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Riot Games outlines plan for culture change in wake of workplace sexism allegations

Company promises action steps such as third-party evaluations, anonymous hotline, reevaluation of recruiting practices, and new HR hires

Riot Games has laid out an action plan to combat workplace sexism and gender discrimination after a Kotaku exposé publicized concerning accusations about its internal culture.

The article, published earlier this month, interviewed 28 current and former employees of the League of Legends studio, revealing a myriad of issues at the company including dicriminatory hiring practices, heavily-gendered language in official communications, misogynistic attitudes in promotion and advancement, and a pervasive "bro culture" that frequently made women feel uncomfortable, excluded, or harassed.

It was followed by a series of responses from various former Riot employees who were not interviewed, but who backed the claims made in the article. These included former EU community programs specialist Meagan Marie's descripton of gendered language, inappropriate inquiries into her sex life, and rape jokes; former senior development manager Zoë Curnoe's memory of a recruiting campaign that included the slogan 'No doesn't necessarily mean no"; and former director of project management Barry Hawkins' corroboration of that story.

In an official news post, Riot Games has issued a lengthy acknowledgement of the issues brought up by the multitude of accusations and apology to its partners, contractors, players, and those considering careers at the company. The meat of the post is a detailed list of steps Riot intends to take to clean up its work culture at multiple levels. These include bringing in third-party consultants to assist in rebuilding the company culture, the creation of an anonymous issue reporting hotline, a reevaluation of recruiting strategies, increase and expansion of internal training, and the hiring of a new chief human resources officer and a chief diversity officer for the executive team.

The full plan provided by Riot is quoted below:

First Steps

Expanding the Culture and D&I Initiative: We've built a new team to lead our cultural evolution. This group and their work will impact every corner of this organization, and will also accelerate our existing cultural and inclusion work. We are all committed to keeping the best parts of today's Riot-like our focus on player empathy-while tirelessly looking toward the future. The team will be accountable to our CEO directly.

Revisiting Cultural Definitions: We are putting everything on the table, including our core cultural tenets, like our manifesto. This includes reevaluating the language of Riot, words like "gamer" and "meritocracy," to ensure they mean the same thing to all of us. If the words are misused or don't help us describe our vision for the future, we won't use them.

Third-Party Evaluation: We have engaged two leading consultants on culture change to provide us with their expertise and recommendations as we rebuild Riot's culture. Our goal isn't just to be good; it's to become a leader on diversity, inclusion, and culture. We're asking them to develop mechanisms to measure our progress and hold us accountable against this objective.

Investigation Process: We're evaluating and improving our investigation process and systems. We understand we lost trust with Rioters, so rebuilding trust is key to making Rioters feel safe and empowered to raise issues. Here's some of what we've done already:

  • We set up a hotline where anyone can anonymously raise issues and submit complaints.
  • We have expanded our internal team, and brought in an outside law firm to assess our policies. They'll also be working side-by-side with talent partners to investigate any new claims raised by Rioters to provide an additional, unbiased layer to all of our investigations.
  • No one and nothing is sacred. We are prepared to make big changes and have begun taking action against specific cases, including removal of Rioters, though we aren't likely to get into those details publicly on a case-by-case basis for legal and privacy reasons.

Reevaluating Recruiting: We're accelerating our efforts to make our recruiting system more open. We're overhauling our job descriptions to ensure they're readily accessible to all demographic groups; reassessing which universities we recruit from; and expanding the pools from which we target our candidates.

Trainings: We're doubling down on trainings. Trainings that had been specific to managers are being expanded to all Rioters, including interview training and anti-harassment training. We're also investing in anti-bias training to encourage behaviors that foster a fair and inclusive work environment. In addition, we are investing in management training for all managers to build and support better teams. These trainings will be required for existing Rioters, with elements integrated into our Rioter onboarding program.

Staffing up for D&I: We are deep into the process of recruiting a new Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO), and recently began the search for a Chief Diversity Officer (CDO). They will join the CEO, President, and COO as part of our executive leadership team, and will add critical experience to our existing D&I team to accelerate all our work in this area.

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Rebekah Valentine avatar

Rebekah Valentine

Senior Staff Writer

Rebekah arrived at GamesIndustry in 2018 after four years of freelance writing and editing across multiple gaming and tech sites. When she's not recreating video game foods in a real life kitchen, she's happily imagining herself as an Animal Crossing character.