Employees at Santa Monica-based video game developer Riot Games, makers of the popular League of Legends title, staged a walkout on Monday to protest the company’s corporate culture and raise the issue of unionization for game developers in the industry.
Roughly 100-150 employees demonstrated with signs saying, “If you silence one of us you silence all of us.”
The protest comes after a lengthy report of “toxic” culture at Riot by Kotaku‘s Cecilia D’Anastasio last August and a growing call for unionization by many developers in the video game industry amid multiple reports of long hours, dubbed “crunch,” during the production process at many studios, including Mortal Kombat developer NetherRealm and Red Dead Redemption 2 makers Rockstar Games.
Narrative writer Rayla Heide tells The Hollywood Reporter that the walkout was spurred by forced arbitration: “We want this practice to end. We want senior leadership to step up and take action.” Heide says they were energized into action by the Kotaku article.
One anonymous employee told the crowd, “I’m quitting because I am uncomfortable walking around campus. There are people who were spared from real consequences. They were protected by friends in high places.”
Insights researcher Ronnie Blackburn, one of the walkout’s organizers, told the crowd, “I love what I do here, and that’s why I’m terrified to stand here and demand change. I will not stand quiet in the face of injustice.”
Rumors of the walkout began last week, after it was reported that Riot was filing arbitration against former female contract employees that were suing the company for “discrimination” based on sex.
In March, Riot hired its first chief diversity officer, Angela Roseboro, to address the company’s culture.
See Riot’s statement in response, below.
We support Rioters making their voices heard today. We have asked all managers to make every accommodation to allow Rioters to participate during the 2-4pm window, including freeing up meeting times. We respect Rioters who choose to walkout today and will not tolerate retaliation of any kind as a result of participating (or not).
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. At that time, we will also commit to have a firm answer on potentially expanding the scope and extending this opt-out to all Rioters. We are working diligently to resolve all active litigation so that we can quickly take steps toward a solution.
As we have been for the past week, we will continue to listen to Rioters regarding their thoughts on arbitration and we’re thankful for everyone that has taken the time to meet with leadership about this issue.