Update [8/19, 12:00 p.m. PT]: Rocksteady has released an "unsolicited letter" given to the studio which it says was written by seven of the 10 signatories of the original 2018 letter, who are still employed at Rocksteady. In the statement, the writers say that the letter has been in no way asked for by management, and is a response to The Guardian article.
The statement alleges that when the 2018 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 of the issues we were facing."
It also asserts that "continued efforts" have been made to ensure womens' voices are heard in development. The group does not feel the report is a "fair representation" of them, saying that the "anonymous source or sources attempted to speak on behalf of all women at Rocksteady, and we do not feel that this article is a fair representation of us, the events at the time or since the letter was received." They also remark that the original letter was meant to be a "private matter" and that their wishes had been disregarded.
Rocksteady itself has not released any additional comment yet. Former Rocksteady writer Kim MacAskill tweeted in response to the letter, saying: "I just want to add that I am wholeheartedly apologetic to any female involved that feels their privacy was infringed. For me, it was important to speak. We all signed it, the stories ARE true and [Rocksteady] take no accountability."
Our original story follows:
Rocksteady, the studio behind several Batman: Arkham games and the upcoming Suicide Squad game, has been accused of mishandling issues within the company. In a new report from The Guardian, several employees allege the studio failed to prevent sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior in the office.
In a letter shown to The Guardian from November 2018, 10 of Rocksteady's 16 female staffers at the time raised issues over slurs towards transgender people; discussions of women in a "derogatory or sexual manner" among colleagues; and sexual harassment, including "unwanted advances, leering at parts of a woman's body, and inappropriate comments in the office."
According to the report, the studio's response has been a single training seminar, and that several employees have left the company over the inaction. One employee says the dismissive attitude towards women carried forward into Rocksteady's output, citing the design and portrayal of Batman characters like Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn.
In a statement to The Guardian, Rocksteady acknowledged it had received the complaints. "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 spokesperson told The Guardian. "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."
After reached for comment, The Guardian reports management called an all-staff meeting where it discussed the 2018 letter for the first time. The studio reportedly promised new initiatives to prevent further discrimination.
In a follow-up video, former Rocksteady writer Kim MacAskill posted a response to YouTube, detailing her experience with the company prior to leaving in 2019. In it, she discusses speaking with many women in the company about their experiences. She also discusses how HR within the company threatened her position within the company, as well as future opportunities with other studios, as these discussions were going on.
MacAskill describes being "pushed out" of the company, and she went on to write on the upcoming Fable. In the time since, MacAskill says it took only a few calls to hear stories of how behavior has persisted at the company, and she closes the video by asking for her name to be removed from the upcoming Suicide Squad game.
"Seeing that things haven't improved, Rocksteady, I am formally asking you to take my name off of your game. I do not want to be associated with your game, I do not want to be associated with your company," MacAskill says. "My entire memory of being in your company, 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 that were doing it. People who I know are still in that company."
This report comes in the wake of not just similar accusations at Ubisoft, but also a greater movement across the games industry to address sexual misconduct. With the big DC FanDome event just around the corner, it's time to see if Rocksteady is going to publicly address anything that's been brought to light over this as it prepares to reveal its next game.