So for a while now, there has been ongoing controversy at League of Legends maker Riot Games LA studio and beyond over a forced arbitration clause being enforced by the games company. Riot Games has been the subject of ongoing issues such as gender discrimination lawsuits and other claims of abuse and mistreatment of their workers. Many went on to reference a deeply misogynistic and problematic culture at the company, citing numerous issues with the “bro” atmosphere. Kotaku laid these accusations out pretty thoroughly in their piece, check it out for more background.
You might be wondering about why I’m calling them hypocrites though, well, it gets complicated. on Tuesday 6th May, 150 developers at Riot staged a mass walkout in protest over the handling of these issues, expecting some kind of reprieve as well as long-term solutions. Turns out that Riot will continue the tone and legal handling they’ve had so far, despite protests. That means no chance to opt-out of forced arbitration clauses set by Riot. In essence, this means employees lose the right to sue their employer as a condition of employment.
“Ultimately, given the complexities of ongoing litigation, we will not change our employee argeements while in active litigation,” a Riot Games spokesperson told Bloomberg today.
Riot has promised some token gestures to address employee concerns, but they feel like hollow and ineffective moves as a weak replacement for real change. First of these two new additions is a Diversity and Inclusion Rioters Council led by “engaged, thoughtful Rioters” to encourage growth and change within the company. Second, Riot has invited “a diverse group” of staff to review the company’s Code of Conduct.
The fallout from this development looks like it’s going to be relatively minor for Riot as a company, even though walkout organiser Jocelyn Monahan has told Kotaku that staff at the company are working on new plans. “We’re disappointed leadership doesn’t seem to be considering any major changes to their active policy,” Monaghan said. “That said, we’re blown away by the passion, solidarity, and vulnerability that workers who support the walkout are showing.”
Something else about this whole mess that’s at least a bit insulting is the statements made earlier this week by Chris Greeley, a senior manager at Riot who doubles as LCS commissioner, in response to an ongoing controversy over comments made by an investor in one organization involved in the esports scene for League of Legends. According to statements from various sources, one of the investors had been accused of calling a fellow member the n-word in email correspondence and also threatening founder Rick Fox.
“The LCS has concluded its preliminary investigation into the alleged comments made by a member of the Echo Fox ownership group,” said Greeley, a senior manager at Riot who doubles as LCS commissioner, in a statement posted on the official League of Legends Twitter account this week. “Hate speech, threats, and bigotry have no place in the LCS. We have directed Echo Fox to take appropriate corrective action within 60 days.”
Now let me be clear, I’m on the side of Riot in standing against hate speech, and I hate having to use these two events in contradiction, but Riot Games clearly wants us to forget the bad things they’re doing by applying an arbitrary, even though justified, moral standard. It’s blatantly clear that Riot believes they can push over their employees by calling out bigotry instead. That’s not how labor relations works, and it’s very much the wrong message to send.