The Story of Why I Left Riot Games
August 27, 2018 3:47 PM   Subscribe

"So this is it. This is going to be the thing." That’s what I remember thinking as I left the room where I had just finished a conversation with two female mentees. I had wondered for some time when there would be an incident serious enough that I had to talk to leadership about unacceptable behavior in the workplace, and here it was.
posted by bashism (67 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
 
Wowzer. As someone slaving away in the enterprise IT mines for banks, if I made a rape joke in a presentation, I would probably be escorted out by security that day.
That the Brandon guy didn't just go '"Soz man, didn't mean it like that, I'll remove the slide from the deck if it could be iffy - Cheers" but instead chose it as a hill to die on is baffling. Having multiple meetings with senior management to explain *why* it's wrong is next galaxy nuts.
posted by Damienmce at 4:13 PM on August 27 [32 favorites]


How...how have they not been sued to the moon and back? Like how is this not just incredibly, prohibitively expensive?
posted by schadenfrau at 4:16 PM on August 27 [7 favorites]


How...how have they not been sued to the moon and back?

I think a lot of that is because this took place in 2013. That shit was super-bad for the past 2 decades, and it sure seems like it's only been in the last couple of years that anybody in the tech world has even started to try to fix it.
posted by nushustu at 4:19 PM on August 27 [4 favorites]


(That's not to justify it or anything; I just meant before it seemed like a super-hopeless, scary thing to do. A career-ender. Things aren't great now, but now with things like the #metoo movement there's at least more conversation around it.)
posted by nushustu at 4:23 PM on August 27 [4 favorites]


the other team raped us because our mid kept jungling

I've got to admit, for a moment there I was wondering what filthy sex act jungling referred to.
posted by sfenders at 4:28 PM on August 27


The Kotaku article linked in the piece is... quite something.

One former Riot employee who presented as a woman, for example, has always played role-playing games, and said as much during their 2014 phone interview for a position at Riot not at all adjacent to games development. The interviewer then asked if they played “real games like Call of Duty,” they recalled. “He kept going, kept rephrasing the question, no matter how many times I listed all the things I played,” they said. “In the end, he asked, ‘If someone just met you, how would they know you’re a gamer?’ I said, ‘Well, I’m looking at my TV right now that has 16 game consoles plugged into it.’”

...

“Here at Riot Games, we hire gamers,” he said in his talk to an audience of Riot employees, audio of which was obtained by Kotaku. “If you’re not a core gamer, you need to over-index in another area.” Whether it’s finance, development facilities, player support, he said, “I don’t give a shit. You’re better if you’re a gamer.” For six minutes, the producer recounted a story of his experience preparing to raid the original World of Warcraft’s Naxxramas dungeon, introduced in 2006. It was 300 hours of raiding into his game, and he detailed the effort, the passion, and the grit it took for him to attain the opportunity. And then, before the raid, his internet died, and he let down his team. The experience gave him an “acid turn” in his stomach, he said, and has become a story he’s kept in his pocket for a decade. “Think of your story,” he demands. “If you don’t have one, get one. I’m serious.”

posted by perplexion at 4:34 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


That the Brandon guy didn't just go '"Soz man, didn't mean it like that, I'll remove the slide from the deck if it could be iffy - Cheers" but instead chose it as a hill to die on is baffling.

Except that Brandon Beck (and Marc Merrill) didn't die on that or any other hill. They sold Riot to Tencent for over $400 million, and remain co-chairs of the company to this day. The corporate responses to the Kotaku article are strictly boilerplate "oh, gosh, we're taking this very, very seriously" nonstatements.
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:40 PM on August 27 [16 favorites]


Someone's story fucking ended with some bullets with that attitude fucker. Maybe give up on your macho bullshit and let people have fucking fun without turning it into a pissing contest.

God I hate geeks sometimes.
posted by symbioid at 4:41 PM on August 27 [6 favorites]


(not to take away from the more pressing issue of sexism - but I feel it's all pretty related).
posted by symbioid at 4:41 PM on August 27


The head of Legal did speak up and asked if we were concerned about legal liability. She was seated to my left, and I was seated on Brandon’s left, where he was at the head of table. Brandon extended his arm past me and held up his hand in front of her and hushed her, saying we were not going to talk about that.


Well, get ready to talk about it in a fucking deposition two years from now, then.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:43 PM on August 27 [35 favorites]


Well, good thing they didn't discuss the potential liability, because that of course makes it not exist.

The games industry is such a cesspool. Ugh.
posted by Kadin2048 at 4:47 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


Don't go read the YCombinator thread in this one... it's classic YC readers missing the point. It'll only make ya mad.
posted by kokaku at 4:48 PM on August 27


As we walked out of the room, the head of Legal stopped me and said to tell the women that came to me that they could contact her to talk. I replied, “Based on what just happened in there, there’s no way I would recommend they talk to you.”

That is about as incisive an insult you can make and keep your language corporate. Bravo.
posted by Groundhog Week at 4:49 PM on August 27 [74 favorites]


It doesn't have to be this way. There are companies that do better than this. Hell, I work in construction—one of the most thoroughly sexist, racist industries that there is—and I can say with confidence that it's not like this at my company. I'm not saying we're perfect (in fact I just had a refreshingly constructive conversation with my HR person today about improving representation as a period of rapid growth looms large in the company's future) but we're a damn sight better than this. Unemployment is low, right now. If you work somewhere toxic, now's the time to consider a lateral move to a company with a more positive culture.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:56 PM on August 27 [7 favorites]


Founders set the company culture, and that seems to be clear here.

As a LA-based dev I get periodic recruitment emails from them. Previously I just ignored as in general I would never work for a game dev (love games, but have never heard of a game developer with healthy work-life balance, for example). But hey, you never know, so I just ignored. After these stories, I'm just going to reply with a link to the Kotaku article or something next time --- there's no way I can imagine a company recovering from having the direction set this way from the top (see also: Uber).
posted by thefoxgod at 5:01 PM on August 27 [7 favorites]


“In the end, he asked, ‘If someone just met you, how would they know you’re a gamer?’ I said, ‘Well, I’m looking at my TV right now that has 16 game consoles plugged into it.’”

Noob! Everyone knows it takes 17 consoles to be a true gamer.
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 5:11 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


The Kotaku article linked in the piece is... quite something.

Previously.
posted by tobascodagama at 5:17 PM on August 27


This is what a principled stand looks like. This man will have personally gained nothing, and lost quite a bit by taking this stance. By taking it public and attracting the ire of negative elements, he is doubling down.

For progress to be made, we need these sorts of individuals to shine a light on these toxic environments. I applaud his courage.
posted by bashism at 5:30 PM on August 27 [35 favorites]


I've loved this game and admired the work Riot has done. But these stories of sexual harassment are just terrible and make me lose all love for the game. The stuff I've read in public comments is even worse, this is no way some past problem where the company has changed.

On top of Riot apparently being a giant garbage fire run by sexist boys, the company also looks to be in some financial retreat right now. From being the absolute top of competitive gaming for so many years they're looking weak in the face of Fortnite. They're losing money and parent company Tencent is running out of patience; in part because Riot fumbled having any sort of mobile game. And just this week we're learning that the big World Tournament is going to be a scaled down affair, with the English language production crew not even going to cover the event in person. (They're going to cast games being played in Korea remotely here in the US.)
posted by Nelson at 6:04 PM on August 27 [4 favorites]


Good for him for making a stand but HE PUT IT IN A FUCKING PERSONAL EMAIL?

You do not start a conversation that sensitive anywhere but in person. Ever. There is way too much opportunity for miscommunication, plus as he found out your words are likely to be spread all over the place with someone else’s interpretation attached.

Given the timing it seems clear that Brandon got the email and almost immediately, without taking time to think, forwarded out to everyone with a "what a wuss" header. At that point the entire story ends. Even if upon reflection Brandon could see some merit to the letter he had already made a public declaration about it and would look like a wuss if he backed down. Battle lines had been drawn.

The reason you talk to people directly, before they’ve hardened themselves into a position, is to avoid exactly this happening. You can humanize the issue, and perhaps most importantly you can force someone to think about things for 10 minutes before they make a public statement they’ll feel forced to live up to. Would that have helped in this case? Maybe. We’ll never know.

If you don’t get what you want from the talk and this is your chosen hill to die on, then it’s time to go public. On your terms, in a message intended for a general audience, and spread as widely as you like.

But I really cannot stress this enough to people: ANYTHING sensitive gets said in person first. Just do it. Please.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 7:05 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


There seemed to be a reasonable explanation of why he chose to send an email.
posted by Hicksu at 7:10 PM on August 27 [25 favorites]


I am disgusted and amazed that people can insult this man for being weak. They have such a warped view of what it means to be strong - and since they probably conflate strength and masculinity, what it means to be a man.

Here he is, standing up for other people ... putting his job at risk ... and he's getting insults that he's "dickless." Never mind that they could probably never do something that difficult. To them having a dick means being a bro and following the bro code. It's such a pathetic, meaningless way to view oneself.

Good for him for making a stand but HE PUT IT IN A FUCKING PERSONAL EMAIL?

I don't think that it's very kind to rag on him for making a stand in the wrong way. There are benefits to sending email, the biggest being that it creates a record. Hell, I would probably send an email. If the person's response was to forward it along to mock me, then that would just create more documentation of the hostile environment.

Plus, he explains why he sent an email in this instance. He wasn't going to get to see them in person for weeks, and materials containing rape jokes were already being passed around.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 7:17 PM on August 27 [61 favorites]


[Couple comments deleted. If you just want to say "I don't care about this" or "people who care about games are bad" or similar, that's not really adding much to the conversation. It's better to just skip the thread and go read one about topics/people you're interested in, instead.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:48 PM on August 27 [18 favorites]


I would probably send an email. If the person's response was to forward it along to mock me, then that would just create more documentation of the hostile environment.

Heck yeah. Document document document. Take notes on the criminal fucking conspiracy.
posted by nicebookrack at 7:51 PM on August 27 [35 favorites]


No wonder they took so long to clean out the toxicity of their community, if indeed they ever have. They certainly hadn't by the time I quit for good. I sure am regretting the money I spent on that game, even if I had a lot of fun, too. Bleh.
posted by Caduceus at 7:58 PM on August 27


Heck yeah. Document document document.

Yup. The ethics training I got in engineering school was very explicit about the fact that anyone raising concerns like this needs to maintain documentation of all communication, and he even specifically identified email as an ideal way to do this, because it generates its own audit trail an independent copies, plus you can BCC third parties, etc.

In this case, there was an intent behind sending an email other than CYA, but CYA is absolutely a legitimate reason to communicate concerms like this via email.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:33 PM on August 27 [26 favorites]


we would become shapeless and bland, like EA or Blizzard.

I love this line. Blizzard has fully embraced high behavioral standards and all that, and they literally print more money than the Fed Reserve does. I'm a lifelong gamer (Tron, Zaxxon, etc on C-64!) who spends almost as much on beer as games he never gets around to playing.

I own exactly zero Riot games. I own... 10(?!) Blizzard ones.

EA... well they can die in a fire made of fires that are themselves also on fire. They... are not a very good role model. True story - I once worked for them, by accident. I worked for Kesmai Studios. The EA suits were all "we love what you are doing, we won't change a thing". I think they closed the studio in just under a year. FUCK EA.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:45 PM on August 27 [5 favorites]


This isn't AskMe but FWIW this is absolutely something you put in an email. Raise it in person, sure, but make sure that particular conversation begins with "So I just sent you an email..."
posted by turbid dahlia at 9:52 PM on August 27 [25 favorites]


I'm just here to say that while my interactions with Barry were limited to formal meetings at Blizzard and one nearly two hour production lunch where we debated the merits of Agile in the games industry, my overall impression was of a pretty righteous dude and I read this whole blog hearing his voice.

Also, I am so glad he didn't just tweet this out in some 50-part tweetstorm. I appreciate that he took time and wrote a reasonable response. I did not expect this from him, I honestly did not. I'm now eyeing some of my other high-level male friends who departed there a few years back, and wondering why THEY haven't spoken up. But then, maybe they weren't privy to some of the things Barry was.

I hope Riot really is listening, like they say. As a woman with 20+ years in the industry, I am tired and ready to write my tell-all.
posted by offalark at 9:54 PM on August 27 [31 favorites]


Blizzard has fully embraced high behavioral standards and all that, and they literally print more money than the Fed Reserve does....

EA... well they can die in a fire made of fires that are themselves also on fire.


It's Activision Blizzard and they are as scummy as the rest, they just have better PR machine than EA.
posted by Pendragon at 10:44 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


Thanks for this post.

One thing I noted was that in the original speech at the recruitment day, the speaker pauses, notes he almost said something inappropriate, and then makes the "no doesn't mean no" remark -- which shows that he knew exactly what he was doing, and he made sure the audience also knew he was deliberately making a joke about the well known anti-rape slogan.

To get all "how could you think that of me" after the fact is pretty pathetic.
posted by chapps at 10:47 PM on August 27 [11 favorites]


I don't think that it's very kind to rag on him for making a stand in the wrong way.

It’s not about him, it’s about effectively dealing with issues. And his reasons for sending an email (it would take a few weeks to schedule a meeting) only make sense if you think starting a conversation like this in email is an effective way to deal with this issue.

There are benefits to sending email, the biggest being that it creates a record.

I’m not sure what documentation would get anyone in this case. Arguments about corporate culture aren’t legal issues. The company treated him exactly the way he thought they would and he doesn’t seem to feel there was anything actionable. I certainly don’t.

This was a situation that called not for the blunt hammer of the law, but rather for tact and delicacy in convincing a company founder that his vision for his company had two elements ("the more inappropriate the funnier" and "we’d like this to be a comfortable place for women") that are contradictory. Convincing someone that their "inappropriate" humor went a little too far is tough in the best of times. Helping them to suspect that the company culture they’ve nurtured is off in the weeds ... well, wow. Other than the email thing this fellow seems to have brought his A-game but... wow.

Now that Kotaku has brought all of this out it seems likely that the blunt hammer of the law will get its shot. That will be cathartic for a lot of people who have suffered, but I doubt it will fix the underlying problem in a way that getting the founders on board would.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:53 AM on August 28


I still think I dodged a bullet by not getting that job in the games industry I interviewed for when I was young and stupid.

The blog post was worth the read. I hope I would have the same intestinal fortitude as he did in that situation.
posted by Harald74 at 1:02 AM on August 28 [2 favorites]


If I had concerns about a hostile work environment, that would totally be an email situation to me. You never know when something like that is going to go totally sideways, as it did in this case. If it does, you want documentation. You want management's insane reaction to be on the record, and same for your own conduct—which you will have taken care to ensure was totally professional and above reproach. You want them to know that you have receipts if it ever comes down to that.

By all means, start out with a soft approach that gives people a face-saving out, something that offers a low-conflict way to resolve the issue. Do it over email though, because you never know when your careful attempt at improving company culture is going to be met with hostility and ridicule, and if it turns into a battle you need to be ready to come correct.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 3:44 AM on August 28 [15 favorites]


(not to take away from the more pressing issue of sexism - but I feel it's all pretty related).

+1. Although I know this isn't primarily about men being uncomfortable, I don't want to spend my workday running a gauntlet of dick jokes and frat house performative masculinity.
posted by thelonius at 4:41 AM on August 28 [5 favorites]


Arguments about corporate culture aren’t legal issues.

Uh. It is when corporate culture creates a hostile work environment.

You're saying that it wasn't a legal issue - but also, now that this is becoming public, that maybe there will be legal action? That's a big contradiction. If there is legal action taken there's a good chance that this email and the company's response to it will be evidence. Documentation is important.

I doubt it will fix the underlying problem in a way that getting the founders on board would.

You seem to think that if he had only approached them in the right way, he could have fixed this issue. No. If this is how they responded to a diplomatic email about it - they were too far gone. He wasn't going to convince them to change with a face-to-face meeting.

Face-to-face meetings aren't magic. Yes, sometimes you have a better chance to convince someone if you approach them personally ... but in many many cases that's a false hope. You don't seem to recognize that a face-to-face meeting is a risk; if you have a face-to-face and it goes south you have no documentation. And it's not as if a face-to-face meeting is magic, it doesn't improve your chances of changing minds that much.

Document, document, document.

Telling people not to document lets assholes like this one off the hook.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 7:06 AM on August 28 [41 favorites]


I really don't understand the perspective of "it was a terrible mistake to email this" and all the blaming Hawkins for backing poor blameless Brandon Beck into a corner with a private email. I mean what the fuck? The guy is the CEO of a multi-billion dollar company with hundreds of employees. It's a very simple bar that he shouldn't be making rape jokes. Or if he does and someone calls him on it, to quickly apologize and move on.

Sure in some magical universe one of Brandon's bros would have a heart to heart conversation that ends with Brandon realizing he's a sexist piece of shit and pledging to reform his ways. Maybe it ends with a bro-hug instead of farting on his buddy or making suggestive homosexual jokes (no homo). It's hardly any employee's responsibility to bring him to that epiphany though. The entire culture at Riot is designed to prevent that kind of introspection or decency.

It's clear from this story and the Kotaku story that Brandon Beck and Marc Merrill are not capable of running a company. They deliberately created the worst parody of bro gamer culture. Emailing vs. a private chat is not an effective remedy for that. The law, whether "blunt hammer" or a precisely honed harassment lawsuit is the remedy.
posted by Nelson at 7:27 AM on August 28 [18 favorites]


>>One thing I noted was that in the original speech at the recruitment day, the speaker pauses, notes he almost said something inappropriate, and then makes the "no doesn't mean no" remark -- which shows that he knew exactly what he was doing, and he made sure the audience also knew he was deliberately making a joke about the well known anti-rape slogan.

To get all "how could you think that of me" after the fact is pretty pathetic.

The guy obviously had no problem with the rape joke - he thought it was "edgy". I mean, in the follow up meeting, he brings in another example with a T-shirt that says, "Just the tip", for Chrissake. What a dipshit. It seemed like he thought Barry was implying he supported rape because he liked rape jokes, but no - of course Brandon doesn't support rape; he just supports the right to make shitty rape jokes at work. Which, in my opinion, is a stupid hill to die on. Considering this guy is cofounder at Riot, really goes to show how awful the culture is from top down.
posted by Qberting at 7:34 AM on August 28 [8 favorites]


Yup. The ethics training I got in engineering school was very explicit about the fact that anyone raising concerns like this needs to maintain documentation of all communication, and he even specifically identified email as an ideal way to do this, because it generates its own audit trail an independent copies, plus you can BCC third parties, etc.

A thousand times this. The lawsuit I won against a former employer for workplace sexism (and boy howdy do I wish I could tell this story, but the terms of the agreement included nondisclosure) was made possible by my having forwarded an email exchange to a coworker friend. Your corporate account stops working the moment they march you out the door. Anything you haven't secured remote access to is potentially gone forever. In my case, when discovery mysteriously failed to unearth the exchange, I had the same friend forward it back to my personal address. The tone of the negotiations changed, er, rather drastically when we were able to pull out the paper trail.
posted by Mayor West at 7:50 AM on August 28 [21 favorites]


It's Activision Blizzard and they are as scummy as the rest, they just have better PR machine than EA.

Not to defend ActiBlizz, but the comment you're responding to was clearly talking about workplace harassment and sexism, not any other kind of consumer-directed behaviour.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:06 AM on August 28


Now that Kotaku has brought all of this out it seems likely that the blunt hammer of the law will get its shot. That will be cathartic for a lot of people who have suffered, but I doubt it will fix the underlying problem in a way that getting the founders on board would.

And?

The problem here is not that Brandon Beck needs to be taught that rape jokes are problematic, but that Riot is helmed by people who have created a hostile workplace where casual sexism and misogyny run unchecked. If the answer to that is legal action and Beck's removal - that's not my problem.

I am tired of the argument that the response to people pushing sexism, misogyny, and other bigotry is that we should treat the people causing harm with kid gloves to try to get them to see the error of their ways. First and foremost, I want the harm to stop. Then, we can deal with the personal growth of the person causing harm.
posted by NoxAeternum at 9:28 AM on August 28 [30 favorites]


"I think a lot of that is because this took place in 2013. That shit was super-bad for the past 2 decades, and it sure seems like it's only been in the last couple of years that anybody in the tech world has even started to try to fix it."

Uhh, this shit and worse is still going on in 2018 and I haven't seen anyone sued into oblivion and I doubt we will. We throw this meme around like one abused employee can cost a company direly, but it never ever does, I don't know how such an idea gets passed around except for by companies who stand to benefit from guilting people into silence.
posted by GoblinHoney at 10:02 AM on August 28 [8 favorites]


I highly doubt it would have gone differently for Barry had he e-mailed vs. having an in person conversation. He was going to get ignored and tanked no matter what with these attitudes.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:06 PM on August 28 [8 favorites]


There were several points along the way at which it was clear Brandon was exactly what they thought he was, but this one stood out for me:
I remember trying to appeal to the business aspects of the behavior, and how it opened us up to legal liability. The head of Legal did speak up and asked if we were concerned about legal liability. She was seated to my left, and I was seated on Brandon’s left, where he was at the head of table. Brandon extended his arm past me and held up his hand in front of her and hushed her, saying we were not going to talk about that.
I would have had trouble restraining an impulse to shove Brandon's arm out of my face with asperity, which would have brought me down to their level and in some sense ratified their view of the world as an arena of male against male conflict with women as spoils.

Hawkins' approach was far better, and undoubtedly resulted in greater discomfort for Brandon and Marc over time than anything I could have done.

He must have been an excellent manager, and would make a wonderful friend.
posted by jamjam at 1:10 PM on August 28 [3 favorites]


I'm glad you posted this. I held off on cobbling together a round up of articles related to this subject because I've made a number of these types of posts already and this kind of news (while super important to discuss) can also feel super disheartening because it feels like the needle is barely moving, and/or often moving in the wrong direction. I'm feeling a lot of feels (this week in gaming has been hard), so I'll stop my comment here but I'm glad the discussion is happening. I'm reading, I'm listening, I'm learning.
posted by Fizz at 2:47 PM on August 28


Tell Me No Lies: Now that Kotaku has brought all of this out it seems likely that the blunt hammer of the law will get its shot.

Wait. Are there legal proceedings in the pipeline? I didn't see anything in this article or in the previous Kotaku one about anyone even attempting to sue. Did I miss something?
posted by mhum at 3:00 PM on August 28 [2 favorites]


I'm following the story pretty closely and I've heard nothing (yet) about any legal proceedings. I'm not an expert but I think it'd take a lot more than just this and the Kotaku article to bring a case. These articles establish that there's a hostile work environment, but doesn't it still take individuals with documented specific harm to bring a civil suit?

Riot's mostly chosen to stay quiet in the face of this criticism. I've been wondering what their lawyers are up to though. It's brave of Barry Hawkins to put his name on this. A lot of the Kotaku sources chose to remain unnamed, I imagine out of fear of retaliation by the company.
posted by Nelson at 3:07 PM on August 28


Did I miss something?

No, just typical "poor harasser" bullshit.
posted by tobascodagama at 4:11 PM on August 28 [7 favorites]


Face-to-face or phone conversations are for when I'm disclosing something unethical that my superiors have done, and I'm concerned about blow-back. Email conversations (or actual written letters) are for when I want to make it clear that this conversation may be referenced later, and I'm choosing my words carefully to express exactly what I mean, no more and no less.

This hasn't gone all peaches for me in my dealing with shitty bosses and bureaucracy, but I doubt it'd have gone better through conversations that are based on mutual recollection, and some of the freelance jobs I've enjoyed the most are writing what might best be termed "corporate shade," which is mostly about "inconsistencies" and "gaps" in performance and function.

Also, worth remembering, there's no such thing as a perfect report that would fix all the problems with intransigent assholes. Don't fall for bad faith.
posted by klangklangston at 10:48 PM on August 28 [4 favorites]


Reading the comments further down in the blog post is.. kinda depressing. So many people stridently defending the right to make rape jokes, saying it is unfair to censor rape jokes and somehow arguing that the rape jokes should exist in order for creativity to flourish and the company to do well... and on and on :S

It boggles the mind, and the scary thing is that there are so many in the gaming community who believe and endorse this kind of stuff to some degree or another. Rape jokes are also fairly common within the game itself - I've reported some of them using Riot's built-in report function (where you can flag a player for questionable conduct), but to my knowledge Riot has not acted or banned these players. (They've acted on some other types of in-game insults, but not rape jokes - maybe because rape jokes and the careless use of the word "rape" by players are so, so common. If they started banning people who joked about rape in the game I feel like they'd wind up banning the majority of their playerbase.)
posted by aielen at 3:12 AM on August 29 [4 favorites]


You know, protesting the NA LCS finals in Oakland next weekend would be interesting. I'm not in a position to do it, so this is just idle speculation. A demonstration wouldn't get on camera of course. But it would make an impression on the fans and, more importantly, the employees at Riot. You could also sneak some signs into the arena; if you sit strategically those might end up briefly on camera.

Idle thought motivated by my frustration about how this story is playing out on Reddit. Both this article and the Kotaku article got a lot of attention. And surprisingly the highest voted discussions are all against the sexism. I guess the "we hate Riot's management" reflex is more powerful than the "we are misogynist gamers" reflex. But the sexual harassment story gets attention for one day, then ends. No one remembers or does anything about it. Riot's strategy seems to be to stay quiet; a protest would disrupt that a little bit.
posted by Nelson at 7:41 AM on August 29


Riot Games: Our First Steps Forward. In which the company says all the right things about how they are going to do better by holding workshops and hiring a few diversity & inclusion people.

Notably absent: any personal comment from Brandon Beck and Marc Merrill, the founders of Riot and the ones specifically called out in the article for this post. Also no evidence of any disciplinary action against anyone so far.
posted by Nelson at 9:50 AM on August 29 [3 favorites]


Also no evidence of any disciplinary action against anyone so far.

They said that they couldn't talk about it for "legal reasons', which is a steaming load.
posted by NoxAeternum at 10:31 AM on August 29 [1 favorite]


I’m not sure what documentation would get anyone in this case. Arguments about corporate culture aren’t legal issues. The company treated him exactly the way he thought they would and he doesn’t seem to feel there was anything actionable. I certainly don’t.

What documentation buys you is it takes away their ability at some point in a public facing communication to say "Gee if only someone had told us this was going on"
posted by juv3nal at 5:47 PM on August 29 [2 favorites]


Rock Paper Shotgun has a strongly worded article / editorial about Riot's statement. Included in it are a bunch of links to other ex-Rioters speaking publicly about their experiences. It’s Dangerous to Go Alone — My Time in the Games Industry, My break up with Riot Games, Regarding Riot, Six Months at Riot Games, and Sexism at Riot.
posted by Nelson at 11:13 AM on August 31 [5 favorites]


Nelson's "My break up with Riot Games" link offers a revelatory and validating different perspective on the exact events that led to Hawkins' departure from Riot Games:
A defining experience I had at Riot occurred in an all-company meeting about recruiting.

The meeting was called to introduce the company to a new set of more aggressive recruiting tactics and to encourage those attending to reach out to their networks to help recruiting with referrals. The summer interns had recently arrived at the studio and were in attendance at the meeting. A few of the female interns were sitting close to myself and one of my female direct reports. The presenter flipped through a few slides discussing recruiting and hiring at Riot… and then the final slide popped up on the screen in all caps. “Remember, NO DOESN’T REALLY MEAN NO” The presenter repeated the statement on the screen and let it drop like a punchline. The female college students sitting near me either looked around uncomfortably or stared into their laps unsure where to look. Awkward laughter from the room. I sat frozen, completely in shock. My direct report looked over at me, her expression one of disbelief.

Riot had co-opted a well known anti-rape slogan used for over 20 years “No means No” and turned the negative version of it into their new recruiting slogan. The version of it that has been used when refuting accusations of rape by a woman. This wasn’t an accident. They thought it was funny.

As we got back to our desks, my direct leaned over to me and asked in a very hushed voice if we could chat privately. Once out of earshot of other members of our team she explained how upset she was by what had just occurred. I told her I agreed and felt equally offended and uncomfortable. Over the next few days, more women at Riot reached out to me about their concerns. I told them all I agreed, it was completely inappropriate and offensive. At the same time, some of the guys on our floor started using the slogan when a candidate would turn them down. I raised with them that this slogan was offensive and explained why. They looked at me blankly. “Challenge convention right? *shrug shoulders* *FIST BUMP!*”

The next day, a few of us took our concerns to one of the most senior members of our discipline and relayed what we were feeling as we knew he would support us and would raise it up to studio leadership.

We asked him whether the “no doesn’t necessarily mean no” phrase had been shared at the leadership offsite that had happened before the all-company meeting, and he confirmed our worst fears, that it had been. He then wrote an email about the use of the phrase to the leader who had shared it, explaining that he thought the use of the phrase was out of line, and that some of his female mentees had also expressed similar concerns.

His original email was then forwarded to a broader studio leadership audience with him removed from the thread. A few days later he was asked to attend a meeting with the two founders of the company, the head of legal, and the head of communications titled “Riot Culture and Sense of Humor”. In that meeting, the use of the rape joke was strongly defended, and leadership told him that the real problem was having people at Riot who were too sensitive. He was also told that “Riot was edgy”, and that if we started censoring ourselves, we would just become boring and corporate like other big game studios. He had a meeting with his manager the next day where the manager questioned whether or not he was “really bought in”.

We were devastated when we found out about this reaction. We were told the head of legal at Riot wanted to talk to us. We declined to speak with them. A few of us went to HR, but sadly the HR team at Riot at that time was equally as tone deaf as the recruiting statement. The conversation went nowhere.
posted by jamjam at 2:21 PM on August 31 [3 favorites]


Has anyone been following the developments on Reddit, Twitter etc about PAX, etc?
I would link but... there are many, many links/threads (maybe this might warrant a separate Metafilter post, idk) and some of the vitriol - expressed by (seemingly) the majority of the LoL redditors is just... O.O
Riot is holding a panel session at PAX specifically (exclusively) for women/non-binary people, and many, many people seem to be angry about that..
posted by aielen at 8:14 AM on September 2


I'm not following it; honestly after Riot's crappy public response I decided to disengage from League of Legends entirely. I hadn't played in a few months anyway but was likely to come back. Now I'm no longer reading about it or watching pro games or anything. Fuck 'em.

Here's Riot's schedule announcement. The thing that's interesting about their women/non-binary event is they're presenting general content, not gender-specific stuff. This isn't "what it's like to be a woman in gaming", this is "hear a presentation from Riot's art team". There's also a resume review time in the event and I wonder a bit about the legal ramifications of that. I dunno it sounds like fun to me and if I were going to PAX I'd be a little sad I was excluded. (They're doing exclusive stuff for cosplayers, too.)
posted by Nelson at 12:13 PM on September 2


This discussion on /r/GirlGamers is interesting: Can't handle the sexism on the League of Legends subreddit.
posted by Nelson at 4:16 PM on September 2 [1 favorite]


More developments.
posted by aielen at 1:32 PM on September 7 [1 favorite]


More developments = Riot fired two employees for speaking out against harassment. Marcus Lehman is one of them, his essay from a few days ago Riot Games must be better is good reading.

There's also rumors that Riot is retaliating against employees with an aggressive law firm. It is disgusting.

I completely quit LoL last week. I've spent the last 4+ years reading about, playing, and watching the game. No more.
posted by Nelson at 7:56 AM on September 8 [5 favorites]


Riot has hired a former Uber executive to helm their diversity team.

That is not an Onion link, no matter how much it should be.
posted by NoxAeternum at 1:55 PM on September 12 [1 favorite]


That's a little unfair to Francis Frei, the new Riot advisor. She was brought in to Uber last year just two weeks before Kalanick got kicked out. I don't have any particular insight into what she did, she was only there for 8 months, but she was part of the effort to actually fix Uber, not part of the years-long disaster before she joined.

No idea if Riot is sincere here and Frei's hire doesn't say much; she's just an advisor. I am confident the only real solution, much like with Uber, is to start by getting rid of the founder bros.
posted by Nelson at 4:28 PM on September 12 [1 favorite]


I wonder if Tencent are willing or able to buy them out. Though I guess if the blowback keeps hitting Riot's bottom line, maybe both become more likely.
posted by tobascodagama at 4:39 PM on September 12


Tencent already owns them. That relationship is awkward.

One thing I don't have much insight into is how much the actual founders Brandon Beck and Marc Merrill run things, vs the current CEO Nicolo Laurent. Beck & Merrill announced they were going to move on to working on making a new game. But not sure it matters who is doing what day to day; the big problem with bro culture is it's the whole damn culture, not just one bro at the top. Also there's the matter of compensating all the employees harmed over the past few years.
posted by Nelson at 4:43 PM on September 12


Riot Games Says It Wants To Clean Up Its Mess, But The People Who Made It Are Still There. By Cecilia D'Anastasio who broke the original story about sexual harassment at Riot.
posted by Nelson at 5:31 PM on September 12 [1 favorite]


Sorry, by "them" I specifically meant Beck & Merrill, not Riot in general. I assume that the original Tencent purchase included some sort of golden parachute provision that requires a big payout in the event of their termination.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:10 PM on September 12


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