Riot Games, the studio behind the popular MOBA League of Legends, has been a subject of controversy with alarming frequency over the last few weeks. After numerous accusations of sexual harassment and toxic work culture, Riot released a statement promising to do better for its employees and its fans with a number of agenda points and actionable statements. This lead to another controversy this past weekend, where Riot Games held a PAX panel exclusively for women and nonbinary people on the subject of getting women into games professionally.
The League of Legends community, specifically on the game’s subreddit, was not fond of this move. Many accused Riot of trying to solve their sexism problems by engaging in sexism against men. It became a particular sore spot as Riot had allegedly asked the mods of the subreddit to remove discussions about sexism in the previous few weeks, so the community already felt aggrieved by the developer.
During the commotion, Riot systems designer Daniel Z. Klein made his presence known by commenting on the subject, calling the complainers “manbabies” and laid the blame on “violently angry” protesters for making the community feel “fucking terrifying” in a follow-up reddit post. Another Riot employee, communications designer Mattias Lehman, backed up Klein on Twitter, arguing that the “both sides” mentality misses the forest for the trees.
In a Medium entry posted on Sunday, after but seemingly not specifically about the controversial PAX panel, Lehman remarked that he had been told by Riot staff that he was not a good cultural fit during a review. Both Lehman and Klein were well-known both in and out of Riot’s halls as outspoken critics of the company’s issues with diversity and culture.
Sources within Riot told outlets today that both Klein and Lehman cleared out their desks this week, though the two and Riot had initially refused to talk about why. Klein has confirmed to The Verge that he was removed for violating the company’s social media policy, while Lehman has not remarked on whether he was terminated or voluntarily left yet.
Riot supplied a statement to Polygon concerning the firing, stating “These departures are independent from our efforts to evolve our culture. 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. Beyond that, we can confirm that these individuals are no longer with Riot Games, but we cannot provide further details on personnel issues.”
Riot went on to point out to Polygon that the termination was done of Riot’s own volition and not at the behest of the community, likely as a key differentiator from July’s ArenaNet firings. When reached for comment, Riot Games pointed us to the already released statement and did not elaborate further.