Riot employees speak up about League of Legends controversy at PAX

Riot Morello speaks up about PAX West controversy. We also discuss comments from Kelsey Moser, Riot Stellari and Thorin

If you’ve been on the site since yesterday, chances are you’ve seen the article we wrote about the PAX West controversy. Riot Games has been at odds with a large part of the community over a decision the company made where several League of Legends PAX presentations were limited to only certain groups. Riot wanted to cater the career-building aspects of its schedule at PAX to women only and this created an uproar on reddit when it was revealed that men weren’t allowed access and that there had been no arrangements to provide them with similar presentations.

Since the news of the event’s exclusivity broke, the /r/leagueoflegends sub-reddit has been full of outrage, with people complaining that the inclusion of women shouldn’t have to be based upon the exclusion of men. If you read yesterday’s article, you already have a good understanding of some of the community’s gripes. You’ve also already read the perspective of a few Riot employees, some of whom may respectfully like you to “sea lion” somewhere else.

Daniel Klein: Go sea lion somewhere else!

Today we have several new perspectives to talk about. Many more people at Riot and around the industry have spoken up in regards to the situation.

Riot Stellari – Skins Producer and Product Manager for League of Legends

The first is from Riot Stellari, a skins producer and product manager for League of Legends. Stellari took to Twitter yesterday afternoon to voice her thoughts. While she has some very strong opinions about the treatment of women in the esports and gaming industries, and she has many relevant personal experiences to pull from, she is one of the first individuals under the Riot banner to come out and voice her disagreement with the way the PAX West panel was organized.

I’m a woman in my mid 30s who has ONLY worked in male dominated industries in 3 different countries. I have been paid less, sexually harassed AND assaulted, been called a ‘bitch’ and more. Once in Japan, the [department] head stuck his head between my legs (while I had a skirt on) and lifted me on his shoulders so everyone could see how ‘light’ I was. He was drunk, everyone shouted ‘put her down’ and laughed [nervously] ‘uh that wasn’t sekkuhara right?’

I was only 23 but so embarrassed and scared to get fired from a dream job. Plus, compared to Japanese women I felt I never got it as ‘bad’ despite getting comments on my appearance on a daily basis. I was young and didn’t have a voice in Japanese society. These days I’m so over that shit. BUT I’m not angry because I don’t believe anger helps. Most of my friends are guys, so I spend time being someone willing to discuss the difficult shit. Any question is okay re: ‘sjw things’ as long as it’s asked in good faith. Why? Well…

We’re all at different stages in life. I’ve said racist/sexist/ableist/etc things when I was younger because I was ignorant. I’m SO grateful people helped me. Not that we all deserve the time and energy, but I DID study to be a diplomat so I want to return the favor to others.

Okay so on the PAX women’s only space: I understand the gesture, but personally don’t agree with it. I think it could have been called ‘Encouraging Women in Gaming!’ and just by having the word ‘women’ in it, the vast majority of men would opt out. Its cynical, but true. Many men don’t want to associate themselves with a woman’s ‘thing’ so they’d self-select and opt out. It’d almost by default be a female/non-binary space. I wish it were different, but look at viewership of women’s sports or the fact we need ‘dude wipes’ and ‘man candles’. Baby wipes are great, ya’ll. You don’t need to pay more for ‘man’ wipes! You won’t turn into a baby!

– Riot Stellari (@thejanellemj) | Twitter Links: (1)(2)(3)(4)(5)(6)(7)(8)

Riot Stellari offers her opinions on sexual harassment, fairness in the world place and the PAX West controversy

Riot Morello – Design Lead for super secret mystery project at Riot Games

We also finally saw an upper-level executive speak on the matter. Riot’s design lead, Ryan “Morello” Scott, also opened up on Twitter, offering quite a bit of insight.

Internet culture creates a lot of false dichotomies, one of them being seen here; that the choice is “hire women that are not qualified” or “interview like you do now, change nothing.” These are both hogwash approaches that don’t look at what’s happening rationally.

We don’t get many women (nor non white/non Asian) candidates. This is true and measurable. Looking at why and why it matters is job one. (Also – I’m purposely ignoring the moral side – the point holds up without it).

There are several reasons, some macro and some micro; lack of acceptance in societal norms (which limits community/mentor ship opps) and unintentional bias in hiring processes are two we can address as Riot. So, if we ignore the (I feel valid) moral issue, why does this matter?

Because we’re then, missing talented or qualified candidates, which is making our design bench more weak or limited. I want awesome designers in my team- and we frequently source from non traditional backgrounds in terms of education and experience to find them.

So then, taking extra time to find qualified candidates who aren’t in the process now is valuable. We’re not going to be hiring unqualified people just because they’re women. We’re not stealing a seat at the interview table from you.

In MY experience, there are a large number of people who think design is something it’s not; the ability to know or be good at a specific game. Having “good ideas.” Critiquing things. And my job every year at GDC is breaking a lot of people’s hearts when we discuss this.

It’s much more likely for you to be mad about this if you’re both 1) unqualified yourself but 2) think you are and are eager to prove it instead of learn. One important aspect of it is to be good at being wrong and changing your mind. See this as an opportunity to practice.

– Ryan “Morello” Scott (@RiotMorello) | Twitter Links: (1)(2) – (3)(4)(5)(6)(7)

Now, while Morello agreed with the overall idea and the execution of the company’s organization at PAX (and as you can see, he voiced it in a far less foaming-at-the-mouth way than Daniel Klein), he also showed an openness to the community’s suggestions. He responded to the concerns of several users who tweeted back at him, gave further justification for why the event was planned the way that it was, and even admitted that there were ways in which they could improve for the future.

Riot Morello took time to respond to twitter users regarding the PAX West panel decisions

Richard Wada (@shadowwada): Then why do you think so many people in the LoL community (going off the reddit) are against it?

Morello (@RiotMorello): Because of the false dichotomy (worried we’ll hire bad candidates based on gender/overcorrection) and a weird sense of fairness that’s not results-oriented. My thread is to point out how those aren’t real outcomes that are goals or exist here. Also, man if an idea being popular made it good, I’d have just buffed everything for 5 years (think power creep is bad now??)

Tay James Cantwell (@Zar_Zar14): Only reason why I personally was upset, was due to fact that being a Game Design student, and having a panel from THE developers that made me want to get into Game Design in the first place, but being told, that I’m not allowed to watch cause I don’t conform the rules of the event. To my knowledge this is just a one off thing kind of panel, and it feels like a slap in the face to me that I wasn’t able to experience it and ask questions and such. I know you want a safe place for women, but I would love it if you guys did more open panels.

Morello (@RiotMorello): I agree on giving more opportunities here – I’ll push on this for future events if I can

Bensemus (@bensemus): It should have been in this event. Wasn’t the exclusion only communicated yesterday? When people were arriving at the event? If I spend hundreds of $ to go to an event to see panels I was excited to see, only to get denied entry I would be pissed.

Morello (@RiotMorello): I can’t defend the execution here (it being clear this is the intent should be signaled, and on advance). Barring that, making it feel curated to reach out in this way is key -exclusivity is a factor, just as its warranted in say a pro player summit

Ken (@KeninHD): Why not just have the same scheduled talks for both groups at least? Why keep some people out and not offer the same thing at a later time?

Morello (@RiotMorello): Because the room filled up – the draw here was big enough to warrant it. I do think it’d be good to do general ones *also*, but in cases where talent is going to be easily and clearly overlooked, it’s important to put extra effort in.

Also with stuff like this where there’s a clear default lack of support /acceptance, reaching out actively helps flip it over to make people who should otherwise engage do so. I think whether a gender/race/player type/genre/etc, we can go a long way by taking the first step.

Alberto Segundo (@ansegundo): It’s still strange to think that as mixed race man from a 3rd world country now I have so much privilege that I must be put in a group that can’t attend valuable panels from a company I admire.

Morello (@RiotMorello): I think this is an area where we can provide some more focus, too. Same reasons as the gender one

In what will surely come as a shock to all (eyeroll), Reddit actually showed appreciation for Morello’s comments, even if many members still disagreed with the general idea. It seems that the moment someone from Riot decided to address the community with respect and patience, all of the “violently angry,” overgrown, misogynistic man-babies mysterious disappeared. Weird.

Non-Riot personalities also speak up; comments from Thorin and Kelsey Moser

Outside Riot’s doors, several notable names throughout the industry also offered their own takes.

Noted esports media personality, Thorin, sent out a tweet specifically directed at comments Oceanic shoutcaster Froskurinn had made earlier (which we covered here):

We also got some strong opinions from well-known H2K Esports analyst, Kelsey Moser. Like Morello, she took time to respond to those that had commented on her Twitter chain as well. We’ve included the full discourse below:

Kelsey Moser (@karonmoser): I don’t oppose and occasionally support career outreaches that target women in gaming. Events with a career in gaming bent that exclude men reinforce an archaic idea that women cannot coexist with men professionally. It is not the solution.

The people truly lacking self awareness are the ones suggesting I hold the opinions I do because I want to cater to men.

Virginia Su (@ginnymrawr): It’s not about reinforcing exclusion. I find that it is more about promoting a space where women would be able to thrive. if it was an open event, it would be overrun by the male majority at PAX, which would naturally exclude some women from attending logistically speaking.

Kelsey Moser (@karonmoser): It does. It reinforces the idea that women can only thrive when all men are absent.

Virginia Su (@ginnymrawr): ‘Can’ [does not equal] ‘can only’. I can understand why it could be exclusionary, but at the same time, I see this as an opportunity for women (the clear minority) to be championed and celebrated. Sexism isn’t black/white – and women can be systematically excluded due to the simple fact that because it is open to the public, the sheer volume of people may breach the capacity of the event. Since the stated goal was to incorporate more women in this “male-dominated industry”, I feel like this is an opportunity for some, rather than the deprivation of others.

Kelsey Moser (@karonmoser): I feel like this solution is making it seem black and white from outsiders perspective, regardless of intent, so I’d rather other alternatives be explored. Taking steps to ensure women already in the industry are comfortable rather than assuming problems are fixed just by including more women and increasing some kind of surface level ratio does not seem like the correct approach to me.

Mike Blight (@MichaelBlight): There are plenty of organizations that are women-ran-and-organized. No one seems to be upset by those. This just so happens to be a popular cultural gathering, which is a prime target for controversy.

Kelsey Moser (@karonmoser): If women run and organised events deliberately start segretating their panel guests by sex, I’ll be critical of them as well.

Suku (@thesuku): Let me let you in on something. Sexism in the workplace against men is virtually non-existent. Catering to our egos hurts women more than it helps men. Men do not have issues with Room 613. MRA crybabies however do. Disappointed in your tweet. I’m with Frosk on this one.

Kelsey Moser (@karonmoser): If you think this tweet is about catering to men rather than me being genuinely concerned by the message this sends to the women in the space, you’re a bit lost here.

Suku (@thesuku): “…reinforce an archaic idea that women cannot coexist with men professionally.” This seems to be your concern. Is this idea held by men and women equally? If [it’s] held more by the former [then], yes, you are catering to men.

Kelsey Moser (@karonmoser): If I don’t support the idea that women and men cannot coexist equally, then I’m disagreeing with men by your logic. You’re basically assuming that I don’t have my own thoughts and I only care about what men think. Actually most sexist thing I’ve seen all week.

Official Riot Games response

And finally, we come full circle with a message from Riot Games themselves.

Riot’s response is about what you’d expect, but there does seem to be some shade thrown at Daniel Klein. That might mean more if Slack chat workspace leaks earlier today didn’t show that several employees at Riot support Daniel’s comments (the thread discussing this topic has since been removed).

Regardless of how you feel, it seems that this is a discussion that will continue to be split down the middle with strong viewpoints on either side. For the time being, we can at least appreciate that the second round of discourse has seen a lot more reason and openness to discussion.

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.