Update: Many of the women who signed the original letter have now said that Rocksteady have improved more than The Guardian’s account suggested, though the company have handled this in a weird and inappropriate way. Thennn on Friday Rocksteady finally posted a proper response.
In November 2018, the majority of the female employees at Batman: Arkham studio Rocksteady reportedly signed a letter raising issues of sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace. Since then, a Guardian report says, things haven’t changed enough. In light of this, the former senior writer of Rocksteady’s upcoming Suicide Squad game – who was behind that 2018 letter – has asked Rocksteady to take her name off it.
The Guardian reported on 2018’s letter to management yesterday, saying that 10 of the 16 women then at Rocksteady (out of a reported 250-odd people) had signed it. The newspaper say the letter accused the company of failing to prevent inappropriate behaviour and sexual harrassment, and they’ve been shown it now because one woman who signed it feels Rocksteady staff are still suffering.
“I have heard everything from groping claims to incidents involving [senior staff], all of whom are men,” the unnamed signatory told the Guardian. “Yet the only thing we had as a result was a company-wide seminar that lasted an hour. Everyone who attended was asked to sign a statement confirming that they’d received the training. It felt that it was a just way for them to cover their arses.”
The Guardian say that after they contacted Rocksteady for comment, management discussed the letter with staff for the first time and promised new initiatives prevent further discrimination. That had better be more than a seminar.
Following the Guardian’s report, writer Kim MacAskill posted a video statement on YouTube. She says she was senior writer on Rocksteady’s yet-unannounced Suicide Squad game, and that she drafted the letter to management with feedback from other signatories. She talks more about the experiences of women she spoke to, the pressure she felt to not rock the boat for the sake of her career, and how she believes she lost her job at Rocksteady as a result of this. She says she had believed Rocksteady had improved since her departure, but after seeing the Guardian report and making a few phone calls, she no longer wishes to be associated with the game and wants her name off it.
Both MacAskill and the anonymous signatory said that the vast majority of people at Rocksteady were great, but the company did not do enough to stop the few who weren’t.
“In 2018 we received a letter from some of our female employees expressing concerns they had at that time, and we immediately took firm measures to address the matters that were raised,” Rocksteady told the Guardian. “Over the subsequent two years we have carefully listened to and learned from our employees, working to ensure every person on the team feels supported. In 2020 we are more passionate than ever to continue to develop our inclusive culture, and we are determined to stand up for all of our staff.”
The past few months have seen hundreds of people, primarily women, accuse many game developers, streamers, and other industry figures of inappropriate behaviour and worse. Many focused on Ubisoft staff and studios, together painting a picture of a company which not only didn’t do enough to prevent this from happening, they actively overlooked the behaviour of some high-ranking employees. It is vindicating that many Ubisoft executives have been booted but it shows how deep the problems ran. As this and previous events have shown, you need to be willing to make big, serious changes at a company if you hope to actually fix your problems, not just paper over them.