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Major game studio Riot Games apologizes after being accused of sexist culture, vows to change
- The maker of the enormously popular game "League of Legends," Riot Games, is a massive game studio with thousands of employees.
- The studio was recently accused of fostering a sexist, hostile work environment.
- Riot acknowledged the accusations on Wednesday and issued an apology.
- "We're sorry. We're sorry that Riot hasn't always been — or wasn't — the place we promised you. And we're sorry it took so long for us to hear you," the post reads.
The Los Angeles-based game studio behind the massively popular game "League of Legends" has apologized following repeated accusations of fostering a hostile, sexist work environment.
In a letter published Wednesday titled, "Our First Steps Forward," Riot Games apologized to former and current employees, the people who play "League of Legends," and its business partners.
"We're sorry," the letter says. "We're sorry that Riot hasn't always been — or wasn't — the place we promised you. And we're sorry it took so long for us to hear you."
The apology letter is the first open admission from Riot Games of a culture problem — one that was first reported by Kotaku in an investigative piece published in early August, then resurfaced by a former high-level Riot Games employee this week.
"The frequency and intensity of inappropriate behavior in the workplace had become a concern not long after I arrived," Barry Hawkins, who was a director of product management at Riot Games, wrote on his blog in a piece titled "The Story of Why I Left Riot Games."
"There were two predominant flavors of behavior," he said. "One was the use of sexual references and gestures by straight men toward other straight men, and the other was the sexist and inappropriate language about women."
What led Hawkins to leave Riot, he said, was an incident involving Riot Games' former CEO Brandon Beck at an off-site event held for hiring managers in 2013:
"They shared an example of how one candidate did not take an offer initially, but because we persevered and followed up, they eventually did take our offer. At the end of that example, Brandon laughed and said, 'I was about to say something.' He paused, and then went on to say, 'No doesn't necessarily mean no.'"
More than just a joke during the speech, the anecdote ended up enshrined in a slide deck, Hawkins said.
It was this that led Hawkins to leave Riot Games — in an email follow-up, Hawkins said he politely confronted the Riot Games CEO, which led to a series of meetings that eventually persuaded him to leave. He now works for Hulu as a director of technical program management.
Beck stepped down as CEO of Riot Games in late 2019. The company's new CEO, Nicolo Laurent, is overseeing a freshly formed group within Riot that aims to evolve the company's culture.
"We've built a new team to lead our cultural evolution," Riot's letter reads. "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."
Moreover, Beck and co-founder Marc Merrill are recusing themselves, "from matters relating to the broad culture, diversity, and inclusion initiative," a Riot Games representative told Business Insider this morning.
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