Kim MacAskill, a writer whose career includes work on upcoming Rocksteady game Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League, was recently nominated for a lifetime achievement award by the nonprofit organization Women in Games. However, she recently took to Twitter to announce that she cannot in good conscience accept the award, as both Rocksteady Studios and its parent company, Warner Bros. Interactive, are among the event’s sponsors. MacAskill said that Rocksteady and Warner Bros. had not adequately addressed the rampant harassment and sexism that she and other female employees had allegedly experienced at the studio. “Stop enabling bad behavior,” wrote MacAskill. “You can throw your name on every diversity event going. But unless you take accountability, it means nothing and I see you.”
In August 2020, The Guardian published a damning report about accusations of sexual harassment and discrimination at the studio behind the Batman: Arkham series. The story revealed that in 2018, over half of Rocksteady’s female staff signed a letter that attempted to bring matters to leadership’s attention, in which they claimed they had to endure colleagues’ unwanted advances, “leering at parts of a woman’s body and [making] inappropriate comments at the office,” among other things.
In an August 2020 video, MacAskill claimed that both HR and upper management had discouraged her from sending the letter. She claimed that she was pulled aside and told, “To continue [taking action] would potentially jeopardize my position within the company...and my position of being hired by other companies going forward because I might be seen as a troublemaker,” she said. “It was like choosing between my dream job and my dignity.” She believes that Rocksteady allowed her contract to expire out of retaliation.
Rocksteady acknowledged the claims after they were reported in the news. The official Twitter account posted: “All formal complaints were thoroughly investigated, addressed appropriately, and a number of serious measures were taken in response to the issues that were surfaced, including discipline or termination of staff.” The studio also said it had enlisted an independent third-party entity which employees could use to confidentially report any issues they may wish to raise. Kotaku reached out to Warner Bros, but did not get a response at the time of publication.
Kotaku reached out to MacAskill to ask about the company’s response to her tweet. She said that she had contacted Warner Bros. about declining the award, and she wanted to resolve the situation. The publisher told her that it was not open to discussion. Kotaku also reached out to Women in Games, but did not receive a comment on the situation.
“All I want is an apology, and last week I even asked for it. I half begged. I just want this to be resolved, but not like that,” wrote MacAskill, who mentioned that the studio had offered her money, and to reinstate her credit on Suicide Squad. “Not with money. How does anything change that way? Somehow in 2022, an apology is still too great a cost for Warner [Bros.] and Rocksteady to bear.”
She holds firm on rejecting the Women in Games award. “To take an award connected to [Rocksteady] would be an unspoken acceptance of what they did.”
Update 9/21/2022 at 11:50 A.M. E.T.: The following statement was provided by a representative of Warner Bros.
Investigations found there was no evidence substantiating the allegations of this former employee who resigned in 2019. We stand against all forms of harassment and take any allegation extremely seriously. We support those who have concerns they wish to raise. We therefore took the necessary time to thoroughly investigate allegations at Rocksteady Studios with the utmost integrity. An external, independent law firm conducted a full and thorough investigation, including interviewing current and former employees, not only researching past allegations, but also examining the current culture of the studio. Furthermore, a Warner Bros. Discovery (then Warner Media) People Relations team, independent of the games division, diligently researched and investigated any allegations raised. These two separate investigations both confidently arrived at the same conclusion, that all issues raised with HR and the management of Rocksteady Studios were handled appropriately and sensitively. We believe Rocksteady is led by a strong management team and we are proud of the work they have already done, and their ongoing commitment to, ensuring the studio is an equitable and inclusive workplace, one where every employee is listened to, respected and supported. Rocksteady has been a sponsor of Women in Games in the past and continues their sponsorship to support and celebrate women working in the games industry.