Update: Following the publication of The Guardian’s report, Rocksteady released a statement meant as a representation of the current women employed at Rocksteady, who claim the letter and the story that accompanied it was sent to The Guardian without consultation, and that it was not representative of the situation at the current studio. This statement was apparently given without prompting from Rocksteady management, and says that the intention of the women at the studio was to handle this privately, and that steps have been taken in the time since the letter in question was given to the higher-ups.
You can read the full statement below:
While working on our response to the recent news, we received the following unsolicited letter. pic.twitter.com/sozmsp6u3C
— Rocksteady Studios (@RocksteadyGames) August 19, 2020
The Guardian has released a report revealing that, back in 2018, Batman: Arkham developer Rocksteady received a letter signed by 10 of its 16 female employees accusing the studio of failing to address widespread complaints of sexual harassment and unprofessional behavior at the company. Now that next to nothing has been done about it, one signatory, who requested to remain anonymous, has given the letter to The Guardian and laid out the situation.
In the letter, the women noted several instances of “slurs regarding the transgendered community,” “discussing a woman in a derogatory or sexual manner with other colleagues”, and sexual harassment “in the form of unwanted advances, leering at parts of a woman’s body, and inappropriate comments in the office.” According to the signatory, after the letter was received by management, all that was done about it was holding one company-wide seminar, resulting in multiple women who signed the original letter leaving the company due to inaction on the part of management.
“I have heard everything from groping claims to incidents involving directors, all of whom are men,” the 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 signatory explained that much of the sexist attitude found within the company was reflected in the games it put out, specifically citing villains Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy’s appearances in the Arkham games, which women within the studio had to push back against, saying “sometimes you could see the surprise on their face when you said that’s not how women dress.”
After receiving the letter, The Guardian reached out to Rocksteady for comment, which confirmed the legitimacy of the letter, but claimed it had been doing more in the subsequent two years to address it.
“From day one at Rocksteady Studios, we set out to create a place where people are looked after, a place fundamentally built on respect and inclusion,” a spokesperson told The Guardian.
“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. 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.”
Despite the statement, The Guardian has learned that it wasn’t until the publication reached out for comment that an all-staff meeting took place to address the letter for the first time, and that new initiatives are being put into place to mitigate these issues.
The signatory told The Guardian the reason she decided to come forward now was due to the recent storm of allegations against staff at Ubisoft, which has resulted in several higher-ups and known instigators being removed from the company, including chief creative officer Serge Hascoët.
“I think a good outcome [of publicising the letter] is basically showing the games industry in general [that] no matter how big your company is, how much you promote it as supportive of diversity, if you keep putting your head in the sand you will eventually be outed,” the signatory told The Guardian.