Electronic Arts chief operating officer Laura Miele took aim at toxicity at the top of the videogame industry in her DICE 2022 keynote address (via IGN), saying that “leaders who fall short of basic standards must go.”
“Let’s face it, there have been some rough headlines,” Miele said. “Stories about negligence and lawsuits, all stemming from leaders who failed to uphold standards we’ve come to expect.”
Miele didn’t point the finger anywhere specifically, but there’s no doubt that she was speaking primarily about Activision Blizzard and CEO Bobby Kotick, who have been at the center of an ugly controversy over widespread workplace abuses since mid-2021. Despite the depth and pervasiveness of the abuses, and later reports that Kotick was aware of the problems and had engaged in some pretty awful behavior of his own, Kotick remains as CEO of Activision Blizzard and stands to make an awful lot of money if he steps down after the company’s acquisition by Microsoft is completed.
By conventional business and financial measures, Kotick is a phenomenally successful CEO, but Miele said that kind of success doesn’t matter when it’s underpinned by workplace toxicity and leaders who tolerate it. “Women have been harassed, bullied, marginalized, held back in their careers, paid less, and much, much less,” she said. “These are real stories, real human beings, and this is going on in companies in our industry.”
“Leaders who fall short of basic standards must go.”
Miele is in a position to know: She’s held a variety of roles during a 25-year career at Electronic Arts, and prior to becoming COO served as chief studios officer, a position from which she oversaw the activities of more than 25 EA studios.
Activision Blizzard is the most egregious example of a toxic workplace in the videogame industry right now, but it’s not the only one. Allegations of workplace abuses at Ubisoft preceded those of Activision by a year, and while Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot has not been directly implicated in the scandal, he has faced criticism for denying any role in enabling it to happen and failing to address employee complaints.