Blizzard Executive Steps Down After Worker Protests Over  'Frat Boy' Culture

Sarah Favot

Favot is an award-winning journalist and adjunct instructor at USC's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. She previously was an investigative and data reporter at national education news site The 74 and local news site LA School Report. She's also worked at the Los Angeles Daily News. She was a Livingston Award finalist in 2011 and holds a Master's degree in journalism from Boston University and BA from the University of Windsor in Ontario, Canada.

Blizzard Executive Steps Down After Worker Protests Over  'Frat Boy' Culture

Video game-maker Activision Blizzard said Tuesday that Blizzard president J. Allen Brack is stepping down. The move comes days after California filed a lawsuit against the company over allegations of sexual harassment, discrimination and income disparity against women employees and employees staged a walkout.


The lawsuit, filed on July 20 by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, alleges Activision fostered a pervasive "frat boy" workplace culture where women were subject to constant sexual harassment, lower pay and retaliation.

Two Blizzard executives — Jen Oneal and Mike Ybarra — will replace Brack and will be co-leaders of the company, according to a statement.

Blizzard president J. Allen Brack

"Both are leaders of great character and integrity and are deeply committed to ensuring our workplace is the most inspired, welcoming environment for creative excellence and to upholding our highest game development standards," the statement from Activision Blizzard President and COO Daniel Alegre said.

Brack is leaving the Santa Monica-based company "to pursue new opportunities," the statement said.

The lawsuit alleges women were subjected to "cube crawls" where male employees drink "copious" amounts of alcohol and crawl to various cubicles in the office and "often engage in inappropriate behavior toward female employees," including groping them.

At the time the lawsuit was filed, Activision Blizzard released a statement in response, accusing the state agency that filed the lawsuit of using distorted and false descriptions.

Hundreds of its employees staged a walkout last week to protest the company's toxic workplace culture. Gamers also reacted, calling for a day-long boycott of the company's titles, which include "Call of Duty," "World of Warcraft" and "Overwatch."

The company's initial response, it later admitted, was "tone deaf," but infuriated employees and organizers said it galvanized the workers.

The action comes as the largely white, male tech and gaming industry is facing a reckoning over its lack of diversity.

The Communications Workers of America is behind the Campaign to Organize Digital Employees, which is aimed at unionizing tech and gaming companies and helping workers push back on issues like poor workplace culture. CWA organizer Emma Kinema told dot.LA she wasn't surprised by the allegations in the lawsuit against Activision Blizzard, saying this type of discriminatory culture is "pervasive."

Oneal was the executive vice president of development, while Ybarra was executive vice president and general manager of platform and technology.

"With their many years of industry experience and deep commitment to integrity and inclusivity, I am certain Jen and Mike will lead Blizzard with care, compassion and a dedication to excellence," Alegre wrote.

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Minnie Ingersoll
Minnie Ingersoll is a partner at TenOneTen and host of the LA Venture podcast. Prior to TenOneTen, Minnie was the COO and co-founder of $100M+ Shift.com, an online marketplace for used cars. Minnie started her career as an early product manager at Google. Minnie studied Computer Science at Stanford and has an MBA from HBS. She recently moved back to L.A. after 20+ years in the Bay Area and is excited to be a part of the growing tech ecosystem of Southern California. In her space time, Minnie surfs baby waves and raises baby people.
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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.

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Photo courtesy of HeyPal

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Kristin Snyder is an editorial intern for dot.la. She previously interned with Tiger Oak Media and led the arts section for UCLA's Daily Bruin.

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Photo by Solen Feyissa on Unsplash

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