Hello once more, fellow denizens of the interwebs. Welcome back to GYGO, your weekly games roundup where we lay it all out for you. And this week… this week, there’s a lot to lay out.
Riot Employees Walk Out
Last week, as my wonderful fellow GYGO-er Avery mentioned, industry giant and League of Legends publisher Riot Games made motions to block legal action by five current and former employees attempting to sue the company for gender discrimination. Riot’s reasoning was, essentially, that the employees suing had waived their rights to sue when they were first hired. By filing these motions, Riot attempted to block the lawsuits from going to trial.
When this news broke, Riot employees planned a walkout to protest the company’s sexist work environment and the company’s response to legal action. The walkout, which took place on Monday, May 6, was a reaction to ongoing conflicting messages from Riot’s leadership. Riot had formerly issued a public apology after the five employees came forward with their experiences, as well as hired a new diversity lead and promised to revamp its hiring and promotion practices. Despite these apparent actions, the company kept men accused of sexist behavior in its employment.
When Riot heard news of the employees’ planned walkout, it responded with more promises that it will improve its toxic workplace culture. Specifically, it outlined 13 policies intended to better working conditions within the next 90 days. The company also stated that after this arbitration has concluded, it will no longer force a “mandatory arbitration” clause in new employee contracts. Essentially, this means that after these particular lawsuits are over, new employees won’t be required to sign away their rights to sue the company for discrimination. Riot won’t, however, be changing existing contracts for current employees—at least, not yet.
On Monday, over 150 Riot Games employees walked out to protest the company’s forced arbitration and sexist culture. And according to an announcement made at the end of the walkout by Jocelyn Monahan, a social listening strategist at Riot, if Riot management doesn’t make any sort of commitment on forced arbitration by the Riot Unplugged meeting on May 16, she and others involved with the walkout will take further action.
Monday’s protest was, allegedly, the first labor-related walkout for a large video game studio. Hopefully conditions will get better, and no more walkouts are necessary—but if they don’t, and they are, I hope this isn’t the last.
Today myself and several of my co-workers are standing up for what is right, just, and fair in regards to Forced Arbitration and Sexual Harassment. Its 2019, and forcing anyone to sit in a room with the company/person who did this and "talk it out" is unacceptable. #riotwalkout
— Mel Capperino-Garcia (@Riotswimbananas) May 6, 2019
— Upcomer (@Upcomer) May 6, 2019
Riot's currently stated plan is still shit. Only giving
– new employees
– one chance
– to opt out of forced arbitration (instead of just not doing it)
is just trying to save face. The folks that are walking out are awesome and deserve everyone's support. #riotwalkout
— Jason Swan (@frsty13) May 6, 2019
NetherRealm Investigating Workplace Complaints
In another case of workplace allegations, two weeks ago, PC Gamer published a detailed report of the “severe crunch” culture at Mortal Kombat development studio NetherRealm. The update, this week, is merely that NetherRealm is reportedly “actively” looking into complaints by several former employees and contractors about working conditions at the studio.
This Week In Crunch
You know, I find myself so often bringing news about the video games industry’s workplace conditions to GYGO. And not only current conditions, but updates to stories about these conditions. I know how confusing and overwhelming it can be to keep up with this kind of ever-developing news.
So I’m “happy” to announce the debut of a new GYGO subcolumn, “This Week In Crunch,” featuring news and updates on workplace conditions in the video games industry. If you’re wanting to stay informed about the latest news about and worker actions against crunch culture (and other terrible working conditions) in the gaming industry, this will be where you can find that info. Join me in bearing witness to late-stage capitalism in gaming.
Sonic's new catchphrase is a mouthful but I think it might catch on pic.twitter.com/UIF5D6K7zM
— Smeallie 🏳️🌈🐊 (@KyleSmeallie) May 6, 2019
Jagex Has Record-Breaking Revenue Year, Shocking Me, Personally
My brother still plays RuneScape, which is absolutely unfathomable to me, as a person who grew out of it way back in middle school. He’s been playing for over a decade, and I can still remember him sweetly asking our mom for the $5 monthly membership back when he was a pre-teen.
Despite my brother’s unceasing love for the game, it came as a huge shock to me when I found out that Jagex, the publisher of RuneScape, is still going remarkably strong to this day. In fact, Jagex launched the Old School version of RuneScape for mobile last year—which drove the company to its “fourth successive year of significant growth.” The company’s revenues reached a record-breaking £92.8m in fiscal year 2018. Now that… that is wild.
Some More Gaming Tidbits
Nintendo has removed the text-based RPG A Dark Room from the Switch shop after developer Amir Rajan posted online that the game contained a hidden code editor that allows users to create basic apps. The Ruby programming language-based code editor, he said, “effectively turns every consumer spec-ed Nintendo Switch into a Ruby Machine.” Nintendo did not like this and took down the game the very same day.
Microsoft “announced” this week, via a teaser video posted to Facebook and Twitter, that it’s working on a Minecraft-related project. And that project appears to be an augmented reality app game for mobile phones.
Epic Games has announced that it is acquiring Psyonix, the developer of Rocket League.
In Other News…
- Meet the superfans spending tens of thousands on escape rooms
- Pokémon Go is getting Detective Pikachu stuff
- Wait a minute, the Video Game Hall of Fame inducted… Solitaire?
- Apex Legends cheater ban count: over 700,000 served
- Ferret Scoundrels, the game about pirates who are ferrets, comes to Early Access this week
- Epic gives away free Fortnite glider as apology for glitched Unvaulting event
- Borderlands 3 looks promising, but the needless CEO drama has got to go
Emily Durham is a science writer by day and a Sidequest copyeditor by night. When she’s not writing or editing, you can find her playing Stardew Valley or Sunless Sea, sewing korok cosplays, or taking blurry pictures of her two perfect cats. She tweets sporadically at @EmilyRoseDurham.