150 employees of Riot Games walked out last week – here’s why


Riot Games might be behind one of the top online multiplayer games in the world, but the US video game developer has been stirring controversy as of late.

This is because several lawsuits were fired against the California-based developer recently. Five employees claimed Riot Games had violated the US state’s Equal Pay Act, and therefore sued.

The lawsuits also seemingly confirm a Kotaku report from earlier this year, which described a toxic work environment at Riot, with sexism and a “bro culture” being issues at the US video game company.

And to add fuel to the fire, Riot has now filed a forced arbitration of two of these lawsuits, pushing its employees over the edge, which protested en masse last week by walking out of the studio as was recently reported on GameSpot.

A total of 150 employees took part in the walkout, with one of them stating this was a “symbolic action” and that he hoped the company would “listen to the issues”.

Riot Games employs more than 2500 people all over the world, and has kept growing since being acquired by Chinese video game giant Tencent back in 2011. Unlike other video game companies, it focuses mainly on one game (League of Legends), which is one of the world’s most popular online multiplayer games.

And despite its recent troubles, Riot was actually named one of the best companies to work for by Fortune magazine back in 2016. Also, the company has promised to take steps to solve the issues which led to last week’s massive walkout at its California studio.

“While we will not make a change to our policies while in active litigation, last Thursday we announced that we’ve made the call to pivot our approach. As soon as active litigation is resolved, we will give all new Rioters the choice to opt-out of mandatory arbitration for individual sexual harassment and sexual assault claims”, a Riot representative told Kotaku.

Despite this employees remain sceptical. One of Riot Games employees said that since Kotaku first shed light on the company’s discriminatory work environment, little has changed at the studio.

“So far I haven’t seen a single outcome of our diversity and inclusion efforts at Riot”, a company employee told gaming website Kotaku.

This is not the first time that employees at a video game company have complained about working conditions and a studio’s toxic culture. Last year, Rockstar developers complained about having to work 100 hour weeks during the development of the company’s hit video game Red Dead Redemption 2, the crunch at Rockstar turning out to be one of the year’s top video game controversies, even if employees at other outfits such as Epic and NetherRealms Studios have come out with similar complaints recently.

And also in 2018, developers working for Quantic Dream spoke of racism and sexism at the French game developer prior to the release of Detroit: Become Human, which nonetheless turned out to be one of the best reviewed games of the year.

And claims of sexism at Riot Games do echo those of employees at Quantic Dream and other studios before it.

It would be a great thing though, if Riot Games’ employees and the company’s leadership would come to terms and find a good solution to the current crisis, if only so that things can improve at the League of Legends company in the not so distant future.