The Game Awards open on December 9, but not everyone feels like celebrating. The group of workers at Activision Blizzard known as ABetterABK is calling on Geoff Keighley to turn the show into a platform for positive change within the industry.
“We support the game awards in taking action to stand up for game developers who have been abused by their companies,” the group said in a statement. “Geoff Keighley, we call on you to use your platform to call out the issues across the industry at large.”
“The problems we are facing at ABK are also the same problems that ABetterUbisoft are facing,” the group noted. “The same problems that face employees across the entire gaming industry.”
ABetterUbisoft has been in a longstanding dispute with Ubisoft over workplace conditions.
ABetterABK went on to describe some of the most pressing issues being faced by workers in the industry. This includes contract employment, the status of quality assurance teams, and workplace discrimination.
“Contractors across the world are being subjected to unfair working conditions. QA is not treated as an equal class citizen in development. Discrimination against minority employees is being swept under the rug.”
These issues have all been well documented in the past as workers have spoken out about the conditions at their places of employment.
Contract workers who had recently been laid off by Activision Blizzard took to describing their experiences at the company this past November.
"Harassed, discrimination, dangled full-time carrot. Was told I’d be hired after a year,” said a contract worker at Activision Blizzard by the name of Jessica Gonzales. “Laid off in 6 months.” Gonzales continued. "Stayed working on site with other contractors while FTEs had a beach day."
Aubrey Ryan complained about making "poverty wages in one of the most expensive cities in Texas." The contract worker at Activision Blizzard went on to describe their employment situation. "No PTO, no sick days. No job security. Insurance from our temp agency, paid per week, is half of our paycheck. All for the promise that ONE DAY, we might be FTE."
The comment by ABetterABK on the status of quality assurance teams recalls the recent layoffs at Raven Software. The company developed Call of Duty Warzone which raked in over a billion dollars. Raven Software is a subsidiary of Activision Blizzard.
Kate Anderson noted that “our Raven colleagues were promised raises and job security. Some relocated out of pocket with no help from the company. Meanwhile, the company repays them for all of their hard work by laying them off.” The quality assurance worker at Activision Blizzard went on to say that “QA is the lifeblood of a game. Without us, games would not be functional. It is absolutely unacceptable that QA, especially contractors, face the most job insecurity while being one of the most vital parts of game development.”
"I am gutted right now. My friends in QA at Raven were promised for months that Activision was working towards a pay restructure to increase their wages,” said Austin O'Brien who is a community manager at Raven Software. "Today, one by one, valuable members of the team were called into meetings and told they were being let go."
Workplace discrimination has been a problem in the industry for years. The story broke in November that Jen Oneal was only offered equal pay to her male colleagues after having resigned. Oneal was a leader at Activision Blizzard.
“When Mike and I were placed in the same co-lead role, we went into the role with our previous compensation which was not equivalent," Oneal said. "It remained that way for some time well after we made multiple rejected requests to change it to parity. While the company informed me before I tendered my resignation that they were working on a new proposal, we were made equivalent offers only after I tendered that resignation.”
ABetterABK concluded their statement with a call for change in the industry. “Today we have a unique opportunity to use our voice for change in the industry, but we can't do it alone.” The group continued. “We call on workers across the gaming industry to raise their voices for change. We call on Geoff Keighley to use his voice for change during the Game Awards.”
Keighley has already stated that Activision Blizzard will be excluded from The Game Awards. "Beyond its nominations, I can confirm that Activision Blizzard will not be a part of this year’s Game Awards," Keighley said. “The Game Awards is a time of celebration for this industry, the biggest form of entertainment in the world. There is no place for abuse, harassment, or predatory practices in any company or any community."
ABetterABK wants Keighley to consider the industry at large instead of just Activision Blizzard. “Only together can we truly create an industry standard across all companies where workers can not only excel at the work they do, but feel safe doing it.”
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