One of the world’s biggest game studios has been hit with multiple allegations of fostering a hostile, sexist work environment

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Riot Games

  • The maker of the enormously popular game “League of Legends,” Riot Games, is a massive game studio with thousands of employees.
  • Riot is accused of fostering a sexist, hostile work environment.
  • “The frequency and intensity of inappropriate behavior in the workplace had become a concern not long after I arrived,” Barry Hawkins, a former manager at Riot, wrote in a lengthy piece this week.
  • Hawkins said he left Riot Games in early 2014 because of ongoing concerns with the culture at the studio and the feeling that pushing back imperiled his job stability.

One of the biggest game studios in the world, Riot Games, is facing multiple accusations of fostering a culture of sexism and hostility.

After Kotaku published its monthslong investigative report in early August outlining a “bro culture” at the Los Angeles-based company, new accusations surfaced in a piece published this week on the personal blog of a former employee.

“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 in the 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.”

In his piece, Hawkins details his experience working at Riot Games – from August 2012 to February 2014 – as one repeatedly characterized by sexism. Worse, he said, his attempts to push back against that culture were met with enough resistance that he ended up leaving the company.

“I concluded that I was not going to be able to effectively impact the issues with the culture at Riot,” he wrote, “and my first significant attempt at raising concerns had put my job in jeopardy.”

Riot Games

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Glassdoor

Kotaku’s report detailed the experiences of over two dozen current and former Riot Games employees, offering a similarly grim assessment of the company’s culture.

“They just didn’t respect women,” a former employee named Lacy told the publication.

Several people who spoke to Kotaku described instances of sexual harassment from management, ongoing struggles to hire women, and casual sexism in conversations with coworkers. Hawkins echoed these accusations in his piece and said the issues with Riot’s culture go all the way to the top.

Hawkins said that during a 2013 offsite work event for all Riot Games hiring managers, CEO Brandon Beck made a joke about rape as part of a speech:

“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.

Riot Games has denied the allegations in Kotaku’s report and did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Hawkins’ account.