When it comes to changes in the games industry, many will say they come at a painfully slow pace. With recent lawsuits alleging terrible working conditions, sexual harassment, discrimination, lack of advancement, and other poor and sometimes antagonistic conditions at developers like Activision Blizzard, Ubisoft, and Riot Games, there's clearly a long way to go. Bungie CEO Pete Parsons made an announcement that shows that proactive change is possible.
One of the most significant parts of the announcement is that Bungie is eliminating mandatory arbitration clauses in all of its employee contracts. “We will be eliminating the mandatory arbitration clause in all our employee agreements, given the growing concern that arbitration may not be the fairest way to resolve employment complaints," reads the announcement in part. These clauses mean that if there are issues, they have to be settled through an internal series of systems, instead of through lawsuits or other formal litigation. They're also more often than not the subject of binding NDAs during the process. Which means not only are you agreeing to not sue, settle your complaint on the company's terms, but then you can't even really talk about it. Secrecy continues and employee options are limited.
An end to mandatory arbitration clauses was one of the demands that ABetterABK, a group of Activision Blizzard employees, made in a letter over the summer. While Activision Blizzard just settled with the EEOC this week, there's still an ongoing lawsuit in California alleging pervasive discrimination, harassment, and hostile workplaces.
Bungie doing away with arbitration clauses is a positive move, but it's only part of their plan. In the announcement, they commit to greater work across the company culture and hiring experiences. They've brought on a Chief People Officer, a new Diversity & Inclusion Director, and they will be reviewing policies, and even the language used and processes to be fairer. They're also opening up an additional anonymous reporting tool to join their existing options.
Parsons' announcement acknowledges that the work is never truly done with D&I, but that improvements are possible, and invites others in the industry to join in the conversation and the work that could and might be done with greater participation in making things better and inclusive for everyone interested in gaming careers.