In the beginning of August, Kotaku published an article alleging a toxic environment specifically sexism inside Riot Games. Riot is the company that publishes the popular MOBA League of Legends. They have issued a lengthy response to the article.
The article alleges they spoke to 28 current and former employees who painted Riot as “a place where women are treated unfairly, where the company’s culture puts female employees at a disadvantage.” The article also alleges employees were subject to images of “unwelcome pictures of male genitalia from bosses or colleagues.”
However, they did make it clear that top female employees told them “they had not personally experienced gender discrimination at Riot.” But the article would mostly ignore this and focus on claims of sexism.
A number of Riot employees began pushing back:
My experiences at Riot are not reflected in this, but make no mistake: this is not an issue isolated one company or another. Tech and games are rotten with sexism. I’m proud of the steps I’ve seen Riot take, but we’ve all got a long way to go. https://t.co/INeFzFOY6j via @kotaku
— Jenny Huls (@RiotTinyBun) August 7, 2018
I obviously don’t speak for anyone but myself, but this doesn’t reflect my working experiences at all. Perhaps working on the other side of the world is part of this–I work with completely different people, all of whom I feel respect me. https://t.co/YUkN4zGGRq
— EmeraldSatyr | Cassie (@EmeraldSatyr) August 7, 2018
Same. Riot Games Sydney was an amazing, collaborative workplace where women were treated fairly and equitably.
It’s concerning when global offices live out Riot culture better than HQ. https://t.co/ImxxpsfCgQ
— Alex Manisier (@alexmanisier) August 7, 2018
There were other former employees who backed up Kotaku’s article:
I am often asked, “Why did you leave Riot?”
I usually say something like, “Cultural differences emerged between myself and some of senior leadership, so I chose to leave.”
— Barry Hawkins (@barryhawkins) August 27, 2018
— ResetEra NT (@ResetEraNT) August 20, 2018
Riot would eventually weigh in with their own statement stating, “We will weave this change into our cultural DNA and leave no room for sexism or misogyny. Inclusivity, diversity, respect, and equality are all non-negotiable.”
They would then go on to address people they’ve let down:
“To Rioters, contractors, former Rioters, and past contractors: We’re sorry. We’re sorry that Riot hasn’t always been—or wasn’t—the place we promised you. And we’re sorry it took so long for us to hear you. In the days, weeks, months, years to come, we’re going to make Riot a place we can all be proud of.
To players and fans, past and present: We’re humbled by the time you’ve spent with us. We know that the studio behind a game can be an important part of how you feel about that game. We know we’ve let you down and we’re committed to fixing that.
To people considering a career at Riot: We understand if you have some doubt or hesitation. But we also need you now more than ever. We need people who will drive change and fight for what’s right. Building Riot wasn’t easy. Rebuilding it won’t be either. But the promise of Riot’s future is stronger than ever and if you’re up for being part of the solution, we want to meet you.
To current and prospective partners: We know you have questions about Riot’s culture and our future. We ask for some patience as we focus internally on taking the steps to heal and improve. We’re committed to you, as we are to Rioters, that we’re going to set the bar high on culture and that we’ll update you as we make progress.”
After apologizing, they would map out a number of first steps in transforming the company. They claim the “transformation is going to be the source of our future strength as a company.”
Expanding the Culture, Diversity, and Inclusion (D&I) Initiative: We’ve built a new team to lead our cultural evolution. This group and their work will impact every corner of this organization, and will also accelerate our existing cultural and inclusion work. We are all committed to keeping the best parts of today’s Riot—like our focus on player empathy—while tirelessly looking toward the future. The team will be accountable to our CEO, Nicolo Laurent, directly.
Revisiting Cultural Definitions: We are putting everything on the table, including our core cultural tenets, like our manifesto. This includes reevaluating the language of Riot, words like “gamer” and “meritocracy,” to ensure they mean the same thing to all of us. If the words are misused or don’t help us describe our vision for the future, we won’t use them.
Third-Party Evaluation: We have engaged two leading consultants on culture change to provide us with their expertise and recommendations as we rebuild Riot’s culture. Our goal isn’t just to be good; it’s to become a leader on diversity, inclusion, and culture. We’re asking them to develop mechanisms to measure our progress and hold us accountable against this objective.
Investigation Process: We’re evaluating and improving our investigation process and systems. We understand we lost trust with Rioters, so rebuilding trust is key to making Rioters feel safe and empowered to raise issues. Here’s some of what we’ve done already:
We set up a hotline where anyone can anonymously raise issues and submit complaints.
We have expanded our internal team and brought in an outside law firm to assess our policies. They’ll also be working side-by-side with talent partners to investigate any new claims raised by Rioters to provide an additional, unbiased layer to all of our investigations.
No one and nothing is sacred. We are prepared to make big changes and have begun taking action against specific cases, including removal of Rioters, though we aren’t likely to get into those details publicly on a case-by-case basis for legal and privacy reasons.
Reevaluating Recruiting: We’re accelerating our efforts to make our recruiting system more open. We’re overhauling our job descriptions to ensure they’re readily accessible to all demographic groups; reassessing which universities we recruit from; and expanding the pools from which we target our candidates.
Trainings: We’re doubling down on trainings. Trainings that had been specific to managers are being expanded to all Rioters, including interview training and anti-harassment training. We’re also investing in anti-bias training to encourage behaviors that foster a fair and inclusive work environment. In addition, we are investing in management training for all managers to build and support better teams. These trainings will be required for existing Rioters, with elements integrated into our Rioter onboarding program.
Staffing up for D&I: We are deep into the process of recruiting a new Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO), and recently began the search for a Chief Diversity Officer (CDO). They will join the CEO, President, and COO as part of our executive leadership team, and will add critical experience to our existing D&I team to accelerate all our work in this area.”
You might have noticed in the last bullet point they are specifically creating a new role called the Chief Diversity Officer, who will join the executive leadership team at Riot.
The creation of this new position came under fire. Popular YouTuber The Quartering called the original Kotaku article a “hilarious hit piece.” He would go on to describe Riot’s response as the “first steps to getting woke.” In fact, The Quartering questioned why Riot Games would even respond to the article. He would conclude that their response was “not a good step” and that he would think twice before supporting Riot Games because “until [they] learn to serve your customers first and not the games journalists you will continue to go broke.”
The Quartering wasn’t the only one to be skeptical of the original Kotaku article and Riot’s response. Billy D at OneAngryGamer specifically called out the new Chief Diversity Officer position writing, “This seems like the company took the sexual harassment allegations and decided to embrace extreme Leftist ideologies.”
What do you make Riot’s approach to the Kotaku article? Do you think there are real issues in the Riot workplace or are they trying to signal their political leanings to the readers and journalists at Kotaku? Or as Billy D. put it is the company embracing extreme leftist ideologies?