Riot Games drops vaccine and mask requirements as employees return to office

The exterior of Riot Games HQ
(Image credit: Riot Games)

A recent report by Waypoint revealed Riot Games' decision to lift the mask mandates at its LA office and end required testing for employees who haven't supplied proof of vaccination.

The policy shift comes as Riot pushes for a transition back to office work from the fully remote model the company had adopted during the pandemic.

As a Riot spokesperson pointed out to Waypoint, this is in accordance with local law—Los Angeles lifted its mask mandate back in March.

"In accordance with LA County health orders, Riot strongly encourages, but does not require, all individuals to wear a face covering while on Riot's property." The spokesperson told Waypoint. "That said, we know that some Rioters will feel more comfortable wearing masks, and we want our campus to be a place where people feel safe to take whatever precautions best fit their needs. We are encouraging Rioters to have open communication and to be empathetic and accommodating toward those colleagues who prefer masking up."

All the same, two current and one former Riot employee expressed skepticism and exasperation over the plan under condition of anonymity.

One pointed out that the option to request fellow employees mask up lays the onus of virus prevention on employees rather than management: "If I have a one-hour meeting with 10 people, and seven aren't wearing masks, it will take an inordinate amount of time for all seven to go get masks and return, wasting a lot of the meeting time. Which everyone will certainly remember is my fault."

Similarly, the company's program for contact tracing entirely relies on self-reporting now that the required testing is being rolled back. Riot employees carry RFID tags which can be used to inform potentially exposed individuals, but that requires knowing who has tested positive in the first place.

"I'm not concerned that the RFID tags are tracking my bathroom breaks or anything," One Riot employee told Waypoint, "but I am annoyed by them, their inconsistency, and the ease which many people simply can ignore them, thus breaking the whole value of their use in the first place."

This shift comes in the context of uncertainty regarding the seriousness of the currently spreading Omicron BA.2 subvariant of the virus, as well as allegations of harassment and abuse at Riot stemming from a report by Kotaku and subsequent lawsuit.

A similarly embattled videogame company, Activision-Blizzard temporarily reversed, then amended a relaxation of its Covid-19 policy in the face of an employee backlash. 

Associate Editor

Ted has been thinking about PC games and bothering anyone who would listen with his thoughts on them ever since he booted up his sister's copy of Neverwinter Nights on the family computer. He is obsessed with all things CRPG and CRPG-adjacent, but has also covered esports, modding, and rare game collecting. When he's not playing or writing about games, you can find Ted lifting weights on his back porch.