Activision Blizzard is keeping good on CEO Bobby Kotick’s promise that the company would invest $250 million to increase opportunities in gaming for historically underrepresented demographics. The Santa Monica, California-headquartered video game company is creating those opportunities with its new Level Up U training program.
Bobby Kotick said he’s “incredibly excited about the potential of Level Up U.” The program is the initial initiative of the diversity fund that the company created in October 2021. It’s designed to educate enrolled participants on game development basics so they can eventually fill engineering roles at the company. “In addition to traditional classroom and project-based work, those in the program will also have access to our incredible leaders who will serve as guest speakers and mentors,” stated Julie Hodges, Activision Blizzard’s chief people officer.
What To Expect From the Immersive Training Program
The first installment of the Level Up U agenda is focused on developing engineering skills. According to a statement from Bobby Kotick’s Activision Blizzard, “We are looking for candidates who have a programming background, familiarity with [programming language] C++, and are ultimately seeking an engineering position within the company.” After completing the immersive training curriculum, the grads connect with the company’s recruiting team to pinpoint the best full-time engineering role for each individual.
“We are a business fueled by passion and performance,” stated Robert Kotick. “These are the cornerstones of our creative excellence, but we must constantly recognize, embrace, and celebrate that the very best ideas, the most rigorous execution of those ideas, and ultimately our responsibility to our placers and each other are best served by a culture that recognizes and respects that true excellence comes from diverse views, voices, and talents.”
Tad Leckman is the dean of Level Up U. Leckman brings 20 years of experience in learning and development to the role. Together with learning teams and gaming engineers, Leckman developed a course of study that teaches participants the fundamentals of game development and how to work efficiently and effectively in teams. The inaugural class will need to work together on a two-week project using one of Activision Blizzard’s game engines to create a new game mode.
Diversity and Inclusion Attract Top Talent Opportunities
According to a report by Accenture, in April 2021, the global gaming industry was valued at more than $300 billion. To continue to grow and thrive, companies need to incubate a diverse and inclusive environment to ensure a fruitful future for the games industry.
“In a nondiverse space, you’re only drawing from a limited talent pool, and you’re only drawing from a limited set of ideas. You’re about to become a bit of an echo chamber as an organization or an industry. You start missing opportunities. If you only hear from people who sound like you or look like you, that becomes a diminishing pool of opportunity,” Philip Mayes, managing director at Mighty Kingdom, told Games Industry. “One of the biggest pieces of advice that I give to companies starting to think about D&I [diversity and inclusion] is to imagine the future of the business, think about where you want to be in five or 10 years, and start to make a plan, start to make targets that you can actually measure toward.”
Activision CEO Bobby Kotick Understands the Importance of Attracting Diversity and Upskilling Talent
“Talent and diversity have always been critical to Activision Blizzard’s success. However, the industry’s rapid growth, including our franchises, has made it clear that we need to find new ways to attract and grow talent,” Bobby Kotick stated. “This is the first of many Level Up U programs, and our plan is to expand to other skill areas such as art and animation.”
There are 104 participants, both newcomers and current employees, involved in the first Level Up U class, which started on July 11. “We looked at a broader set of skills, experiences, and capabilities that we believe matter most to an employee’s success at Activision Blizzard and revisited where those skills exist in the market,” stated Hodges. “We hope this will lead to greater talent mobility both within Activision Blizzard and in the games industry.”
Graduates of the program will continue to be mentored by longtime employees of the video game company. CEO Bobby Kotick stated, “My goal — and the goal of our board, our entire senior corporate team, our business unit leaders, and their teams — is to make sure [the employees] have the resources, culture, and commitment from leadership [they] need to succeed in our collective aspiration to be the model workplace in our industry.”
Kotick continued, “Being welcoming and inclusive, in the context of our workplace, is crystal clear. We will still passionately debate ideas, employ healthy skepticism when appropriate, and demand excellence and rigor in all of our pursuits — but we will always treat each other with dignity and respect. And regardless of differences, voices will be heard, perspectives welcomed, and contributions valued.”