PAX West 2018 kicked off this weekend in Seattle, and Riot Games was in attendance. The company’s regular weekend-long panel featured an NA LCS semifinals viewing party, cosplay showcases, meet and greets, LCS team giveaways, and an exclusive narrative-building event with Riot’s narrative team.
Unfortunately for Riot, not many fans in the League of Legends community care about any of that, because in the room next to the main event, Riot is hosting how-to presentations and insights into working at the company for women and non-binary people only.
This room, which runs until the end of the event on Monday, was designed to help women and non-binary folks interact with Riot’s own female staffers and learn more about getting into the industry, according to the company’s PAX info page from last week. This room, or rather the concept of this room, has divided the League community down the middle. Either you’re in favor of it or you’re calling it “reverse-sexism.”
To be clear one more time, though, these seminars were held next to the main room and were intended to help females and non-binary people jump into game development. Men weren’t barred from entering the primary Riot panel, and Riot confirmed with Dot Esports that the female and non-binary seminars were livestreamed for all interested parties.
The debate has been raging on since Friday.
The decision to hold this panel in the first place likely stems from the sexist culture within Riot Games revealed by Kotaku’s exposé last month, which Riot has admitted fault for and has since apologized. In Riot’s apology, the company also claimed that it would be taking drastic, immediate, and long-term action to improve things going forward. Without an official confirmation from Riot, we assume this inclusivity panel was a part of those efforts.
Half of the League community was staunchly opposed to the idea of this panel, though, calling it “reverse-sexism” and “archaic” on mediums such as Twitter and Reddit. The other half defends the panel’s inclusivity. Regular, everyday players jumped into the bonfire to voice their opinions, but so did some of the most noteworthy personalities in the space, including Indiana “Froskurinn” Black, Kelsey Moser, Weldon Green, Zack “Rusty” Pye, and many, many more.
Twitter is home to the most discussion, albeit usually slightly-hostile discussion, whereas Reddit has been a bit of a witch hunt. Today, two separate satirical threads mocking Riot’s decision made the front page, racking up a total of over 10,000 upvotes.
This year has been fraught with PR nightmare after PR nightmare for Riot, including the failure of Clash, rampant internal sexism, game balance uproar, and most recently, the Worlds broadcast announcement. This particular issue at PAX, however, isn’t so black-and-white, and largely depends on which side of the issue you land on. Riot is unfaltering in its defense of the female and non-binary seminars, and those opposed to the idea have been equally as unfaltering.
One thing is sure, though. Riot promised that it would take immediate action to make women feel safer and more included. And whether you agree with the methods, action was certainly taken.