Former Riot Director Describes Toxic Corporate Culture In Detail

Kotaku reporter Cecilia D’Anastasio’s article describing the rampant sexism at Riot Games shed light onto the troubling culture of one of the gaming industry’s biggest names. The article detailed the experiences of several anonymous past and current employees of Riot Games focusing on the toxic atmosphere promoted by company heads. For the first time, a former Riot director, Barry Hawkins, is publicly speaking out about his own story regarding the sexist corporate culture at Riot Games.

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Gameinformer first reported on Hawkins’ article, “The Story of Why I Left Riot Games” and how he left due to a refusal to condone the sexist culture that has since become associated with the company. In his post, Hawkins describes in detail the fraternity-esque culture that D’Anastasio touched on in her original article. From his story, it is painfully clear how Riot’s upper brass seems to view the fact that their use of sexual and other crude remarks throughout the office as some sort of “badge of coolness.” At one point in the story, Hawkins is in a meeting where Riot’s Head of Communications remarks that this type of interaction gives them an “edge.” He notes that by “chipping away” at those edges, the company would become “bland, like EA or Blizzard.”

In short, Hawkins story revolves around how he confronted Riot co-founders Marc Merrill and Brandon Beck regarding a rape joke made by the latter at a recruitment event. A concerned email leads to a meeting with the two as well as the heads of communication and legal. The exchange between Hawkins and Marc/Brandon is so incredibly bizarre that it’s worth reading the article just for that particular part of the story. The two co-founders seem so socially off in their interactions it’s hard to imagine how anyone could stomach the conversation for nearly an hour. Hawkins seems to be man with mythical levels of self-control and patience.

In the end, Barry Hawkins realized that he could not change the organizational culture and decided to leave on his own accord. Since D’Anastasio’s article came out, Riot Games has publicly stated that they are working to fix the “underlying causes.” Based upon Hawkins’ post, it seems unlikely that these problems can be fixed if Marc and Brandon are still running the show. Riot’s founders defining “cool” as being able to throw rape jokes out in meetings says a lot about both them and the company they’ve built.


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