Batman: Arkham Dev Rocksteady Failed To Act On Culture Of Harassment, Studio Responds

A newly-public letter scribed by more than half of the women at the Batman: Arkham developer in 2018 details a workplace that was hostile to women and transgender people.

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Update: Rocksteady has now issued a new, much lengthier statement in response to the allegations. It outlines some of the steps it has taken in response to the 2018 complaint, including investigations of any claims and hiring a third-party to speak with employees without fear of reprisal. The original story follows.

Rocksteady is one of the biggest game studios in the UK, being best-known for its work on the Batman: Arkham franchise. According to a new report from The Guardian, 10 of the 16 women at the studio signed a letter to their bosses in 2018 that accused management of allowing a culture of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior to fester.

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As an anonymous signatory to the letter revealed, it was initially kept private due to the company's secretive nature, as well as fears that the signers would be kept off the credits for the studio's upcoming Suicide Squad game. (This is a pervasive and justified fear in the games industry among vulnerable workers.) However, according to the report, since the letter was sent, management's response has been a single hour-long training seminar, and several of the signers have since left the company due to working conditions.

"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."

A video from Kim MacAskill, one of the writers from the upcoming Suicide Squad game, further supports the allegations. In it, MacAskill gives a detailed account of her time at Rockstead before she left the company in 2019.

In the account, MacAskill said she had talked with every other female employee, except for two who worked for HR, and almost all of them reported some level of harassment or abuse. She says she helped draft an anonymous letter with input from other women at the company, and claims that HR threatened her position with the company or a reputation as a trouble-maker. When she left she said she thought the company had improved, but she alleges that it wasn't until three days before the Guardian publicly reported the abuse that it announced it was undergoing structural reforms. As a result, MacAskill said she no longer wants to be credited as a writer on Suicide Squad.

"Rocksteady, I am formally asking you to take my name off of your game," she said. "I do not want to be associated with your game, I do not want to be associated with your company. My entire memory of being in your company is as one of your only senior females is trying to protect the women in your company while you allowed them to be continually assaulted, abused, and harassed, and the whole time protecting the people who were doing it. People I know who are still in that company."

Rocksteady offered a statement in response to the allegations going public. "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," a portion of it reads. "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."

According to The Guardian, after Rocksteady's management became aware of the impending report, the studio called an all-hands meeting, promising initiatives to prevent further discrimination. Rocksteady was in the news recently promoting its newly-revealed Suicide Squad game.

These new allegations come on the heels of a widespread reckoning with sexual harassment and sexism across the games industry, with large firms like Ubisoft firing several employees across its many studios for toxic, illegal, and unethical behavior.

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