Last year, five lawsuits were filed against Riot Games for the company’s violation of the California Equal Pay Act, citing how in-house sexism was affecting the workplace and creating a “bro culture.” According to Kotaku, this past April, Riot filed a forced arbitration for two of them. In response, Riot Games’ employees are preparing for the first of several planned walkouts.
An estimated number of 100 employees are set to participate in the walkout today. To Kotaku, one employee said, “I’m walking out as a symbolic action to signal to leadership that I care about this issue. I hope leadership takes the time to seriously listen to the issues.”
In response to the walkout, a Riot representative told Kotaku, “While we will not make a change to our policies while in active litigation, last Thursday we announced that we’ve made the call to pivot our approach. As soon as active litigation is resolved, we will give all new Rioters the choice to opt-out of mandatory arbitration for individual sexual harassment and sexual assault claims. At that time, we will also commit to have a firm answer on potentially expanding the scope and extending this opt-out to all Rioters. We are working diligently to resolve all active litigation so that we can quickly take steps toward a solution. As we have been for the past week, we will continue to listen to Rioters regarding their thoughts on arbitration and we’re thankful for everyone that has taken the time to meet with leadership about this issue.”
“It’s been eight months since the original [Kotaku] article was released and so far I haven’t seen a single outcome of our diversity and inclusion efforts at Riot,” one Riot employee told Kotaku. “I haven’t seen a single metric or number to indicate things have improved and I haven’t seen a single project get finished.”
Another employee told Kotaku, “I think having executives get up for two hours and do the classic, roundabout series of denials helped other Rioters wake up to the fact that this is actually happening here. The impression most Rioters got is that [the executives] do care about it, a bit. They care about being publicly humiliated.”
This walkout is the first major protest seen in the game industry since the bulk of Crytek USA quit for being underpaid back in 2014. The gaming landscape of today is very different from previous years, as talk of studio employees unionizing has become a larger focus amongst the many reports of crunch and other poor working conditions within the industry. The shift has put many studios under the microscope, including big names like Fortnite’s Epic Games and Mortal Kombat 11’s NeatherRealm. In response, numerous teams, such as Apex Legends’ Respawn, are sticking to certain development practices in regards to updating their games in order to avoid putting their employees through crunch.