Devs corroborate claims of sexist culture as Riot looks for way forward

After Kotaku's story on a climate of sexism and sexual harassment at Riot Games, more Rioters have shared their experiences, while the company says it's making an outreach effort to former staffers.

Last week, Kotaku writer Cecilia D'Anastasio published a lengthy expose detailing the accounts of over 28 former and current Riot Games employees and their experiences encountering sexism from high and low within the company behind League of Legends.

In the week since, D'Anastasio's reporting has been bolstered both by other former employees stepping forward to share their stories, and current employees expressing support for their former co-workers.

Employees like head of diversity and inclusion Soha El-Sabaawi have made statements saying not only do they hope to build a better future at their workplace, but also that their positive experiences do not mitigate the abuse described by former Riot Games staffers. 

Developers discussed not only a culture of sexism that favored men over women in professional settings, but also cases of sexual harassment,misgendering, abusive comments about cosplayers, and a host of other alleged abuses. During this time, Gamasutra has been reaching out to Riot Games in an effort to confirm these accounts, and determine what the company is doing to rectify its errors. 

Riot spokesperson Joe Hixson was able to tell us that the company is taking action in the wake of Kotaku's reporting, but was unable to confirm many specifics or plans to be transparent about what will change in the next few months.

Hixson first responded to our queries by saying that the company is currently focusing on its communication with current and former Riot employees. Per Hixson, "our primary goal is to be listening to the personal experiences and stories of everyone that has ever been part of the Riot team."

"As part of the commitment we made in our statement earlier, in instances where former Rioters are raising issues that we need to take action against, we are attempting to get in contact with them to learn more so we can take action."

Hixson did say that this outreach is coming from the company's legal team, and he was not able to officially confirm which former employees Riot was reaching out to "for the sake of their privacy."

However, while Hixson does paint this as a good faith effort to take action on past wrongs, developers may feel cautious given that this is the same legal department responsible for any disclosure-related contracts they may have been asked to sign while at the company.

Update: One developer (who has requested to remain anonymous) has been able to confirm to Gamasutra that this outreach is taking place. In the e-mail shared with Gamasutra, the company's legal team asked specific questions about said developer's experience, and cited Kotaku's reporting as the incentive to reach out. 

As the week went on we attempted to clarify specific allegations developers have made about life at Riot. First, according to a former player relations staffer, several Riot employees would ask her to "hook them up" with cosplayers, and make lewd comments about their appearances during events, including ones regarding their age and weight.

When asked if Riot is revising any rules for how employees are interacting with cosplayers, Hixson stated "The experience and safety of our players is always our top priority whether in-game or at live events."

"Cosplayers and other creators hold a special place in our heart as community members and collaborators on the League of Legends experience. We’ve clearly fallen short of that promise in some places. We are committed to ensuring the safety of fans and players at all events."

Next, given the number of stories that appear to involve team leads or Riot Games senior employees, we asked Hixson if Riot is committing to any leadership changes based on these allegations. In response, Hixson said Riot intends to revisit some of those allegations.

"For the instances where we’ve already investigated and taken appropriate action, we’re double-checking our work," Hixson stated. "And for those stories new to us, we’re investigating and will uphold our zero tolerance stance, no matter the seniority of those involved."

Lastly, we did attempt to learn what public-facing actions Riot could commit to in the near future to demonstrate it's taking action in the wake of Kotaku's reporting. Unfortunately, on this subject, Hixson wasn't able to provide anything solid in the near future, re-stating that Riot is currently in a "listening period."

"Right now we're fully committed to listening for a period and then collaborating with Rioters to build our plan of action," Hixson said. "Since Rioters broadly will be part of the planning process, we'll have to assess if it feels right to them to share that outside of Riot."

It is notable that in the wake of Kotaku's reporting, a number of developers, both current and former employees at Riot, have been able to come forward and speak to their experience in a way not often seen at companies in the midst of a public-facing crisis.

But as previously mentioned, there are still questions about the nature of Riot's follow-up from its legal team and its former employees.

If you have been contacted by Riot Games and wish to share your experience anonymously, or have other stories to discuss from your time at Riot Games, you can contact Gamasutra by e-mail at [email protected]

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