Riot employees walk out after reports of sexual harassment and sexism

Gerry Hart reports on the controversy surrounding Riot Games' employee walkout and its rather dark history of problems.

Gerry Hart
13th May 2019
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

On Monday 6th May, approximately 150 employees of Riot Games walked out of the studio’s Los Angeles office in protest at the company’s use of forced arbitration. The walkout follows reports of a culture of casual sexual harassment and sexism, as well as a gender discrimination lawsuit that ended in private arbitration.

Speaking to Kotaku, social listening strategies Jocelyn Monahan stated “We’re asking that forced arbitration be ended for all past, current, and future Riot employees”.

The walkout is one of a number of high profile scandals regarding working conditions in the video game industry. Last year, Rockstar's announcement that its staff were working 100 hour weeks in the production of Red Dead Redemption 2 was met with fierce criticism.

Prior to this, the developers of Heavy Rain and Detroit: Become Human, Quantic Dream, were dogged by accusations of overworking staff and fostering a workplace culture rife with racism and sexism. According to the Independent Game Developer Association developer satisfaction survey for 2017, 53% of respondents said that "crunch" (i.e. the practice of overworking developers in order to complete a given project) was a routine aspect of their work, whilst only 26% said their company had any procedures designed to deal with sexual harassment.

In response to the walkout, Riot games promised to address concerns about its workplace culture

Following these allegations, efforts have been made to unionise the industry, chiefly through the founding of Game Workers Unite. In a statement addressing the Riot employees, Game Workers Unite said "The several thousand members of Game Workers Unite International are proud to stand in solidarity with you as you speak out against injustice in your workplace".

In response to the walkout, Riot games promised to address concerns about its workplace culture, stating that it would, once litigation was over, give its employees the chance to opt out of forced arbitration for individual sexual harassment and assault claims.

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