The esports and game company has changed its leadership and it has worked hard to put the problems behind it. It remains to be seen how much change it achieves in bringing gender equity to video games and esports.
On Thursday evening, Riot Games announced the settlement at a town hall meeting, which is a practice the company created in the wake of a report from gaming news/culture site Kotaku a year ago in which employees alleged a toxic and sexist culture at Riot. The story described a “men first” “bro culture” where women were regularly subjected to offensive behavior by fellow employees and managers.
In May, over 100 employees staged a walkout at the company’s Santa Monica headquarters.
The walkout organizers at Rioters Against Forced Arbitration said in a tweet, “We believe this is a huge victory for women in games.”
TL;DR: Class action lawsuit against Riot has been settled (other suits that went to arbitration are still pending). We believe this is a huge victory for women in games. Full text of statement from the walkout organizers here: pic.twitter.com/H9qhse35V8
— Rioters Against Forced Arbitration (@RiotersAFA) August 23, 2019
The parties in the lawsuit still need to get court approval of the proposed settlement. The terms will be disclosed upon final approval. At that time, we’ll see the terms and how much of a victory was achieved for the diversity and inclusion cause at Riot.
“We are grateful for every Rioter who has come forward with their concerns and believe this resolution is fair for everyone involved,” said Riot Games CEO Nicolo Laurent in a statement. “With this agreement, we are honoring our commitment to find the best and most expedient way for all Rioters, and Riot, to move forward and heal. Over the past year, we’ve made substantial progress toward evolving our culture and will continue to pursue this work as we strive to be the most inclusive company in gaming.”
Laurent, formerly chief financial officer, became CEO in late 2017, while founders Brandon Beck and Marc Merrill became chairmen and focused on making new games at Riot.
Last March, Riot hired its first chief diversity officer, Angela Roseboro, to address the company’s culture. A full year after the allegations surfaced, Roseboro said in a blog post that Riot Games has made big strides formalizing diversity and inclusion processes at the company.
The lawsuit alleged that Riot Games retaliated against outspoken female employees. It allegedly denied them promotions, raises, and equal pay. Some women faced reassignments, lost benefits, terminations, and other negative actions.
Responding to the scandal, Riot Games’ management said it would launch initiatives to add more women to its leadership, close the wage gaps, and change its company culture. In May, however, employees staged a walkout because the company wanted to force arbitration for existing complaints. Riot only promised to allow new hires the option of waiving forced arbitration in sexual harassment cases.
“It’s a positive step to see this resolved, but the fact that Riot had to say this in their official statement makes it sound begrudgingly resolved: ‘While we believed that we had a strong position to litigate, we realized that in the long run, doing what is best for both Riot and Rioters was our ideal outcome,'” said Kate Edwards, executive director of the Global Game Jam and head of Geogrify, in a message. “What they should have said is simply, ‘We realized that in the long run, doing what is best for both Riot and Rioters was our ideal outcome’ and leave the arrogance or pretense for a potential moral high ground at the door. I understand the legal reasons why they wouldn’t, but someday it would be great to see a game company do what is right because it’s right – not because they felt forced into a corner.”