Why did Riot Games employees stage a mass walkout?

Twitter: Kevin_Hitt

Over 150 Riot Games employees walked out on May 6 to voice their concerns and disagreements with the way the developer has handled ongoing allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination.

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Since late 2018, a number of current and former Riot employees have taken the steps to file lawsuits against the company, alleging discrimination and the violation of the California Equal Pay Act. However, employees have taken issue with how those cases have been handled. 

Towards the end of April, Kotaku reported that Rioters had League of Legends developers made changes regarding complaints of harassment and discrimination – with Riot also pushing a motion to put two of four ongoing cases against them into private arbitration, claiming workers had signed arbitration clauses in their contracts.

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Twitter: EvergreenilySome members of the walkout gave speeches about their own experiences.

While Riot announced on Friday, May 3, that they had made the decision to remove some forms of mandatory arbitration moving forward, those changes would only come into play once the current cases have been resolved.

That motion, alongside months of tension, finally sparked a change as Rioters finally put their plans into action on May 6, walking out for two hours and making their voices heard in the first gaming industry walkout of its kind in North America.

Standing in a car park on the Riot Games campus, employees showed off picket signs and gave passionate speeches using megaphones – while others taped over their mouths to demonstrate their voices not being heard. A number of the signs had the phrase ‘Rioters Unplugged’ on them – a play on the Riot Unplugged name that is given to internal meetings.

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Twitter: EmilyOnLeagueRioters used the walkout to protest in a number of different ways.
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Support shown from LoL community members

Solidarity was shown from the outside, with wide-ranging members of the gaming industry following along on Twitter and posting messages of support under the #RiotWalkout.

NA LCS broadcaster Ovilee May chimed in by posting: I can’t be there in person today but I’m sending all my love to the people at the #RiotWalkout. Nothing but respect for the brave individuals who are fighting for positive changes in a company that they love.”

Ovilee wasn’t the only competitive LoL figure to show their support for the walkout as LEC broadcaster Aaron ‘Medic’ Chamberlain recanted his own experiences of protesting while working as a doctor.

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It remains to be seen if the walkout leads to any sweeping changes from Riot, especially after they acknowledged that their previous resolutions would not please all Rioters.

The company has already confirmed that any employees who took part in the protest would not face consequences for their actions.