titles, which include "Call of Duty," "World of Warcraft" and "Overwatch."

It comes as the largely white, male tech and gaming industry grapples with a lack of diversity. At Activision, the lawsuit found only 20% of the employees are female.

Activision Blizzard's CEO Bobby Kotick issued an apology ahead of the protest.

"We are taking swift action to be the compassionate, caring company you came to work for and to ensure a safe environment. There is no place anywhere at our company for discrimination, harassment, or unequal treatment of any kind."

It was too little, too late for the hundreds of employees who'd spent the weekend organizing the walkout and drafting an open letter calling for an end to forced arbitration, more pay transparency and worker participation in hiring, among other demands. Kotick's response didn't address those issues, organizers said ahead of the walkout.

Employees gathered in the shaded grass surrounding the gated Blizzard campus in Irvine, stocked with snacks and water in tubs filled with ice. Activision Blizzard was on damage control and has promised that employees who walked out will be paid.

Outside the front gate of Blizzard employees hung blue hearts with notes expressing solidarity and sharing their own experiences.

"A male coworker repeatedly 'checked to see if my clothes were see through.' Believe women!" one note said.

Organizers said they were pleased they had "convinced leadership to change the tone of their communications," but noted that their key concerns remain unaddressed.

"We want to work with leadership," said the same employee, who declined to be named. "Statements are a start but they are the start of a long conversation that has to be had."

Protesters, many wearing Blizzard t-shirts, sat on picnic blankets and lawn chairs and held posters bearing slogans including "Walking Out For A Better Blizzard." There were even a few pet dogs.

"This is a problem that permeates throughout the gaming industry," said another employee, who also requested anonymity. "We have an opportunity to serve as a form of ignition for this movement to soar."

Activision Blizzard's shares closed up on Wednesday.

Read organizers' demands below:

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samblake@dot.la

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Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Genies Wants To Help Creators Build ‘Avatar Ecosystems’

When avatar startup Genies raised $150 million in April, the company released an unusual message to the public: “Farewell.”

The Marina del Rey-based unicorn, which makes cartoon-like avatars for celebrities and aims to “build an avatar for every single person on Earth,” didn’t go under. Rather, Genies announced it would stay quiet for a while to focus on building avatar-creation products.

Genies representatives told dot.LA that the firm is now seeking more creators to try its creation tools for 3D avatars, digital fashion items and virtual experiences. On Thursday, the startup launched a three-week program called DIY Collective, which will mentor and financially support up-and-coming creatives.

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Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

Christian Hetrick

Christian Hetrick is dot.LA's Entertainment Tech Reporter. He was formerly a business reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer and reported on New Jersey politics for the Observer and the Press of Atlantic City.

Here's What To Expect At LA Tech Week

LA Tech Week—a weeklong showcase of the region’s growing startup ecosystem—is coming this August.

The seven-day series of events, from Aug. 15 through Aug. 21, is a chance for the Los Angeles startup community to network, share insights and pitch themselves to investors. It comes a year after hundreds of people gathered for a similar event that allowed the L.A. tech community—often in the shadow of Silicon Valley—to flex its muscles.

From fireside chats with prominent founders to a panel on aerospace, here are some highlights from the roughly 30 events happening during LA Tech Week, including one hosted by dot.LA.

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PCH Driven: Director Jason Wise Talks Wine, Documentaries, and His New Indie Streaming Service SOMMTV

Jamie Williams
­Jamie Williams is the host of the “PCH Driven” podcast, a show about Southern California entrepreneurs, innovators and its driven leaders on their road to success. The series celebrates and reveals the wonders of the human spirit and explores the motivations behind what drives us.
Jason Wise holding wine glass
Image courtesy of Jason Wise

Jason Wise may still consider himself a little kid, but the 33-year-old filmmaker is building an IMDB page that rivals colleagues twice his age.

As the director behind SOMM, SOMM2, SOMM3, and the upcoming SOMM4, Wise has made a career producing award-winning documentary films that peer deep into the wine industry in Southern California and around the world.

On this episode of the PCH Driven podcast, he talks about life growing up in Cleveland as a horrible student, filmmaking, Los Angeles and his latest entrepreneurial endeavor: A streaming service called SOMMTV that features–what else?–documentaries about wine.

The conversation covers some serious ground, but the themes of wine and film work to anchor the discussion, and Wise dispenses bits of sage filmmaking advice.

“With a documentary you can just start filming right now,” he says. “That’s how SOMM came about. I got tossed into that world during the frustration of trying to make a different film, and I just started filming it, because no one could stop me because I was paying for it myself. That’s the thing with docs,” or “The good thing about SOMM is that you can explain it in one sentence: ‘The hardest test in the world is about wine, and you’ve never heard about it.’”

…Or at least maybe you hadn’t before he made his first film. Now with three SOMM documentaries under his belt, Wise is nearing completion of “SOMM4: Cup of Salvation,” which examines the history of wine’s relationship with religion. Wise says it’s “a wild film,” that spans multiple countries, the Vatican and even an active warzone. As he puts it, the idea is to show that “wine is about every subject,” rather than “every subject is about wine.”

For Wise, the transition to launching his own streaming service came out of his frustration with existing platforms holding too much power over the value of the content he produces.

“Do we want Netflix to tell us what our projects are worth or do we want the audience to do that?” he asks.

But unlike giants in the space, SOMMTV has adopted a gradual approach of just adding small bits of content as they develop. Without the need to license 500 or 1,000 hours of programming, Wise has been able to basically bootstrap SOMMTV and provide short form content and other more experimental offerings that typically get passed over by the Hulus and Disneys of the world.

So far, he says, the experiment is working, and now Wise is looking to raise some serious capital to keep up with the voracious appetites of his subscribers.

“Send those VCs my way,” Wise jokes.

Subscribe to PCH Driven on Apple, Stitcher, Spotify, iHeart, Google or wherever you get your podcasts.

dot.LA reporter David Shultz contributed to this report.

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