Barry Hawkins, a former Riot Games Employee, has published a blog post about the story of why he left the company.
Hawkins was previously the Senior Development Director and Director of Project Management at Riot Games, and during the time he was there, he experienced frequent inappropriate workplace behaviour in the form of sexual references.
“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,” Hawkins wrote.
He added that when Riot Games was still a young company and had young people working within it, he believed such behaviour would fade away in time. He also believed that he could help stop the behaviour over time by being a good role model.
For example, when people said lines similar to, “The other team raped us because our mid kept jungling,” he would attempt to use a more appropriate line such as, “So you’re saying your team lost because you weren’t working together.”
When sexual references were made by straight men toward other straight men, Hawkins noted that it became a more complicated issue, as they were at times both homosexual in nature and violent towards women.
“This behavior of male-on-male aggression seemed to be a mechanism of asserting control,” Hawkins wrote. “If you got rattled by it or responded angrily, you were seen as immature or insecure, and how could such a person be an effective Rioter, especially in a leadership role?”
Hawkins then added that the men did not cope well with the aggression, as he observed that silence was the common coping mechanism.
Hawkins also recalled an event in the spring of 2013, where Riot Game’s hiring managers were part of a meeting about talent acquisition. The Friday began an AMA session with Brandon Beck and Marc Merrill, Hawkins recalled.
“The two shared some great stories about candidates they pursued who were critical to getting League of Legends shipped in those first harrowing months of launching.
“Then 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.””
When the meeting notes were shown on a slide, one of them read, “no doesn’t necessarily mean no,” which concerned Hawkins. Over that weekend, Hawkins wrote he debated whether or not he should bring it up to leadership.
During the next week, Hawkins wrote he had a meeting with a former direct report and her direct report, and one of them was visibly upset.
“One of them said to me, “There’s a rape joke in some of the recruiting material, and they’re saying it’s something that Brandon said at the offsite. Is that true? Did he say that?”” Hawkins recalled.
“Seeing their hurt and concern, I felt mad at myself for not having said anything yet. I knew it was not OK, I knew it would have this effect, and I had delayed saying anything. My “thinking it over” was really me wavering on whether I would do what I knew was right, because I feared the repercussions,” he added.
In August 2013 Hawkins wrote he sent a diplomatic email to Beck about the issue, which then became a thread involving people in leadership.
“The invite included the co-founders Marc (my boss) and Brandon, the head of Communications, the head of Legal, and myself,” Hawkins wrote.
When a meeting about the issue was held, Hawkins wrote he noticed a pattern in the conversation, where Beck spoke and Marc Merrill asked for Hawkins’ thoughts.
“The head of Communications said that we were edgy, and that if we as Riot started chipping away those edges, we would become shapeless and bland, like EA or Blizzard. I responded that if we told everyone starting today there could be no more rape jokes in presentations and talks, it would still be a multi-year effort for us to no longer be edgy,” Hawkins wrote.
Hawkins then recalled that the talk went on to be about culture and sensitivity levels.
In the aftermath, Hawkins wrote that he had a strong impression that the incident will be moved aside and not spoken about again.
“However, things clearly changed and began to get a bit weird. I realized my future at Riot was now limited and would need to start looking for something else.”
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