Reddit vs Riot: Drama over female-only League of Legends PAX seminars

Riot Games and Reddit battle over female-only League of Legends seminars at PAX West

[Update: Riot employees have responded to the controversy]

Another day, another controversy at Riot Games. This time the company is in a battle with the League of Legends Reddit community regarding sexism and the gender debate. For those that are plugged in, they might recall a recent article at Kotaku that delved into the company’s issue with misogyny and sexism. It seems that Riot’s response to this debacle was to target women in a positive way and present them with professional opportunities. The League of Legends presentation at PAX West this year was to include a room specifically for professional seminars. The issue here arose when people noticed that the seminars were only open to women and “non-binary folk.” No men allowed.

PAX West

As taken from Riot’s official release regarding the event:

Right next door in Room 613 we’re hosting a variety of sessions to support women and non-binary folks who are interested in getting into games professionally.

Site commenter Raharu asked for clarification on the matter:

Are the game development and career presentations exclusive to women and non-binary folks? I am deeply interested in the subject matter and meeting Rioters is always fun, but I am neither a woman or non-binary. Am I still welcome to check these events out?

To which SwimBananas responded:

The first two events of room 613 will be only open to women and nonbinary folks (there might be some exceptions. I will try and post on Twitter the sechedule everyday). However, all the activities of the room will be open to all after 3pm, including the “Ask a Rito” time. 😀

She also sent out a tweet with the same clarification:

Please note: until 2:30 room 613 is only open for women and nonbinary folks. We welcome all to join the room after 2:30 😀

League of Legends community reaction

Since this discovery yesterday, Reddit has been up in arms. Many commenters believe that Riot is responding to sexism with more sexism. That in the process of trying to patch up one issue, the company is creating an even bigger one. From the original Reddit thread on the topic, user JakeyYNG commented, “For shooting themselves in the right foot, they decided to shoot themselves in left for good measure.”

Another user, throw13away1389, spoke about the larger issue with Riot’s seminar: “But now because I have a dick, I’m behind the curve instead of just empowering women and encouraging more women to attend events in general. The answer to gender equality isn’t to start hindering men till activists think ‘we are even.’ It’s about inclusion, not exclusion.”

Steve_Pays_Me, a female user, vented her frustration as well: “I am a woman and I am just sitting here going… what… the… fuck? Who ok’d this??? Riot, this isn’t how you do things. You have a session titled LGBT/women in gaming, paneled by women, LGBT and your most senior people at the event and make it available to everyone. What if someone’s sister or shy girlfriend cant make it to PAX so they have a dude attend for them and take notes?”

Much of the community’s frustration came from the fact that many of the seminars being held in Room 613 contain a lot of valuable information for people looking to break into the industry. As broken down in the official release, the day begins with a 1-on-1 resume review session. Many people have said that they wouldn’t have a problem with the schedule if this was the only aspect of the day limited to females only. But after the resume review session, there are also presentations covering the following topics:

  • Art + Champions/Skins Design

  • How to be a Producer

  • Narrative Writing

  • Production Careers

  • Game Design

  • Advanced Cosplay

This is where the community’s main gripe lies. None of these presentations are open to men and only females and individuals who identify as “non-binary” will be allowed to attend. Replying to a commenter who mentioned that the only truly interesting topics were being covered in the closed session, user ArchmageXin pointed out: “Hey, we get to see female cosplayers in scantily clad costumes for five hours instead. Tells you what Riot really think of men. Ha. I feel Riot would had much less of a headache if they held two sessions of the same thing, one for general audience and one for ‘protected classes.'”

Many people in the thread sarcastically suggested for men looking to attend the seminar to simply claim that they consider themselves non-binary. But this creates another problem. As Kestrel21 mentioned, “I call myself straight and male and I don’t see why I should have to present myself as something else just to access a room, as if being the combination of the two above somehow lessens me as a person.”

Riot’s Daniel Klein lashes out

With such a large outcry from the community, it was only a matter of time before Riot responded. And boy, did Riot respond.

One of the champions designed by Daniel Klein, Taliyah

While the community’s main focus yesterday was on the game’s PAX presentation itself, the flavor of today has been all about how poorly Riot has responded to the situation. The day opened up with the top /r/LeagueOfLegends thread discussing the twitter rant of Daniel Z. Klein (aka ZenonTheStoic), a systems designer at Riot Games responsible for champions like Taliyah and Kayn.

This reddit thread about some events we’re hosting at PAX being open to women and non-binary people only was just as much of a toxic landfill as I expected it to be… So let’s talk about this for a little bit!

The most commonly thrown around arguments are that this is being sexist against men, just like racism, and that you can’t fix a problem by doing the opposite of what that problem is. Cool. That’s all bullshit. Systemic sexism and racism exist at the intersection of bigotry and power dynamics. Racism isn’t just being called the n-word, it’s that + no one caring when you protest + not being given a loan a white person would have gotten + being shot by the police for no reason.

The reason that “sexism against men” makes no sense as a concept is that men have the power. They’re privileged in so many ways, from small invisible things, to large, outrageous things (like a confessed abuser and harasser like Louis CK can just have a comeback and that’s fine).

Men are RIDICULOUSLY over-represented in gaming; they’re listened to when women are ignored, promoted when women are passed over, lauded for speaking out when women are being called “difficult to work with”. I imagine the same power dynamics apply to cosplay and fan events. I’m sure women are objectified and harassed, both verbally and with unwanted physical contact. I’m sure they’re spoken over and made to feel unwelcome at events like these.

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.

When one group has too much and one has too little, some must be taken from the group that has too much. That sucks, and if you’re used to being catered to your entire life and always being made to feel like the most special boy in the room, the above will be your reaction. If you’ve never had to think about this for a minute in your life, congratulations, you’re privileged as fuck and have been benefiting from a system that makes the lives of other people hell. I sincerely hope these manbabies crying in that thread will grow up some day.

But I know most of them won’t. That’s their choice. My choice? My choice is to reject them from my spaces. They’re not welcome here, they’re not welcome in gaming anymore. To strive towards justice, we sometimes have to be harsh and exclusionary. And that’s okay. If they want to be welcome, hey, they could try not being absolute assholes to women. Also maybe not equating “not being allowed to attend part of a gaming event” with “having to sit in the back of the bus”.

– Daniel “ZenonTheStoic” Klein (@danielzklein)

Klein’s comments may have been received differently if they weren’t riddled with so many insults towards the Reddit community. During an obviously frustrated tirade, he made blanket statements to paint everybody in those threads as misogynistic, discrediting the community’s opinions as a whole on the basis that anybody who disagrees with the company’s choices at PAX is “privileged as fuck”, “an overgrown toddler” and “an asshole to women.”

Unsurprisingly, the top Reddit thread of the morning was titled, “Has no one else noticed that Daniel Z Klein is calling the league community here “manbabies” for discussing the issue at PAX?”

Prior to being removed and locked, the original thread showed as follows:

Reddit screenshot of RiotDaniel Klein's comments regarding female-only League of Legends seminars at PAX West

Klein himself actually responded in that thread, doubling down on the thoughts he vocalized on twitter:

Daniel Klein responds to reddit thread discussing his twitter rampage

Furthermore, a Twitter user going by the handle of @NightZora wrote several tweets in response to Klein’s rant in an effort to keep the conversation going. The full thread can be read here. While Zora agreed with Riot’s initiative to appeal to female prospects, they also thought that exclusion wasn’t the answer.

I just want to emphasize that this is a welcomed change. But to ignore that sexism doesn’t go both ways is ignorant in itself. I apologize if I do trigger people, but I believe opportunity for those that don’t get a chance should happen: women, non-binary and men… everyone

To which Klein bluntly responded:

Fuck off and sea lion somewhere else.

There seems to be a definite issue at Riot Games when it comes to the culture of their employees and the complete disregard for professional etiquette when they address the community. Less than a year ago, Riot Sanjuro was sacked by the company for obscene comments he made about popular streamer, Tyler1. Even just yesterday, Riot very narrowly avoided another small PR disaster when a Rioter’s account was found harassing players in game lobbies and it was discovered that the account had been compromised.

Klein may have a valid point somewhere in that twitter rampage. Unfortunately, it will likely be overlooked because of the manner in which it was delivered.

Rusty and Froskurinn speak up

Daniel Klein wasn’t the only public figure associated with Riot to speak on the matter. League of Legends shoutcasters Rusty and Froskurinn also had some strong opinions on the situation.

This isn’t sexism because men can’t be included. It isn’t racism to support the Black Lives Matter campaign either. It’s providing a unique opportunity for those who dont get them. Empowering!

Just because you as a white male aren’t included in something doesn’t make it unfair, it’s supporting those who don’t get the same opportunity you do. Sometimes it’s fine to take the L for the greater good my friends. Sometimes it’s fine to just love and support people for who they are, and miss out on a panel or two.

Is it ok for charity to only go to the poor? Or is that discrimination because everyone else doesn’t receive charity?

– Zack “Rusty” Pye (@RustyLOL) | Twitter Links: (1)(2)(3)

Froskurinn

While Rusty at least attempted to maintain a level head, his co-caster, Froskurinn, had some more pointed words in a series of tweets targeted at the “white cis-male”:

Minorities walk through this white cis-male controlled world not knowing the [privilege] and entitlement that absolute inclusion creates. By [facilitating] spaces for them it helps give opportunity and balance to discussions with a welcoming space. This is not a personal attack to you.

When you’re so used to hot water and yours goes out, you become enraged. You call up your landlord and demand it be fixed. Meanwhile, those in countries without water approach the tap each day and are overjoyed when they discover it. Men are entitled to their inclusion.

There are still an abundance of spaces still entirely composed of just straight white cis-males. A space designed to be inclusive of just women and non-binary that encourages their specific voices is needed since they’ve been drowned out.

White men [control] the world. This is not us vs them. This is a space for women and non-binary to be heard and feel confident speaking and engaging. It’s just about women and non-binary people to feel included with a designated space.

White men believe that just because there’s no sign on the door that explicitly says “no girls allowed” that they haven’t consciously and subconsciously controlled the system to put up the sign anyway. And they’ve been doing it for hundreds of years.

– Indiana “Froskurinn” Black (@Froskurinn) | Twitter Links: (1)(2)(3)(4)(5)

Forskurinn also had a tweet pointed directly at /r/LeagueOfLegends:

Once again, as anyone could have predicted, Reddit had some very strong opinions about that comment.

It’s clear that this is an emotional and volatile topic on both sides. Riot feels completely justified in hosting seminars exclusive to certain groups on the basis that their inclusion is important to the industry. The community also feels completely justified in their outrage over that decision on the basis that inclusion of some shouldn’t be based on the exclusion of others.

Something tells me that this isn’t the last we’ve heard on this topic. We’ll keep a close eye on the situation and keep all of you posted along the way.

Pizza. Music. Baseball. Wrestling. Netflix. If society thinks it’s a waste of time, I’m probably addicted to it. Also, I write about esports sometimes.