Alex Afrasiabi did something unacceptable to me
Alex Afrasiabi did something unacceptable to me in 2012, at the Blizzard Holiday Party. Though I never worked at Blizzard myself, I knew many people at the party, as I worked in StarCraft II esports at the time, and formerly game publishing. I’ve decided to speak up now, to add to the collective experiences within the Blizzard culture.
Alex and I sat at a table inside the ballroom where the party was in the Disneyland Hotel, with his sister Sammi. This is the first time I had met his sister. I knew that they spent a lot of time together and were very close and would attend events together as a normal thing. I had gone to the party with another friend as a plus one, but he was there with his sister and others. For some context, Alex had let me know prior to this moment, he was interested in me for something a bit more on the serious side, which it was too soon to tell if it was going to be reciprocated. However, we were not in a relationship and had not been physical, outside of kissing.
Later in the night during the party, Alex and I took a walk and went to the fireplace over at the in the middle of the Disneyland Hotel’s outdoor area, to just talk and get away from the noise for a while. After we came back, we hung out with people outside the party a bit, talked to some people (who shall remain nameless) and then we met back up with Sammi Afrasiabi, and went to a small gathering upstairs in an executive’s suite. I believe it was Rob Pardo’s suite. There were about a dozen people total up there, including Mike Morhaime, and Frank Pearce.
Alex was getting drunk, and I was staying sober, and he was being very vocal (about his what I assume crush on me) in front of these folks. He was saying to everyone in a loud “toast” manner who I was if they didn’t know me, that I was Anne and I work in Starcraft esports with FXOpen, and one of my organizations players (Leenock) just won the GSL world Championship days before, and that he was going to marry me.
I remember my inner dialogue saying, “what the fuck?” at him saying all of this and announcing this to all of the top executives at Blizzard. It was so embarrassing on a professional level, and not to mention personal level, with everyone stopping and looking at us. He was getting very touchy-feely and kissed me passionately in front of everyone after this declaration. It was totally inappropriate. He then started rambling on to me that he meant it, he wants to marry me. Then, he said “well, my mom will have a problem with all of your tattoos, but I don’t mind at all…” I remember me making eye contact with Sammi as he was being loud and getting drunker, and me looking at her wide-eyed like “what is he doing?” She looked at me with pity, but it didn’t seem to surprise her, from my perspective. We were talking to Cory Stockton at one point, and the conversation started turning into a heated and loud topic over a game in development (Titan) with Alex and someone else. I was 100% sure I was not supposed to hear this conversation without signing an NDA or something, so I gave them some space and walked away to leave them to it.
Mike Morhaime was sitting on a couch against the window and was friendly towards me and told me Leenock was his favorite player, and that he remembers me from other esports events. I remember he told me he had watched the GSL matches we just had won at IPL in Las Vegas. Alex was being really loud in the background. Nobody seemed bothered by it. Eventually I walked back to the area Alex, Sammi and I were standing by, and Alex leaned down and kissed me and put his hand inside of my dress and cupped my breast inside of my bra. I was honestly horrified and shocked and hope that nobody saw this. I excused myself and went to the restroom. I didn’t know how to react. I knew he was drunk and getting drunker and louder as he was speaking with colleagues. I wound up talking with Frank Pearce about craft beer, and Alex came back from the hallway outside of the room, where we could faintly hear him having a heated argument now with someone, about the game he was talking about before. Nobody seemed to think anything was abnormal or pay any attention to this behavior. As I was speaking to Frank, Alex re-entered the room and looked at us and said while looking at me “Bitches man, bitches” and kept walking.
(Side note, that became sort of an “inside joke” the next time I saw Frank Pearce. He looked at me almost a year later at Blizzcon in the Hilton Lobby, and said “Bitches man, bitches” before asking how I was doing… Clearly this was memorable, perceived as funny and normal that Afrasiabi said this to me. In my view, it was also normalized.)
Alex and Sammi and I left the suite, and we walked out to the parking lot. My car was on the other side of the hotel parking lot. Sammi opened the car door of her brothers Mercedes, and I got in the back so she could drop me off at my car. Alex followed in after me. Between the time we got in and I was dropped off at my car, Alex shocked me by boldly sticking his hand inside of my dress and grabbed me, pushing my underwear aside. I pushed his hand out, furious. This was completely shocking and unwanted. I knew right then he did not value me or respect me. But I also made the excuse to myself he was drunk. I wrote it off, I knew I felt like shit about it.
That was the absolute end of any potential relationship, obviously. But I didn’t say anything about that because it is not only traumatizing but embarrassing. I felt terrible about it. I also knew if had told people that knew us, he could inflict a lot of damage on my life and my career. I stayed friends with him on Facebook and his sister. I just… normalized it. I excused it as his drunken behavior. I assumed after him not hearing from me he would apologize. That never happened. I am sickened that I kept it all to myself all these years.