As Geoff Keighley’s annual Game Awards show enters its eighth year, the creator and host told The Washington Post today that he’s still thinking about how to “navigate” Activision Blizzard’s involvement in the ceremony following the latest reports of sexual misconduct at the publisher.
“We want to support employees and developers,” Keighley said in an interview about what to expect at the 2021 Game Awards, which takes place on December 9. “[Keighley] added he supported people coming forward with their stories but also didn’t want to diminish developers’ opportunities to spotlight their games,” The Washington Post reported.
“We have to think very carefully about how to proceed here,” he said in the interview. Despite being one of the most prominent figures in the video game industry, Keighley has so far refrained from calling out the reported years of abuse at one of the biggest gaming companies in the world.
Keighley and The Game Awards did not respond to a request for comment.
Activision Blizzard, which faces a lawsuit by California regulators alleging years of widespread sexual discrimination, harassment, and other forms of mistreatment, is one of a handful of companies on The Game Awards’ advisory board. In addition to Activision president Rob Kostich, the board also includes executives from Nintendo, Microsoft, Sony, and many of the gaming industry’s other corporate giants.
Executives from those console manufacturers in particular were some of the few voices who spoke out recently, albeit internally rather than publicly, following a bombshell investigation by The Wall Street Journal about misconduct at Activision Blizzard that implicated its CEO, Bobby Kotick.
While thousands of the publisher’s employees called on Kotick to resign, Nintendo of America president Doug Bowser, PlayStation boss Jim Ryan, and head of Xbox Phil Spencer, each emailed their respective staffs to express their own disgust and concern over the allegations, though none announced any specific changes to their business relationships with Activision Blizzard.
In addition to recognizing the hard work and artistic achievements of game developers, The Game Awards is also a giant marketing platform for gaming companies to advertise their upcoming games. Last year, Activision used the event to show off the first season of Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War’s post-launch Warzone content.
In the latest episode of Inside the Game Awards, a podcast series promoting the show, Keighley confirmed that new game announcements and trailers are by far the most popular part of the event, and the number-one reason most viewers tune in. He also spoke at length about the work and collaboration with game companies that goes into curating each year’s selection of trailers. Keighley confirmed to The Washington Post that the 2021 show won’t include anything about Blizzard’s recently delayed Diablo IV and Overwatch 2, but didn’t mention whether other Activision Blizzard games might appear.
Accusations of misconduct and abuse are hardly unique to Activision Blizzard, however. In addition to the growing mountain of reports about crunch at many of the studios often nominated at The Game Awards, other members of its advisory board have also faced criticism. Sony’s PlayStation division was recently sued by a former employee alleging gender discrimation. Microsoft has faced a number of discrimination accusations over the years. Reports of a culture of sexism at Riot Games eventually resulted in a giant settlement. And Ubisoft, which faced its own massive #MeToo reckoning last year, continues to be accused by current and former employees of failing to take complaints of misconduct seriously.
Update: 12/4/21, 8:21 a.m. ET: Keighley elaborated on Activision Blizzard’s involvement in this year’s Game Awards in a Twitter thread posted late last night. The host confirmed that the publisher is not appearing outside of the categories its games are nominated for (nominations and winners are voted on by media), and added that “There is no place for abuse, harassment or predatory practices in any company or any community.”
Keighley went on:
I also realize we have a big platform which can accelerate and inspire change. We are committed to that, but we all need to work together to build a better and a more inclusive environment so everyone feels safe to build the world’s best games.
All of us are accountable to this standard. Incredible games — and the talented developers who build them — are who we want to celebrate. See you on Thursday.