Developer RockSteady Studios have addressed the sexism and sexual harassment allegations made in 2018 and now, denying they had taken no action in 2018.
On August 18th, the Guardian reported the allegations made against uk-developer RockSteady Studios. The claims include that over half the women employed at the studio (ten of 16) had signed a letter to bosses in November 2018, explaining how the studio had failed to prevent sexual harassment. These included claims of being groped by senior staff.
Other claims included “slurs regarding the transgendered community,” “discussing a woman in a derogatory or sexual manner with other colleagues,” and harassment “in the form of unwanted advances, leering at parts of a woman’s body, and inappropriate comments in the office.”
The reported outcome of this was a single one hour training seminar. This resulted in many who signed the letter allegedly leaving the company due to the lack of substantial action, with one later sharing the letter with the Guardian. “Everyone who attended [the seminar] 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 anonymous source also criticized Rocksteady Studios’ depiction of women in the Batman Arkham games. “Sometimes you could see the surprise on their face when you said that’s not how women dress.”
Rocksteady Studios told the Guardian they had conducted a meeting all staff regarding the letter, and promised new initiatives were being implemented to prevent further discrimination.
On August 18th, former Rocksteady Studios senior scriptwriter Kim MacAskill released a video detailing her experiences and allegations working at Rocksteady Studios. Claiming she was one of the longest serving writers on the upcoming Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League game, she also claimed she was the one who wrote the letter.
She further claims that things had not improved since she left in 2019, though the vast majority of staff had caused no issues, and that “one or two” had managed to abuse their positions because “the company are so inept at dealing with this stuff.”
MacAskill claims she had experienced sexism from one individual who is allegedly still at Rocksteady Studios. She also claims she had discovered a woman crying in the restroom.
This was due to an unspecified male colleague repeatedly groping her despite her objections, sending her inappropriate messages in the evening, and when drunk told other colleagues they were sleeping together. While a human resources investigation took place, she was told to continue working with him.
MacAskill also claims that no one had asked if they were OK, and that those who complained to human resources were alienated by colleagues.
She also claims Rocksteady Studios had over 250 employees at the time, and as aforementioned, 16 women. When she organized a meeting with all the women at the company (bar two who worked in human resources), all but one stated they had experienced some form of harassment or sexism.
One woman had allegedly claimed incidents had been happening since 2015, with human resources taking no action. Another said they had sought therapy, while another claimed after they rejected a superior’s advances, he began to complain about the quality of her work.
The drafted letter was sent to each woman individually to prevent peer pressure. Human resources allegedly tried to stop MacAskill twice, along superiors who told her her position in the company and being hired at other companies would be affected if she continued. MacAskill states she ultimately lost her job.
The seminar allegedly made no mention of the letter, with MacAskill also claiming that the existence of the letter was only acknowledged by senior staff on August 15th, seemingly prior to it being made public. It was only then that initiatives had allegedly been put in place.
MacAskill claims that after several phone calls, she had discovered the abuse had continued to happen. As such, MacAskill publicly states that she wishes for her name to be removed from the game’s credits.
On August 19th, Rocksteady Studios issued a statement via Twitter. They claimed that 8 of the 10 people who signed the 2018 letter were still working at the studio. 7 of those people created an “unsolicited letter,” shedding more light on what happened in 2018, and what the studio had done since then.
Therein, the statement claims the anonymous source or sources speaking to the Guardian did not represent them. “We do not feel that this article is a fair representation of us, the events at the time or since the letter was received.”
“When the letter was received by the studio, immediate action was taken which resulted in a series of meetings with the women of the studio to allow us a safe space to talk about any issues we were facing, figure out strategies to resolve these issues and what the studio could do going forward. Continued efforts have been made to ensure that we have a voice within our work and within the studio, ranging from involvement specifically with how our characters are represented to workshops to help build self-confidence within male dominated industries. Throughout all of this, a firm promise has been made that there is always an open forum for us to speak out and that issues would be addressed with seriousness.”
They also claim none of the current female employees had been contracted about it being released to the media. As the letter was intended to be private, they state they feel their privacy had been violated.
Rocksteady Studios released another statement on August 21st, stating that “in response to the initial communication” they had met with all female staff and dealt with the issues raised.
“In response to the initial communication, we met with all our frmale staff, we listened, and we dealt with the issues raised. All formal complaints were thoroughly investigated, addressed appropriately, and a number of serious measures were taken in response to the issues that surfaced, including discipline or termination of staff.”
Rocksteady Studios also claim they since have introduced ways for female staff to provide feedback on the portrayal and behavior of characters in their games, and employing specialists to “further enhance equity and representation at Rocksteady.”
Finally, Rocksteady Studios have revealed that in case some claims had not be raised “through our normal channels,” they have hired an “independent third-party” to speak with all employees “who wish to do so.” Rocksteady Studios will also be reaching out to every former female employee from the last two years, asking if they wish to speak to the interviewers.