Riot Games Sexism Controversy

Riot Games Sexism Controversy

Updated Apr 05, 2022 at 04:28PM EDT by Don.

Added Aug 09, 2018 at 01:21PM EDT by Matt.

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Overview

Riot Games Sexism Controversy refers to a series of allegations of sexual harassment and sex discrimination at the video game developer Riot Games, the makers of popular the eSports video game League of Legends. The company has since stated that they will look into the allegations and work to make their workplace more inclusive.

Background

On August 7th, 2018, the video game website Kotaku[1] released an investigatvie report into the workplace culture of Riot Games, the makers of League of Legends. Based on interviews with 28 current and former employees of the developer, Kotaku described a systematic and prevalent culture of sexism and descrimination towards women. The unfair treatment of women exists, as the article reports, at all levels of the company, from hiring to management to executive. As a result, many women have found it difficult and/or impossible to reach higher levels of success at the comapny, which seems to favor male employees.

Some of these practices include, sexual harassment, unfair hiring practices and a distrust in women. Other women reported of eing grilled extensively as to whether or not they were a real "gamer," as interviews for positions featured numerous questions about their abilities in games such as World of Warcraft. One woman claimed that after she denied a male superior's unwanted sexual advances, a promotion she was applying for went to a male friend of the superior. Another claims that her ideas were ignored until a male counterpart delivered the same ideas. She said:

One day, Lacy conducted an experiment: After an idea she really believed in fell flat during a meeting, she asked a male colleague to present the same idea to the same group of people days later. He was skeptical, but she insisted that he give it a shot. “Lo and behold, the week after that, [he] went in, presented exactly as I did and the whole room was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is amazing.’ [His] face turned beet red and he had tears in his eyes,” said Lacy. “They just didn’t respect women.”

Development

Riot Games' Response

On August 7th, Riot Games corporate communications lead Joe Hixson gave a statement to ESPN.[2] He said:

This article shines a light on areas where we haven't lived up to our own values, which will not stand at Riot. We've taken action against many of the specific instances in the article, and we're committed to digging in, addressing every issue, and fixing the underlying causes. All Rioters must be accountable for creating an environment where everyone has an equal opportunity to be heard, grow their role, advance in the organization, and fulfill their potential.

That day, Hixson responded to a Reddit [3] thread about the controversy in the /r/leagueoflegends subreddit. In the thread, which received more than 18,000 points (75% upvoted) and 8,900 comments, he released the full statement that the company gave to Kotaku but was only published in part in the article. He said:

Hey everyone, Riot Smileyjoe here. I work in Riot comms and have been working with this journalist for the last few weeks to get Riot’s view into the piece.

We appreciate that the reporter took the time to reach out to us, but since Kotaku didn’t include the full statement, I wanted to make sure this community saw the full response we sent.

Riot Culture

We strive to cultivate a unique culture that positions us to best deliver amazing player experiences: one where we obsessively focus on players; one where every Rioter has equal opportunity to be heard, grow their role, advance in the organization, and fulfill their potential; and one where open feedback helps us all get better.

The key word there is “strive”--our cultural values are aspirational and we’re realistic about the fact that the values and behaviors in our manifesto aren’t always perfectly reflected in the reality of the experiences of Rioters across Riot. Talking over women in meetings, promoting/hiring anyone less deserving than anyone else, and crossing the line from assertive to aggressive are three examples of actions that are explicitly opposite to our culture. To say that these actions are emblematic of our culture and not an affront to it would be wrong.

To ensure our aspirational culture becomes a reality and isn’t lost in translation, we over-index on cultural reinforcement. We bake our values into company strategy, leadership attributes, and company-wide programs, systems, and processes. When we encounter any contrary behaviors, we dig in to understand, evaluate, and address. We have a zero tolerance policy on discrimination, harassment, retaliation, bullying, and general toxicity.

Hey everyone, Riot Smileyjoe here. I work in Riot comms and have been working with this journalist for the last few weeks to get Riot’s view into the piece.

We appreciate that the reporter took the time to reach out to us, but since Kotaku didn’t include the full statement, I wanted to make sure this community saw the full response we sent.

Riot Culture

We strive to cultivate a unique culture that positions us to best deliver amazing player experiences: one where we obsessively focus on players; one where every Rioter has equal opportunity to be heard, grow their role, advance in the organization, and fulfill their potential; and one where open feedback helps us all get better.

The key word there is “strive”--our cultural values are aspirational and we’re realistic about the fact that the values and behaviors in our manifesto aren’t always perfectly reflected in the reality of the experiences of Rioters across Riot. Talking over women in meetings, promoting/hiring anyone less deserving than anyone else, and crossing the line from assertive to aggressive are three examples of actions that are explicitly opposite to our culture. To say that these actions are emblematic of our culture and not an affront to it would be wrong.

To ensure our aspirational culture becomes a reality and isn’t lost in translation, we over-index on cultural reinforcement. We bake our values into company strategy, leadership attributes, and company-wide programs, systems, and processes. When we encounter any contrary behaviors, we dig in to understand, evaluate, and address. We have a zero tolerance policy on discrimination, harassment, retaliation, bullying, and general toxicity.

Hiring Gamers

One of the most important qualities of every Rioter is an unrelenting drive for delivering the best possible experience to players.

We’ve found that the best way to hire Rioters is to hire gamers. While not every Rioter is a gamer, most are. And to be clear, this doesn’t mean just League of Legends; whatever you play, if you make time to play, you’re a gamer. Whether it’s Mario or Dark Souls, MTG or D&D, Overwatch or LoL, a Rioter speaks the language of players and can relate to them in ways that could never be learned on the job. We pride ourselves on player empathy, whether that’s relating to the fun players are having with a new game mode or understanding the pain they’re feeling with a nerf gone too far.

Our D&I Program

We agree with you that there is work to be done to improve Rioter diversity and Riot inclusion. In fact, we know we’ll never be done working on that--any company that says otherwise is lying or isn’t trying hard enough. This is a long journey and we’ve made a lot of progress, but still have work to do. Diverse teams and an inclusive environment are the only way we can deliver meaningful and resonant experiences to players around the world, so we need to make sure all potential Rioters have an equal shot at joining our team.

As we’ve grown, we’ve continued putting more resources behind these efforts, and in the last few years we’ve accelerated and formalized our D&I program. In mid-2014, under the leadership of founders Brandon Beck and Marc Merrill, we revamped our Talent (AKA HR) function with a renewed focus on D&I. In 2015, we hired our dedicated D&I Manager. And last year, we dialed-up our existing D&I efforts with the formation of a cross-disciplinary D&I task force.

We’re excited for our future as we strive to improve in these and other areas. We’ll only get better if we constantly question the status quo and ask ourselves how we can be better. But we can never sacrifice culture as we continue to evolve.

Online Response

The response to the article was largely positive, with many finding that the culture of sexism described in the article in line with that of their experiences playing League of Legends, working in the video game industry and/or having worked at Riot Games.

Twitter user @Gogo_Usagi tweeted, [4] "I worked there for 3 years and I'm still recovering, honestly. An amazing, important piece of reporting by @cecianasta that you should absolutely take the time to read." The tweet (shown below, left) received more than 75 retweets and 295 likes in 24 hours.

Twitter user @RLewisReports tweeted,[5] "Remember how I told you 2 years ago there was an inherent issue with sexism at Riot Games and we'd need to wait for the NDAs to start dropping off before the truth come out? Looks like today might be the day." Within 24 hours, the tweet (shown below, center) received more than 110 retweets and 600 likes.

That day, Twitter[6] user @javi_draws posted a screen shot of a comment on the Kotaku website, claiming that women should expect sexism in male dominated workplaces as men should expect it salons. They captioned the tweet, "Someone give this person an award. Re: sexism at Riot games article." The post (shown below, right) received more than 200 retweets and 1,000 likes in 24 hours.


I worked there for 3 years and I'm still recovering, honestly. An amazing, important piece of reporting by @cecianasta that you should absolutely take the time to read: Inside The Culture Of Sexism At Riot Games Throughout her three years at Riot Games, the company behind League of Legends, Lacy made it her mission to hire a woman into a leadership rol... kotaku.com Remember how I told you 2 years ago there was an inherent issue with sexism at Riot Games and we'd need to wait for the NDAs to start dropping off before the truth come out? Looks like today might be the day. Inside The Culture Of Sexism At Riot Games Throughout her three years at Riot Games, the company behind League of Legends, Lacy made it her mission to hire a woman into a leadership role. Lacy had heard kotaku.com Someone give this person an award. Re: sexism at Riot games article is that piece coming out? Reply 4 SpaceCop > Khargon 8/07/18 9:35pm Find me some men who work for a salon but are systematically discouraged, belittled and harassed by the salon's female leadership and constantly having their own nail beautician cred questioned by interviewers and superiors (just a "fake nail boi," all the jock nail women say) and sure, someone will run that. Probably not

On August 8th, Redditor[7] REKSAI_THE_BURROWER posted the thread "Riot games to massively buff every female champ across the board in light of recent events" in the /r/leagueoflegends subreddit. The satirical post read, in part:

Greetings fellow summoners! RiotDamageControl here with some great new things headed your way on PBE!

In lieu of a certain article that recently came out we got together and thought to ourselves "what's the best way we can sweep this under the rug make things right" not just to the women we allegedly sexually harass every day but to you, our loving, vibrant community.

As a collective team consisting of 90% men and 10% women, we decided what better way to reward call of duty playing hardcore gamers such as yourselves than to significantly buff all the female champions in league of legends. This will definitely fix things :-) !

Walkout

On April 26th, 2019, Kotaku[8] published an article titled "Riot Files Motions To Block Current Employees From Taking Legal Action," reporting that Riot had filed motions to prevent current and former employees from taking certain legal action against the company, claiming that their employment agreements contained clauses requiring private arbitration. On April 29th, the Vice news site Waypoint reported that Riot Games employees were planning a walkout in response to the news, and included a statement from employees organizing the protest:

"Talk of a walkout has been brewing among a number of folks with varying levels of investment since Kotaku’s first article hit and leadership consistently promised transparency/actions to be taken and then did not deliver on that promise.”

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