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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Revelations about Activision Blizzard's alleged toxic work environment are pushing fans to reconsider their role in supporting the company’s products.

Why it matters: The answer for how to be an ethical consumer is a complicated one in which there is no simple, fix-all solution.

  • On Twitter, a Blizzard senior producer said that "it's a really bad feeling for those of us women who still work and fight daily at said company."
  • She added that when people aren't buying the company's games, this affects profit sharing and her potential bonuses. "The impact of this lawsuit might mean that in March, when my newborn goes to FT childcare and my maternity leave ends — I might not get the bonus I need to pay for that childcare."

What they're saying: Some Activision Blizzard employees tell Axios that boycotts may do more harm than good.

A current employee says that while they understand the reasoning behind it — losing money will catch the eye of executives and shareholders, forcing them to take action — it doesn't actually work that way.

  • "It's harmful [to] the people who work there, who pour their lives into the game and are determined to make AB studios (and all game studios frankly) better places," they said. "We can't fix these problems if we're unemployed and we can't elevate women if we're boycotting all of the work they've done and are doing."

Another told Axios they personally don't believe boycotts are effective, "because way fewer people care enough to get involved than dedicated fans think there will be."

  • "Even if a critical mass were reached, it's more likely to result in layoffs on the dev teams than any change in opinion or composition at the top."

The big picture: Unethical labor practices are built into many aspects of the game industry, including harassment and overworking employees.

  • Games like "Red Dead Redemption 2" are built through intense cycles of crunch, yet go on to dominate award seasons with no mention of those work conditions.

The question to ask may be why you're boycotting and what you hope to achieve, rather than if you should.

  • Players' recent efforts to boycott "Pokémon Go" over changes made to the game moved developer Niantic to respond and react.
  • Although players might not get what they're asking for — for some changes to remain, even as COVID restrictions are lifted — their motivations are clear.

The bottom line: Players who want to support developers and better working conditions in games may want to instead focus on supporting the initiatives developers themselves have instead championed.

Go deeper

As Pokémon turns 25, it grapples with an expanding audience

Photo illustration: Axios Visuals. Photo of J.C. Smith courtesy of The Pokémon Company International

As it turns 25, the hit Pokémon franchise is booming, even as it grapples with the challenges of an expanding fanbase.

Why it matters: Pokémon, which generated $5.1 billion in revenue in 2020, has come a long way from sending parents into a panic.

Modders re-create downloadable "Mass Effect" content

Image courtesy of Mgamerz.

A group of modders have re-created downloadable "Mass Effect" content that was previously lost, allowing players to revisit — or experience for the first time — areas not even its own developers at BioWare could salvage.

The details: The content in question is "Mass Effect"'s Pinnacle Station, released in 2009, which modders were able to add to PC versions of trilogy remaster, "Mass Effect: Legendary Edition."

Updated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds — Omicron pushes COVID deaths toward 2,000 per day — The pandemic-proof health care giant.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Starbucks drops worker vaccine or test requirement after SCOTUS ruling — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America.
  3. Politics: Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies — Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults.
  5. Variant tracker