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Riot responds to controversy over women and non-binary PAX workshops

“No matter how heated a discussion, we expect Rioters to act with respect”

Riot Games is once again under fire from claims of sexism - but this time it's being criticised for excluding men from some of its activities.

The controversy arose from League of Legends developer's workshops at PAX West this weekend, where one room was used to host sessions to "support women and non-binary folks who are interested in getting into games professionally" - an initiative to combat the fact that only 22 per cent of jobs in the games industry are held by women.

Riot recruiter Mel Capperino-Garcia (aka 'Swimbananas') confirmed two of these events were only open to women and non-binary folks - to which several people complained as the sessions in question were focused on getting a career, including a one-on-one resumé review and presentations on securing a job in art, production, writing, game design and more.

The conversation inevitably escalated across the official comments thread, Reddit and other forms of social media, with Daily Esports reporting many of the common complaints, such as that Riot's stance was actually sexist to men, and unfair for any male members of the community interested in working for the firm.

The official Riot Games Twitter account has since weighed in on the subject with a short statement: "To help recruit women into gaming, we held PAX workshops for women and non-binary people. We're proud of that and stand with Rioters at PAX. Regarding conversations about this, we need to emphasise that no matter how heated a discussion, we expect Rioters to act with respect."

A more detailed and aggressive response came from Daniel Z. Klein, the Riot systems designer who has created a number of League champions, such as Taliyah and Kayn. In a Twitter thread, Klein observed that men are already "ridiculously over-represented in gaming", while women are ignored, passed over for promotions, and harrassed.

"So yes, in the interest of justice, equality, and fairness, man need to be excluded sometimes," he continued. "That's perfectly fine. Trust me, you'll have about a billion other opportunities that these women won't have. But no, you have to be absolute overgrown toddlers and throw hissy fits."

However, this last comment as well as Klein's references to "manbabies" and the suggestion that some people driving the argument are "privileged as fuck" has also sparked complaints.

Klein has since retweeted a PAX attendee's photo of a 'wall of encouragement', covered in notes for women and non-binary people who are into video games - an initiative Riot has been supporting.

Riot Games has been wrapped in controversy for several weeks, following an exposé by Kotaku earlier this year on the rampant sexism at work in the studio itself. This report prompted further tales of harassment and inappropriate behaviour from current and former employees.

The company has since promised to fix this toxic culture, with a clear plan laid out for doing so. But, as our own Rob Fahey observed, the studio faces extreme scrutiny as it does so - as clearly evidenced by the reaction to its PAX activities.

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Latest comments (2)

Daniel Trezub QA Analyst, Ludia6 months ago
Well, this is precisely how women and minorities feel on a daily basis. Welcome to Empathy 101.
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Bonnie Patterson Narrative Designer, Writer 6 months ago
"So yes, in the interest of justice, equality, and fairness, man need to be excluded sometimes," he continued. "That's perfectly fine. Trust me, you'll have about a billion other opportunities that these women won't have."

That's spot on, really.

It has been amazing, these last few years, to see more women getting into game development in the big studios and some of the small ones, and honestly I have been loving the games that are coming out of it. I just never empathised that much with Shouting Man or Wisecracking Man.

It's not just the women themselves who are bringing the changes, either. With studios committing to diversity, everyone gets to unfurl their imaginations in ways that don't toe the old presumed-teenage-male-audience line, and from what I've seen, even most male players are enjoying having different content mixed in with the old staples.

I hope we'll be reaching out to racial minorities in the same way, too. Can you imagine the games we'd have if development seemed as natural and accessible a means of storytelling as music is in the black community? Just picture the games Donald Glover could write!
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