Report: Batman Developer Rocksteady Accused Of Failing To Address Sexual Harassment [Update]

Illustration for article titled Report: iBatman/i Developer Rocksteady Accused Of Failing To Address Sexual Harassment [Update]
Image: Warner Bros.

Female staffmembers at Rocksteady Studios, best known for the Batman: Arkham series, sent a letter to management back in 2018 complaining about sexual harassment, according to a new report by the Guardian.

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The letter, reportedly signed by 10 of the 16 women on staff at the time, cited a number of persistant issues including transphobic slurs, derogatory and sexually explicit remarks about women, and sexual harassment that included “unwanted advances, leering at parts of a woman’s body, and inappropriate comments in the office,” the Guardian reports. This misconduct reportedly also filtered into Rocksteady’s games, which include hypersexualized versions of Batman characters like Poison Ivy and Catworman.

According to one of the Guardian’s sources, to address the issues raised in the letter Rocksteady held a single company-wide, hour-long training seminar. Employees had to sign a statement confirming they had participated in the training, but according to the source nothing else appeared to be done to address the problems. “It felt that it was a just way for them to cover their arses,” said the source.

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A spokesperson from Rocksteady told The Guardian in a statement, “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.” The statement went on:

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.

Rocksteady reportedly called an all-hands last Thursday to specifically respond to the 2018 letter for the first time after it was contacted about these issues by The Guardian. There, the studio reportedly pledged to take further steps. Rocksteady did not immediately respond to a request by Kotaku for comment.

The Guardian’s report comes after a wave of allegations about misconduct swept the gaming industry in late June, led in part by reports of widespread harassment and workplace toxicity at Ubisoft. Rocksteady is set to reveal its next game, Suicide Squad, this weekend at Warner Bros.’s online DC FanDome event.

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Update - 1:43 p.m. ET, 8/19/20: Rocksteady has still not responded to Kotaku’s request for comment, and instead today sent out an oddly worded tweet with replies turned off about an internal letter from current female employees it received about yesterday’s report, which it says was “unsolicited.”

The letter, which Rocksteady says was signed by seven of the 10 women who signed the original 2018 letter, states that after the studio received the 2018 letter raising concerns about sexual harassment, it immediately held discussions about how to address it. “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,” the letter reads. “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.”

The women who signed the current letter say they did not wish for knowledge of the 2018 letter to be made public, but also reaffirm “the importance of any minority within the games industry to speak up and for studios to take seriously” any allegations people might bring forward.

Kotaku staff writer. You can reach him at ethan.gach@kotaku.com

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DISCUSSION

mortal-dictata
Mortal Dictata

“This misconduct reportedly also filtered into Rocksteady’s games, which include hypersexualized versions of Batman characters like Poison Ivy and Catworman.”

To be honest that’s become a bit of a flag for any studio for me, how female characters that are incredibly malegazey and little substance seem to indicate issues with the studio. Still remember how between City and Knight the female characters, which already started at a very ridiculous level of “showing flesh” such as Poison Ivy’s costume going from a one piece or leotard to now being just an undone top and panties (come on), all became even more one note with Catwoman’s intrinsic role from City reduced to literally a damsel in distress and a side character in the Riddler puzzles.