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Photo: SOPA Images / Getty

“Call of Duty” and “World of Warcraft” maker Activision Blizzard is accused of fostering a “pervasive frat boy workplace culture,” that subjects women to harassment, abuse and lower pay, according to a lawsuit filed earlier this week by the state of California.

Why it matters: Activision Blizzard is one of the biggest gaming companies in the world and must now answer a litany of allegations.

  • California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing says it filed the suit following a two-year investigation and a failure to mediate the issues with Activision Blizzard.
  • The game-maker calls the suit “distorted.”

Between the lines: In a filing full of vivid anecdotes, the department describes “‘cube crawls’ in which male employees drink copious amounts of alcohol” and move through office cubicles, engaging in “inappropriate behavior toward female employees.”

  • It claims Activision Blizzard and its subsidiaries "promote women more slowly and terminate them more quickly than their male counterparts.”
  • Blizzard management is accused of failing to take sufficient action when alerted by employees, some of whom are said to have been retaliated against.
  • The suit says women of color were “particularly vulnerable targets” of discriminatory practices at the company.

What they’re saying: “The DFEH includes distorted, and in many cases false, descriptions of Blizzard’s past,” a spokesperson for Activision Blizzard told Axios.

  • The company says it cooperated with the California group’s investigation but “they refused to inform us what issues they perceived.”
  • While critical of the DFEH, the game-maker also says it has improved its culture, citing internal employee hotlines and a strengthened commitment to diversity.
  • “Over the past several years and continuing since the initial investigation started, we’ve made significant changes to address company culture and reflect more diversity within our leadership teams.”

The big picture: Game companies have been accused of operating as boy’s clubs for years, leading to mistreatment of women and other marginalized employees.

  • In February, the DFEH said it was suing “League of Legends” giant Riot Games, which in 2019 had agreed to pay a settlement of at least $10 million to women who worked at the company.
  • Another of gaming’s biggest companies, Ubisoft, has been subject to numerous complaints about sexual misconduct, leading to the departure of several top men from that gaming giant.

What’s next: Activision Blizzard has vowed to refute the DFEH claims in court.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Updated 57 mins ago - Sports

Katie Ledecky wins gold in first women's 1500m freestyle

Team USA's Katie Ledecky celebrates after winning the final of the women's 1,500m freestyle swimming event during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre in Tokyo on Wednesday. Photo: Attila Kisbenedek/AFP via Getty Images)

Katie Ledecky took home the Olympic gold medal in the women's 1,500-meter freestyle swimming race Tuesday evening, becoming the first female swimmer to win the newly added division. Team USA's Erica Sullivan won silver.

Of note: The Tokyo Games mark the first time that the long-distance race has been open to women, and Ledecky paid tribute to her predecessors after the race. "I just think of all the great U.S. swimmers who didn’t have a chance to swim that event," she said on NBC.

Updated 1 hour ago - Sports

Olympics dashboard

Katie Ledecky celebrates with teammate Erica Sullivan after winning the women’s 1500m freestyle final. Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

🚨: Katie Ledecky wins gold in first women's 1500m freestyle

🤸🏾‍♀️: Simone Biles pulls out of gymnastics team finals, citing her mental health

🎾: "This one sucks more than the others," Naomi Osaka says on upset loss

⚽️: USA women's soccer ties Australia, propelling them to the quarterfinals

🏊‍♀️: Teen swimmer Lydia Jacoby wins first U.S. women's Tokyo Games gold

👟: World Athletics president supports reviewing marijuana rules in doping

🏄‍♀️: American Carissa Moore wins first-ever women's Olympic gold in surfing

Go deeper: Full Axios coverage - Medal tracker

Activision Blizzard CEO calls company's response to suit "tone deaf"

Photo: Bloomberg/ Getty Images

Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick sent a lengthy letter to employees late on Tuesday, listing steps the company will take to address widespread allegations of sexist and discriminatory conduct at the "Call of Duty" and "World of Warcraft" gaming company.

Why it matters: This was the most comprehensive message from the company, and a softer one than had been sent by Kotick's PR people and a top executive last week.

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