One of the most talked-about pieces of gaming journalism in 2018 was the Kotaku exposé “Inside The Culture Of Sexism At Riot Games.” A Riot Games employee going by the name of Lacy told the story of her struggles with casual sexism from upper management in particular. As the Kotaku reporter pursued the angle, interviews with 28 other current or former employees confirmed that the struggles they faced were widespread and systemic within Riot Games’ company culture. The Kotaku exposé is as thorough as it could be dealing with such a thorny issue.
Following the article’s publication, five current and former Riot Games employees filed lawsuits against the company, alleging gender discrimination. Last week, Riot Games filed a motion to block other employees from taking legal action. The motion argues that these employees waived their rights to a jury trial when they signed arbitration agreements within their hiring contracts. For the past few months since the exposé Riot Games have been taking those five lawsuits out of court to private arbitration, based on those contract clauses.
The latest episode of this ongoing debacle is now afoot, as employees are organizing a walkout in protest against the company block. While the company’s PR has tried to put out the fire since the publication of Kotaku’s exposé, issuing a public apology on Twitter and a full formal statement in the company’s official website, it looks like behind the scenes they’ve been more proactive in treating the symptoms rather than the disease. Still, in their official statement to Kotaku over email, the company claims to support their employees in every possible way:
We’re proud of our colleagues for standing up for what they believe in. We always want Rioters to have the opportunity to be heard, so we’re sitting down today to listen to their opinions and learn more about their perspectives on arbitration. We will also be discussing this topic during our biweekly all-company town hall on Thursday. Both are important forums for us to discuss our current policy and listen to feedback, which are important parts of evaluating all of our procedures and policies, including those related to arbitration.
It is yet unclear how many employees intend to take part in the walkout, with most of the anonymous employees’ statements being tentative and unconfirmed. However, even some employees who support the protest might not take part in it. According to Kotaku, one of the employes wrote: “I don’t know the scale of the walkout, nor does anyone else I’ve spoken with, which is the primary reason I am not participating. […] I think any worker organization is a good and healthy thing, so I support it whether or not I’m participating in.”
In any case, the events are still unfolding on this story, even if Riot Games are attempting to move on from the larger scandal.
What do you think of Riot Games’ debacle? Will the scandal contribute to improving gender relations in the games industry, or is it more likely to alienate both sides of the divide? Let us know in the comments below!