Former World of Warcraft senior creative director Alex Afrasiabi was fired last summer following an internal investigation, Activision Blizzard has now said.
Afrasiabi’s departure had been known, though the details surrounding it – including new and disturbing details of a 2013 BlizzCon hotel room nicknamed the “Cosby suite” – have only now been publicly confirmed following a Kotaku report.
In a statement issued to Kotaku last night, an Activision Blizzard spokesperson revealed an internal investigation into the “Cosby Suite” had taken place in June 2020, following a separate investigation of Afrasiabi. As a result, Afrasiabi was “terminated… for his misconduct in his treatment of other employees”.
Afrasiabi and the “Cosby Suite” are both named in the lawsuit filed by the State of California against Activision Blizzard which alleges a “frat boy” culture at the World of Warcraft developer. The lawsuit alleges that Afrasiabi’s harassment of females was so well known his suite was nicknamed “the Crosby Suite [sic] after alleged rapist Bill Crosby [sic].”
Conflicting accounts collated by Kotaku suggest the hotel suite alternatively got its nickname for looking outdated, like Cosby’s sweater, but also that Cosby’s reputation – even in 2013 – was also a factor.
The report includes alleged screenshots of various social media posts by Afrasiabi and other Blizzard employees which appear to show the hotel suite, a stash of alcohol, and a group of employees posing with a photograph of Bill Cosby while lying on a bed.
Alleged screenshots of a group chat from BlizzCon 2013 titled “BlizzCon Cosby Crew” include this exchange:
“I am gathering the hot chixx for the Coz,” one message reads. “You can’t marry ALL of them Alex.”
“I can, I’m middle eastern,” a response labelled as from Afrasiabi replies.
“You misspelled fuck,” reads another person’s reply.
Afrasiabi was approached for comment by Kotaku, but had not responded by publication.
In the State of California lawsuit, Afrasiabi is claimed to have been “permitted to engage in blatant sexual harassment with little to no repercussions”. During BlizzCon, Afrasiabi was alleged to “hit on female employees, telling him he wanted to marry them, attempting to kiss them, and putting his arms around them”. The lawsuit goes on to suggest Activision Blizzard created “a breeding ground for harassment and discrimination against women”.
The company’s initial, terse and corporate-sounding reaction to this enraged Activision Blizzard employees, with thousands signing a petition which described the response as “abhorrent and insulting”. Strike action was announced, to take place yesterday afternoon.
As Activision Blizzard’s share price dipped, the corporation’s boss Bobby Kotick finally issued a more concilatory statement, and admitted his company’s initial reply had been “tone deaf”. Undeterred, employees pressed on with their walkout, saying Kotick’s statement failed to address “critical elements” of their concerns.
Last week, World of Warcraft players held an in-game protest demanding content which referenced Afrasiabi was removed from the game, including an NPC with the same name. Some questioned why it had remained for so long – a question which will likely be asked again now the reason for his departure is publicly known. While not mentioning Afrasiabi by name, Kotick’s statement yesterday confirmed unspecified game content would be removed.