Since Kotaku’s article “Inside The Culture Of Sexism At Riot Games” came out on Tuesday, the internet has blown up with criticism of the company. The piece by Cecilia D’Anastasio describes numerous examples of a sexist “bro culture” that exists within the company based on interviews conducted with 28 current and former employees. Just the other day, a Reddit thread on the article received an actual response from a Rioter. While the Reddit thread has been upvoted nearly 20,000 times, the Riot comment… not so much. It’s currently close to -1000. Here’s a breakdown of the response.
“Hey everyone, Riot Smileyjoe here. I work in Riot comms and have been working with this journalist for the last few weeks to get Riot’s view into the piece.
We appreciate that the reporter took the time to reach out to us, but since Kotaku didn’t include the full statement, I wanted to make sure this community saw the full response we sent.”
Right off the bat, Riot Smileyjoe seems to be criticizing Kotaku for not presenting their full statement. As we get into the response, you’ll see how this is probably a good thing for Riot Games.
We strive to cultivate a unique culture that positions us to best deliver amazing player experiences: one where we obsessively focus on players; one where every Rioter has equal opportunity to be heard, grow their role, advance in the organization, and fulfill their potential; and one where open feedback helps us all get better.
The key word there is “strive”–our cultural values are aspirational and we’re realistic about the fact that the values and behaviors in our manifesto aren’t always perfectly reflected in the reality of the experiences of Rioters across Riot. Talking over women in meetings, promoting/hiring anyone less deserving than anyone else, and crossing the line from assertive to aggressive are three examples of actions that are explicitly opposite to our culture. To say that these actions are emblematic of our culture and not an affront to it would be wrong.
To ensure our aspirational culture becomes a reality and isn’t lost in translation, we over-index on cultural reinforcement. We bake our values into company strategy, leadership attributes, and company-wide programs, systems, and processes. When we encounter any contrary behaviors, we dig in to understand, evaluate, and address. We have a zero tolerance policy on discrimination, harassment, retaliation, bullying, and general toxicity.
This is a rather wordy way of saying absolutely nothing. Seeing as how the top upvoted comment by r/Mogsike notes “This statement is a whole lot of nothing,” I’m clearly not the only one who feels this way.
This response completely fails to address any of the issues brought out in the article. It makes one wonder if whoever wrote this actually read through D’Anastasio piece at all.
Our D&I Program
We agree with you that there is work to be done to improve Rioter diversity and Riot inclusion. In fact, we know we’ll never be done working on that—any company that says otherwise is lying or isn’t trying hard enough. This is a long journey and we’ve made a lot of progress, but still have work to do. Diverse teams and an inclusive environment are the only way we can deliver meaningful and resonant experiences to players around the world, so we need to make sure all potential Rioters have an equal shot at joining our team.
As we’ve grown, we’ve continued putting more resources behind these efforts, and in the last few years we’ve accelerated and formalized our D&I program. In mid-2014, under the leadership of founders Brandon Beck and Marc Merrill, we revamped our Talent (AKA HR) function with a renewed focus on D&I. In 2015, we hired our dedicated D&I Manager. And last year, we dialed-up our existing D&I efforts with the formation of a cross-disciplinary D&I task force.
We’re excited for our future as we strive to improve in these and other areas. We’ll only get better if we constantly question the status quo and ask ourselves how we can be better. But we can never sacrifice culture as we continue to evolve.
Here’s the thing Riot, it’s pretty obvious by your response to the accusations that you’ve got a real problem on your hands. Instead of coming clean and saying, “Yeah, we’ve messed up and here’s what we’re going to do to fix it,” you’ve opted for the little kid strategy of attempting to sweep your mistakes under a pretty rug. You’re not fooling anyone here and you’ve only succeeded in making yourself look worse.
You said it yourself, the key word here is “strive” – only, it doesn’t seem like you’re “striving” very much. Take a look at how Starbucks handled the PR disaster that came about after police were called on two black men for waiting too long on a friend without ordering. Almost immediately afterwards, Starbucks came out and with this response. Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson goes step by step with how they are going to make things right and followed through with these ideas accordingly. They literally closed 8000 stores one day for racial bias training.
Honestly, Riot Games should be thrilled that their terribly put together response wasn’t shared by Kotaku in its entirety as it would only do more damage to their brand image. It’s disturbing to think that top level Riot execs approved of such a response as it goes to show how completely out of touch they are with the situation.
Featured Image Credits: gameplaying.info