Sexism has long plagued the gaming industry, from the coordinated harassment campaign of Gamergate to the day-to-day mistreatment women face in gaming chat apps and forums.
A recent case in California signals a positive direction in the industry, at least in terms of employment policies. In a landmark settlement, Riot Games, the publisher behind e-sports behemoth League of Legends, has agreed to pay $100 million in a class-action suit alleging gender harassment, pay disparity and discrimination.
A Toxic Culture Exposed
The culture at Riot Games came to light in 2018 when gaming website Kotaku published a story that revealed a number of workplace violations at the software publisher’s offices. These violations ranged from unwanted sexual advances to management passing over women for job promotions. The level of disrespect ran deep, as male employees even questioned the legitimacy of their female coworkers’ standing as gaming fans.
In all, the unlawful employment practices impacted more than 2300 workers, including full-time employees and contractors. The parties initially reached a settlement of $10 million in 2019, but state agencies deemed that outcome rushed, leading to the much larger agreement in December of 2021.
Working Toward Lasting Change
The monetary payment was only one part of the settlement agreement. In addition, Riot Games has agreed to enact meaningful changes within its workplaces, including:
- Hiring a neutral expert to evaluate its employment practices
- Establishing a cash reserve of $6 million to pay for diversity, equity and inclusion programs
- Being more transparent in its payment practices
For the women who were mistreated, the settlement offers a measure of justice, but further struggles surely lie ahead. As long as sexism exists in gaming and in other industries, advocates must take legal action to protect victims and hold accountable the companies that allow these toxic cultures to thrive.