ActiBlizzWalkout: Nevalistis opens up

Former Diablo community manager Nevalistis opened up about her experience working at Blizzard Entertainment. The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) vs Activision Blizzard lawsuit reported by Bloomberg isn’t exclusively about sexual harassment, but there are other complex situations that affect women employed at Blizzard and in the gaming industry as a whole.

Nevalistis wasn’t specifically subject to sexual harassment, but there were practices by male employees with higher positions than her that made her life filled with hardships. To the point that she kept her associate title for 6 years without a promotion to a higher position and pay; where other males who were new to the job were promoted ahead of her.

Nevalistis even applied to join the Diablo team in other more challenging and ambitious title through self-teaching new skills. Yet she was turned down twice within minutes of submitting her application without any feedback on how to improve to reapply.

Many of us thought Nevalistis was among those who were laid off, but it turns out she had applied at her new job with a 18% increase. Blizzard didn’t offer her an equal counter offer to stay in Blizzard, and there was never a way for her to grow within the company, where others — especially men — would, 10 years in.

It is a very long letter, but Nevalistis wrapped up like never before many of the things she suffered through as a community manager and even earlier in her stage as customer support agent. It is extremely heart-wrenching. (link credit to MVP MissCheetah)

Here is what the women and minorities at Blizzard want Activision Blizzard to change.

COMMUNITY MANAGER ABANDONED IN PARIS

I don’t remember if I ever shared this with anyone in an article in 2008. Maybe I did. It is hard to share because it was traumatic for me to experience it. The sense of dread to the unknown.

Reading the letter shared by Nevalistis made me look at that experience from the point of view of another community manager. What you are going to read just now is going to sound shocking to some of you.

The letter says the following:

Nevalistis: During my time as a Community Manager, I was very vocal about women not being left alone at events, regardless of if they were an employee or otherwise. I heavily advocated for a buddy system at events we travelled to, regularly disseminated information publicly on how to protect yourself at events, and pushed to make sure our female invitees to BlizzCon were provided a +1 ticket, always. Women do not feel safe at industry events, and for good reason. There were coworkers who would push back on this “special treatment.” I noticed that, after I was drugged and went to to the emergency room during a party at PAX West, suddenly they were a lot less vocal about pushing back on this. It shouldn’t require sharing my personal trauma to show that these situations are real threats.

This statement triggered me the memory of something I witnessed in 2008.

Back then Youtube was barely a blip. YouTube was founded in 2005. Twitch didn’t exist yet (founded in 2011). Blizzard invited fansites to the Blizzard Worldwide Invitationals in Paris, France for a special announcement. Blizzard paid our flight and hotel accommodations. We were in for a treat when Diablo III was announced onstage.

The Blizzard Worldwide Invitationals event ended late in the afternoon, and after we wrapped up our articles at the press room and published, a few community managers took the fansite members to a restaurant across the street, outside of the convention center.

By the end of the dinner, now it was dark outside, so it was probably quite late (between 9-10pm).

I recall seeing one of the male community managers (the one that seemed to be in charge) kinda tipsie as he had been drinking alcohol. This is my interpretation of what I witnessed, so I apologize if my account is not accurate (feel free to reach out to correct me to retract this statement). My opinion is that he was a bit drunk at the end of the dinner.

We stood up and followed the community managers outside the restaurant.

To my surprise, that male community manager walked away with another male. I am not sure if the other male was a community manager or worked at the Paris offices, or was a friend of him. They both literally left.

The only community manager who I recall was with us after that happened is a woman. I don’t feel comfortable naming names — but those of us who were there know this story. Painfully engraved in their memory for all time for what happened next.

The woman walked us back to the train station to deliver us back to the hotel. However, there was no more train service at that time of the night.

So here we are stranded in Paris. I had no idea where I was. I had no idea where the Hotel was located. I didn’t even know the name of the Hotel (looked it up in my bookmarks just now: Le Meridien Etoile). Therefore, if I had been left alone or got distracted, I wouldn’t even know where to tell a taxi to take me to… in a foreign country.

So we walked for several minutes. One of the fansites members had a GPS device. So the woman community manager and fansites walked behind that person — leading us toward the Hotel.

Eventually, the guy with the GPS was so selfish and walked so fast we ended up losing him. He just disappeared in one of the corners and we never found him. So now we were definitely stranded with no way to the Hotel.

Some of the fansites members started to split up in smaller groups instead of sticking together.

The woman community manager, bless her heart, knew where the hotel was. She signaled a taxi to stop, and at least 4 of us entered the taxi. I was among them.

Sadly, all other fansites didn’t have that luck.

We finally arrived to the Hotel. To this day, I don’t know if Blizzard Entertainment ever reimbursed her the Taxi. But where I was lucky to enter that Taxi, others will remember that day with dread.

Next day, I talked to one of the guys who split away from the main group (where the sole remaining community manager was). He told me that they walked and walked all night, and arrived to the Hotel somewhere around 2-3am. That was a 4-5 hours walk, to put in context.

(I can tell they didn’t know where they were because Google Maps says it is a 1 hour, 24 minute walk). It took them approximately 4 times longer.

Update: I reached out to one of the fansite members present there who walked back to the hotel. He told me they didn’t know where the hotel was. One of them called the hotel by phone for directions, but no taxis/cabs were stopping in the street. It took them 4 hours to walk to the hotel. Another group walked all night, he says. That’s the group my source was in. I’m going to try to track him down for his version.

Update: My old source doesn’t remember much, but recalls none of the taxi/cabs were stopping. He says they arrived to the hotel around 2-3am. He prefers to stay anonymous.

What Nevalistis mentioned in her letter, reminded me how could it be possible for a woman “assistant” community manager to have been left alone on her own with fansites members?

I can now think of so many scenarios where what happened in 2008 could have ended badly for her, and for us. Not to mention there were other young women with us from fansites.

The company should be more watchful toward women in events like BlizzCon, PAX West, PAX East, etc. Period. Designate teams and responsibilities to watch over fellow women employees until they are safe at their hotel room.

That was not the only bad experience I have had with Blizzard EU. But those are stories for another time. Right now, my thoughts go toward that blessed community manager left stranded in Paris; and countless others who might have experienced worse over the past 12 years.

* portions of the article were edited to put the focus on the terrible experience this assistant community manager went through because her male co-workers decided to leave her alone. I can’t remember well, but one of them co-workers might have had a car. No woman employee should be abandoned in a foreign country at 10pm. The Company Logistics here were extremely poor not accounting for co-workers sticking together until all fansites had been taken to the hotel; logicstics on when the train service stops working that day; logistics on how to get ahold of several taxis as plan B; etc.

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BlizzCon 2019 Panel Transcripts

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