With all the news of Activision Blizzard being sued by the State of California for its hostile working environment, sexual harassment, and discrimination, alongside other pieces of news, fans are reconsidering their role in supporting the company and its games. These include the long-running MMORPG World of Warcraft, action RPG Diablo, and co-op multiplayer shooter Overwatch series.
Yep, it’s the “b” word surfacing again: “boycott”. Truth be told, it’s not as black-and-white a situation. There really is no simple fix-all solution. Here’s why:
No Profit Sharing Among Hard-Working Developers & Game Makers
A Blizzard senior producer shared on Twitter (via Axios) said that women are still fighting and working daily at Blizzard. A boycott on Blizzard games may not be ideal: when people aren’t buying Blizzard titles, this will affect profit sharing and potential bonuses for people who really deserve it -the developers, coders, marketeers/PR, and producers who make it all possible.
“The impact of this lawsuit might mean that in March, when my newborn goes to FT childcare and my maternity leave ends — I might not get the bonus I need to pay for that childcare.”
On one hand, I completely understand why people would want to spend their money elsewhere rather than support a company that doesn't align with their morals.
On the other hand, it's a really bad feeling for those of us women who still work and fight daily at said company.
— 🦄 Tami Sigmund 🎮💙 (@cuppy) July 26, 2021
Boycotts do more harm than good; while a company losing money will catch the attention of executives and shareholders who allowed this to happen from the top, it doesn’t work that way. Another Blizzard employee said to Axios that any major boycott would be harmful to the people who work there and poured their blood and sweat to make the game they want and to make studios better places than before.
“We can’t fix these problems if we’re unemployed and we can’t elevate women if we’re boycotting all of the work they’ve done and are doing.”
No One Gives A S***
Boycotts aren’t effective because not many people care enough to get involved than dedicated fans think they will be. Said one Blizzard employee:
“Even if a critical mass were reached, it’s more likely to result in layoffs on the dev teams than any change in opinion or composition at the top.”
Is There Even A Solution?
This is not to say that boycotts and protests aren’t effective. Pokemon Go did go through a boycott; Niantic responded and reacted positively. But to stop buying a company’s games in the long run means a lot of talented people in these companies getting laid off.
The sad truth is unethical labour practices are built into many aspects of the games industry be it Rockstar (Red Dead Redemption 2) or Naughty Dog (The Last of Us Part 2). These two games won a ton of awards during their release year, meaning higher-ups can use the sad excuse of justifying crunch and said practices as a means for critical acclaim.
There is no clear solution to this. As of now, players who want to support developers and better working conditions in the games industry should help out developer initiatives like an Activision Blizzard walkout, or a form of protest that sends a message to a lot of people online and offline. And I should add, the extreme case would be to fire the top brass who were systemic in this version of Activision Blizzard; a wholly necessary tactic if we wish to see actual true change and not the PR fluff kind on Twitter.