Capitalism has trained us to expect the absolute minimum from companies and the mind-bogglingly wealthy people who run them. It’s infuriating and heartbreaking that a reportedly toxic and abusive culture at one of the world’s biggest gaming companies is only being reckoned with years too-late, and only then because of arm-twisting by public opinion, employee protests, and the threat of litigation by the biggest state in the country. And still, Activision Blizzard’s song and dance with investors managed to be even bleaker than I could have imagined.


When Assassin’s Creed publisher Ubisoft faced a similar reckoning over harassment and misconduct last summer (one which persists despite attempts by leadership to brush it aside), an investor asked CEO Yves Guillemot whether he was just oblivious or knew and did nothing. Guillemot rejected both options. While no single question by an investor or anyone else has the capacity to fix the systemic issues plaguing the games industry, the exchange provided a brief moment of catharsis in an otherwise hellish onslaught of secrecy and denials. Nobody was as similarly blunt with Kotick.

PR spin, propaganda, hypernormalisation—whatever you want to call it, we’re collectively told over and over by people in power that what we witness and experience is bullshit and the bullshit they serve us back is what’s actually true. That’s in part how a company with an increasingly documented history of not treating people right—be it Activision Blizzard or, Inc.—can say with a straight face that it really does care without being immediately laughed out of the room. It’s what we’ve come to expect but that doesn’t make it any less exhausting. And it doesn’t mean anyone else has to play along.