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Riot Games

Former Riot Director Speaks Out About Toxic Culture At League Of Legends Developer

by Imran Khan on Aug 27, 2018 at 06:40 PM

Riot Games has had a rough few weeks of its own making. Earlier this month, Kotaku senior reporter Cecilia D'Anastasio released an exposé of the sexist culture that seemingly pervades the company that built and maintains popular MOBA League of Legends. The story has rocked the industry, prompting more people to come out from within the company to, at minimum, say that Riot can and must do better. Meagan Marie, a former editor at Game Informer, wrote a blog post shortly after to chronicle the six months she spent working at the developer and her hope for "real, meaningful change" at Riot.

Another voice has come out to give their own perspective of Riot's culture by explaining why they left the company. Barry Hawkins, an alumnus of various tech companies and developers like Netflix, Hulu, and Blizzard before entering the role of director of product management at Riot, published a post today titled The Story of Why I Left Riot Games.

In the post, which I recommend reading in its entirety, Hawkins explained that simply getting his bosses to acknowledge that a rape joke is inappropriate for a company question & answer session became an ordeal that ultimately caused him to leave his job. The culture at Riot, Hawkins argued, was too tied up in trying to portray the company as edgy and funny, and attempts to reform would make the developer formless and bland. From the post, the problem seemed to trickle down from the top.

He makes it clear that this is not a willing attempt to encourage misogyny or condone making women uncomfortable, but rather that the system and cultural mores prevalent at Riot put a ceiling on their ability to make decisions to prevent those things from happening in the first place.

"I do not think that much of leadership would actively condone sexism and the mistreatment of women," Hawkins wrote. "However, when confronted with what they would need to change about their behavior to prevent an environment that nurtures sexism and mistreatment of women, they have an established record of being unwilling to make those changes."

Since the Kotaku article, Riot has responded to Games Beat on the subject, not denying the allegations. Riot did say, however, that they have taken action against "many of the specific instances in the article, and we’re committed to digging in, addressing every issue, and fixing the underlying causes."


If Hawkins' allegations are true, it speaks to a more creeping toxicity than one that can be easily identified, quantified, and solved without deep corporate introspection.