We’re Mad as Hell: Frat Boy Culture in the Gaming World

by Sep 3, 2021

The sexist culture in the gaming industry doesn’t start and stop with Blizzard.

According to this article in Forbes, “In 2020, 41% of video game players in the United States were female. Yet the vast majority of game protagonists are male… According to the 2020 Global Gaming Gender Balance Scorecard, roughly 84% of executives at the top 14 global gaming companies were men.”

Blizzard certainly deserves the attention it’s getting, though. Just imagine your daughter, wife, or friend going to work and finding her male colleagues on the floor doing “cube crawls”. Drinking and crawling their way through the cubicles while spewing sexual banter and joking about rape.

You think “she’s got to be kidding”, right? Not at all. Not according to over 2,000 Activision Blizzard employees. Not according to a lawsuit filed by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

And it didn’t stop there. Nude photos of a female employee were passed around at a company holiday party. She tragically took her own life while on a company trip with her supervisor.

As long as I’ve been doing this work and hearing these types of stories, I’ll never get less angry about them.

Unfortunately, many leaders don’t have a reaction unless monetary costs are identified. Riot Games, for example, agreed to a $10 million settlement in 2019 to a class-action lawsuit around sexual harassment and gender discrimination.

Take a good, hard look at what your company stands for. Don’t wait to address the culture of your company.

The core values should reflect the beliefs, ideas and traits shared by your employees and people held accountable to living them by engraining them in your culture. It is the organizations’ North Star and the anchor for your diversity and inclusion work.

You might be thinking, “How do I start?” and also, “That Blizzard stuff will never happen here.” I got news for you; the type of bad behavior seen at Blizzard isn’t going away any time soon. And your organization is not immune unless you consistently focus on keeping that behavior out.

Here’s a few ideas to get you on track.


  1. Look at how the values of your employees are reflected in your workplace, if at all. Ask them what they value, how they’d like to be treated at work, and what they need from you to feel psychologically safe. Learn from them and then do it. Check out how we can help with an employee culture survey.
  2. Does your executive team reflect female and ethnic minorities? If not, hire them so you can gain their perspectives and improve your products, services, and work culture.
  3. Review your recruiting process and your sourcing strategy to gather talent from differing backgrounds and add more diverse perspectives to the organization.
    1. Be sure your job postings contain inclusive language.
    2. Create an internal posting board to provide visibility and career growth for your employees.
    3. Conduct slate interviewing to advance a pool of candidates that contain a large percentage of women and/or minorities.
  4. Create a mentorship program as a platform for underrepresented groups to advance their career goals and offer immersive experiences for them to access strategies and tools that support their progression.
  5. Institutionalize channels where any employee can report inappropriate behavior. We wholeheartedly recommend Speakfully, an online platform that provides a place for anonymous grievances, but also provides analytics related to company culture.
  6. Invest in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Start by providing training to your managers and supervisors on what inclusion is and how to recognize and minimize unconscious bias. We’ve got you on this one. Check it out at this link.Also, hire a DEI consultant to conduct an assessment. They’ll look at your marketing, products, culture and more to provide you with a list of action items for improving your DEI.
  7. Watch this series of free courses from LinkedIn Learning on the topics of unconscious bias, allyship, inclusive conversations, and more.
  8. Hire Civility Partners. We can help you focus on strengthening the culture of your organization and ensure everyone can thrive in a workplace that celebrates a culture of respect, inclusivity, diversity and collective wellbeing.

About Catherine Mattice Zundel

Catherine Mattice Zundel, MA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP is President of consulting and training firm, Civility Partners, and has been successfully providing programs in workplace bullying and building positive workplaces since 2007. Her clients include Fortune 500’s, the military, several universities and hospitals, government agencies, small businesses and nonprofits. She has published in a variety of trade magazines and has appeared several times on NPR, FOX, NBC, and ABC as an expert, as well as in USA Today, Inc Magazine, Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine, and more. Catherine is Past-President of the Association for Talent Development (ATD), San Diego Chapter and teaches at National University. In his book foreword, Ken Blanchard called her book, BACK OFF! Your Kick-Ass Guide to Ending Bullying at Work, “the most comprehensive and valuable handbook on the topic.” She recently released a second book entitled, SEEKING CIVILITY: How Leaders, Managers and HR Can Create a Workplace Free of Bullying.

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