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Fired Riot employee discusses toxicity and community engagement

Rutledge says that talking to players can be scary, but it's better than "feeling like total silence out there"

The issue of toxic behaviour in online games has reared its ugly head again this week. In an interview with Glixel, former Riot employee Aaron Rutledge told of the abuse and threats he received in the wake of his dismissal from the company.

Rutledge was fired last week after drunkenly taking to a Discord chat room and insulting notorious League of Legends player and YouTuber, Tyler1. However, after issuing an apology and accepting Riot's decision to terminate his contract, Rutledge faced a torrent of abuse from enraged fans.

"The doxxing and threats and insults kept coming for several days," he said. "Pretty scary stuff - but nothing I didn't deserve. I was very impressed with Tyler's reaction to all of this though, I said some nasty stuff and his response was quite generous."

Before his dismissal, Rutledge worked on Riot's experience design team where he developed new game features, and even helped shape a number of tools to tackle player toxicity.

Considering how to best handle such issues in the future, he said: "I think we see developers leaning more and more into holding their players to a standard of behavior. League, Overwatch, PUBG, and plenty of others are actively working to defend the quality of their games for the majority of players. I'd expect the tools to continue to advance as things like AI and neural-networks get more accessible to game devs. Ultimately, I think it's up to the players themselves to continue to make calls on what is and isn't ok around them in games."

Rutledge also spoke about how difficult it can be for developers to engage with fans, a sentiment echoed by Overwatch director Jeff Kaplan who took to the game's forums last week to defend his team in the face of intimidation.

"Talking to players as a developer is scary and intimidating," said Rutledge. "I know plenty of Rioters that won't add the tag to their names, sometimes out of intimidation of getting called out or targeted, or sometimes because they just want to play League like a normal player. Still, having a thick skin and good judgment would have made things easier."

Even so, Rutledge said he agrees with Riot's policy of talking directly to the community, saying it humanises the developers in their eyes. He added: "If League devs had to go talk to a communications team for every comment they wanted to respond to it would end up feeling like total silence out there."

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Ivy Taylor avatar
Ivy Taylor: Ivy joined in 2017 having previously worked as a regional journalist, and a political campaigns manager before that. They are also one of the UK's foremost Sonic the Hedgehog apologists.
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