Until last April, Jules Murillo-Cuellar was a coordinator of Blizzard’s esports programmes, working first on Hearthstone and then on business operations and development. Two days ago he gave his reasons for leaving the company in a TwitLonger post.
He alleges that, while at Blizzard, he suffered racial abuse from his peers that damaged his mental health. He further alleges that at least two senior staff failed to act on his complaints, painting a picture of favouritism and discrimination that led to him being repeatedly ignored, and his “instrumental” contributions minimised.
When approached for comment, Blizzard Entertainment said:
“While the company does not comment on individual personnel issues, we can share that having an inclusive and respectful work environment is extremely important to us. We have a policy against harassment and discrimination and take reports of inappropriate behaviour very seriously. There are a number of methods for employees to come forward should they experience or observe any inappropriate behaviour. All claims of alleged harassment and discrimination which are brought to our attention are investigated, and we take action where appropriate. We strive to create an inclusive and respectful work environment that reflects Blizzard’s core values in everything we do.
“Employee and workplace health is also very important, and we offer different programmes and opportunities that support employees, including health and wellness programmes and counseling, both in the office (often provided for free) as well as through external professional providers.”
Murillo-Cuellar’s LinkedIn profile states he joined Blizzard (as a customer game adviser) in 2013, but his ordeal didn’t start until February 2016, when he moved up to the Hearthstone esports team. He claims that his Mexican heritage inspired a colleague to joke about him being a ‘machista’ – a Mexican male chauvinist.
He says these comments escalated, becoming more upsetting over months. When he first complained to a manager, Murillo-Cuellar claims he was told he was being “moody” and difficult to approach. In this and several subsequent discussions, he says he was assured that the problem would be resolved, but that it was not. He claims he was regularly excluded from important meetings and had work dumped on him at the last minute.
Read more: what can we do to support devs through crunch?
Murillo-Cuellar says this treatment, combined with regular long hours (including 80-100 hours in a week “at least once a month”), affected his mental health. He says he suffered panic attacks and, by August 2018, that he had developed PTSD, for which he was prescribed anti-anxiety medication. An allegedly unproductive meeting with the Hearthstone Esports lead and the promotion of a colleague over him (the one who he accuses of bullying) only added to his anxiety.
After suffering a breakdown, he went on a leave of medical absence until May 2017, whereupon he was transferred to esports business operations. Nonetheless, he was still answerable to senior staff who he names earlier in the post as friends of his former colleague. He claims their demeanour towards him became “borderline hostile”, that his achievements on the Hearthstone team were marginalised, and that he received his worst-ever performance review in a career of positive feedback.
After ongoing panic attacks culminating in a suicide attempt, Murillo-Cuellar says he was placed on an unpaid leave of absence, during which he claims nothing was done, and that he decided to finally resign in February 2018.
Murillo-Cuellar says he is only telling the whole story now because he was “triggered” by Blizzard’s recent announcement that Overwatch’s Soldier: 76 is gay. “The idea of inclusion, of representation, and ‘every voice matters’ and ‘think globally’ never meant that for me and other people of colour I have spoken to,” Murillo-Cuellar says.
You can read more in Murillo-Cuellar’s TwitLonger post, though do note he goes into detail about his suicide attempt and the abuse he claims to have suffered. It’s also important to remember that, unless and until Blizzard chooses to investigate and comment upon his specific claims, his is only one perspective on events.
- Hearthstone players surveyed about esports just after the HotS scene is killed
- Low morale at Blizzard Esports is reportedly leading to high-profile departures
- Blizzard’s global esports director is the second high-profile departure in a month
- Blizzard doesn’t want you to be “bogged down trying to build decks” in Hearthstone
- Blizzard names and shames 18,000 South Korean Overwatch accounts banned for toxicity