Earlier this week, League of Legends developer Riot Games announced that it has hired the services of former Senior Vice President of Leadership at Uber and Harvard Business School professor Frances Frei. Frei will be advising Riot executives as they attempt to further strengthen and refine their Culture, Diversity, and Inclusion Initiative.
The announcement follows in the wake of a sexual-harassment scandal that broke at the beginning of last month thanks to an in-depth exposé from Kotaku. Later in the month, after some weeks, Riot Games broke its silence over the reported rampancy of sexism and discrimination within the studio, posting a letter titled Our First Steps Forward, in which the studio issued apologies to Riot employees both past and present and promised sweeping changes to the way the studio addresses issues of diversity and inclusion.
“No one and nothing is sacred,” the post proclaimed, though a follow-up investigative report published yesterday by Kotaku suggests that this may not be the case: One Rioter interviewed in her piece says, “The question we’ve been asking ourselves around the office is, ‘Is there another level of accountability to this? Are we going to punish people for transgressions until we hit a certain level of seniority?'”
The issues of sexism and discrimination came to the forefront again following a series of workshops held by Riot at this year’s PAX West in Seattle. Because some of Riot’s workshop sessions were open only to women and non-binary individuals, some of the community erupted into cries of “reverse sexism.” Although Riot appeared to stand its ground, stating in a tweet that it is “proud of” its PAX workshops, the aftermath resulted in the the studio parting ways with two employees who spoke out against the community’s outrage, one of whom was fired for “violating social media policy” and the other of whom left under questionable circumstances.
Although it remains to be seen what kind of long-term impact, if any, Riot’s hiring of Frei will have on the studio’s internal culture issues, it does seem to indicate that the promises made in the Our First Steps Forward letter were sincere. The question remains, however, as to whether these efforts can effect a profound change in the studio’s deeply entrenched culture and, moreover, whether the studio’s playerbase itself will ever fall into line with Riot’s own publicly stated vision of diversity and inclusion within the gaming community.