So the DICE Awards, the video game industry’s Oscar equivalent, was held last night. A bunch of games took home trophies, including Hazelight Studios’ It Takes Two, which won its second Game of the Year award–but arguably, that wasn’t the night’s biggest news. No, what folks were waiting for was to find out what kind of mess might happen on-stage. Earlier in the day, before the event unfolded, Kinda Funny co-founder and industry hypeman Greg Miller stated on Twitter he would use his airtime in front of the industry’s top developers to “mak[ing] enemies”. Well, he said something that wound up getting applause from the crowd.
Bethesda executive producer Todd Howard opened the night with a monologue about the “turmoil and uncertainty in the world,” particularly as horrific events unfold in Ukraine. He talked about Wordle and The Sims before handing the stage over to Miller and co-host Jessica Chobot. Things got spicy from there, as Miller called out Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick.
After joking about Cyberpunk 2077, Metroid Dread, and NFTs, Miller said “fuck Bobby Kotick” to claps and cheers from the audience. It was a brief but critical moment, especially since The Game Awards host Geoff Keighley was criticised for refusing to overtly name names in December. Generally, while many visible figures in the games industry are willing to decry the general idea of harassment, or espouse the values of diversity, it’s much rarer to hear any specifics about what those remarks are in response to, or who the bad actors causing the issues might be. It doesn’t mean that such remarks can’t be thoughtful or incisive: earlier at DICE, EA Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Laura Miele didn’t mince words when she said “Leaders who fall short of basic standards must go.” But it’s definitely unusual to attach names like Miller did, especially on such a public platform.
Miller told Kotaku via email that while he was prepared to debate the show’s producers and writers about including such a clear critique in their speech, he not only didn’t have to but was also praised for being so upfront.
“As we got closer and closer to the DICE Awards, I knew that I wanted the monologue to say something real about both NFTs and the abuse that’s been allowed to run rampant in the industry,” Miller said. “I had seen Geoff get blowback from the Game Awards for not naming names, so I was prepared to fight to get stuff like this in.
“As for the crowd, I don’t think they expected us to go so hard,” Miller continued. “There was usual smattering of laughs and groans but there was the addition of stunned silence. Everyone who approached me afterward said they loved it and stood by the message — no one told me I was wrong.”
Kotaku has reached out to Activision Blizzard for comment.
Miller isn’t wrong. The maligned CEO has been in the headlines for months for a variety of reasons, but one of the most damning was a Wall Street Journal report about Kotick threatening to kill an assistant via voicemail. He’s always been an arsehole, seemingly downplaying the severity of Activision Blizzard’s sexual harassment issues while courting an acquisition from Microsoft just days after the harassment report was filed. He was reportedly responsible for preventing those who were perpetrating sexual discrimination and harassment from getting fired while also being shitty to women himself. He’s the definition of “scumbag,” an example of the industry’s worst parts.
It’s awesome seeing high-profile figures not just demand better from the games industry but rightfully calling out those who perpetuate harmful workplace environments. Things won’t change until there are enough voices actively fighting for it. The only way to end abuse is to stand up to it.