'It's So Prevalent': A Labor Rep on Gaming's Culture of Harassment and Discrimination

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

'It's So Prevalent': A Labor Rep on Gaming's Culture of Harassment and Discrimination

When labor organizer Emma Kinema saw a tweet pop up on her feed saying that California is suing Activision Blizzard for workplace harassment, she said she felt heartened.

To her recollection, it's the first time such a large state agency has targeted a big player in gaming to try to fix a toxic culture problem that has plagued the industry for years. But it wasn't surprising to Kinema. For over five years, she's been working with the Communications Workers of America to organize gaming workers and calls this type of discriminatory culture "pervasive."


"There will always be a thousand more stories than the ones we're seeing on Twitter now, in this case now, in the press now," she said. "It's so prevalent, this just broad culture of sexism and discrimination and racism."

"I don't think I've ever interacted with any organizing committee or group of workers who were interested in making change that this wasn't like in the top three issues they wanted to address," she added.

The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing sued the Santa Monica-based company this week after a two-year investigation that found male workers and bosses tormented women and executives didn't seriously deal with complaints.

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.

For its part, Activision Blizzard released a statement in response accusing the agency of using distorted and false descriptions.

The CWA 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. The campaign has been piling up wins of late, including helping to form the Alphabet Workers Union, which Kinema said has won disputes on issues around pay discrimination at the Google parent company; unionizing location software company Mapbox and helping app development company Glitch ratify the first ever collective bargaining agreement in the U.S. tech industry.

Gaming specifically, however, has proven a tougher nut for CODE's unionization efforts to crack. Kinema said that is due in part to the industry's sometimes brutal working conditions that contribute to frequent employee turnover, which in turn makes sustained labor organizing difficult.

Only 20% of Activision employees are women, representative of a lopsided reality across the industry.

Kinema said the Activision Blizzard lawsuit is "a big step forward and very valuable" in getting people to pay attention to what has become a rampant issue in gaming.

"The thing I really want to see," she said, "is actual systemic change within workplaces," including practices like prioritizing diversity in hiring, retention and promotion and lower tolerance for overt racism and misogyny.

https://twitter.com/hisamblake
samblake@dot.la

Subscribe to our newsletter to catch every headline.

Cadence

MaC Venture Capital Raises $203M for Its Second Fund

Decerry Donato

Decerry Donato is dot.LA's Editorial Fellow. Prior to that, she was an editorial intern at the company. Decerry received her bachelor's degree in literary journalism from the University of California, Irvine. She continues to write stories to inform the community about issues or events that take place in the L.A. area. On the weekends, she can be found hiking in the Angeles National forest or sifting through racks at your local thrift store.

MaC Venture Capital Raises $203M for Its Second Fund
Courtesy of MaC Venture Capital

While venture capital funding has taken a hit this year, that hasn’t stopped MaC Venture Capital from raising $203 million for its second fund.

The Los Angeles-based, Black-led VC firm said Monday that it had surpassed its initial $200 million goal for the fund, which dot.LA reported in January, over the span of seven months. MaC said it expects to invest the capital in up to 50 mostly seed-stage startups while remaining “sector-agnostic.”

Read moreShow less

LA Tech ‘Moves’: Adtech Firm OpenX Lures New SVP, Getlabs and DISQO Tap New VPs

Decerry Donato

Decerry Donato is dot.LA's Editorial Fellow. Prior to that, she was an editorial intern at the company. Decerry received her bachelor's degree in literary journalism from the University of California, Irvine. She continues to write stories to inform the community about issues or events that take place in the L.A. area. On the weekends, she can be found hiking in the Angeles National forest or sifting through racks at your local thrift store.

LA Tech ‘Moves’: Adtech Firm OpenX Lures New SVP, Getlabs and DISQO Tap New VPs
Photo by James Opas | Modified by Joshua Letona

“Moves,” our roundup of job changes in L.A. tech, is presented by Interchange.LA, dot.LA's recruiting and career platform connecting Southern California's most exciting companies with top tech talent. Create a free Interchange.LA profile here—and if you're looking for ways to supercharge your recruiting efforts, find out more about Interchange.LA's white-glove recruiting service by emailing Sharmineh O’Farrill Lewis (sharmineh@dot.la). Please send job changes and personnel moves to moves@dot.la.

Read moreShow less
RELATEDEDITOR'S PICKS
LA TECH JOBS
interchangeLA
Trending