Last week, Riot Games found itself embroiled in controversy due to its decision to hold female and non-binary-focused workshops at PAX West, with some fans concerned that it was sexist against men. Two members of staff have since been fired from Riot in the aftermath, with system designer Daniel Klein stating his activity on social media as the reasoning.
Riot implemented its female and non-binary-focused workshops in an effort to make amends following a recent Kotaku exposé that highlighted the studio’s issues with gender discrimination. This sparked a backlash across various social media sites, most prominently of which seemed to be the official League of Legends Twitter and its staff.
So yes, in the interest of justice, equality, and fairness, men need to be excluded sometimes. That's perfectly fine. Trust me, you'll have about a billion other opportunities that these women won't have. But no, you have to be absolute overgrown toddlers and throw hissy fits.
— Daniel Z. Klein (@danielzklein) September 1, 2018
Klein and Riot’s communications associate Mattias Lehman were two of the most vocal on the platform, speaking up in defence of the move. Although many of Klein’s points highlighted the privilege that men have, some comments were considered inflammatory in an increasingly heated debate between staff and fans, even going as far as to call those concerned “overgrown toddlers” and “manbabies.”
Klein confirmed his firing in a statement to The Verge, citing a violation in Riot’s social media policy as the primary reason for his forced departure. It wasn’t explicitly stated whether or not the same reason carries over to Lehman’s firing, but it is known that he defended Klein’s comments during the fiasco.
I'm packing to fly to Orlando tonight so I don't have time to say much. I will say this though: design at Riot, I loved you, and I wasn't done learning from you. That's what hurts the most right now. You treated me fairly and with respect. I hate that I can't continue our work.
— Daniel Z. Klein (@danielzklein) September 7, 2018
“These departures are independent from our efforts to evolve our culture,” Riot told the publication. “Our culture remains our top priority, and we remain committed to taking the steps that we need to become a leader in Diversity & Inclusion. We will always encourage Rioters to share their perspectives, and we fully support efforts by Rioters to further our Diversity & Inclusion initiatives. We are committed to making real, positive change in Riot’s culture and internal advocates are a crucial part of making that happen.”
This is reminiscent of ArenaNet’s firings back in July, when writer Jessica Price and Peter Fries were dismissed for stating views which the developer called an “attack” on the Guild Wars 2 community. While Price continued the discussion after her firing, penalising her former studio for escalation, it seems as though Klein has expressed his disappointment that he will no longer be with Riot and likely won’t be saying much about the incident moving forward.
KitGuru Says: Even when posting as an individual, employees have to remember that they are always representing the company that they work for in an online space. This is particularly true when it is both the subject of discussion and showcased within their descriptions and bios. How do you feel about Riot’s latest decisions?