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Rocksteady shares employee letter defending its response to 2018 abuse allegations

(Image credit: Rocksteady)

The Guardian published a report yesterday about allegations of harassment and abusive behavior at Arkham series developer Rocksteady Studios. The report arose from a letter sent to management in November of 2018, which was signed by ten of 16 women working there at the time. The person who shared the letter with the site, also one of its signatories, said she did so because she believed that despite the passage of nearly two years, nothing of substance had changed.

"The only thing we had as a result was a company-wide seminar that lasted an hour," the source said. "Everyone who attended 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."

Shortly after the Guardian report went live, Kim MacAskill, who had been a senior writer at Rocksteady at the time, posted a video on YouTube stating that she was the author of the original letter, which she began and worked on with other women at the studio after witnessing sexist and abusive behavior at the studio.

"I started this letter because I was experiencing sexism with one particular individual, still in the company," MacAskill says in the video. "I found a female crying in the bathroom because a man who, despite her telling him not to, was groping her repeatedly, sending her messages in the evening, and when he was drunk he would start to fabricate stories that he was in fact sleeping with her to other colleagues."

MacAskill says in the video that neither she nor the other employee were offered any support or meaningful concern, which is what spurred her to reach out to other women at the studio. "I expected maybe one or two of the women would say, well actually I've experienced this too. Every one of them, every single one of them, except one—one didn't—the rest had. The only two I didn't ask were HR. And that's when I realized how bad things were."

Today, Rocksteady released another letter, received "unsolicited," which it said was signed by seven of the eight (out of ten) signatories of the 2018 letter who are still at the studio. The identities of the signatories were not revealed, as "all involved do not wish to have their identity disclosed publicly under any circumstance."

"Recently an article was posted in the Guardian regarding this letter which was sent to the studio heads and HR in 2018, in addition to multiple other accusations," the new letter says. "In this article, we feel 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 [2018] letter was received."

The new letter contradicts MacAskill's claim that Rocksteady's response to the 2018 complaint was a single, hour-long training session, saying that "immediate action" was taken including a series of meetings in which female employees were given space to discuss the challenges they face and figure out ways to resolve them. Those efforts have been ongoing since then, the letter asserts.

"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 new 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 letter also takes issue with the release of the 2018 document to the Guardian, saying that signatories were assured that the situation would be kept private, and that none of those still at Rocksteady were contacted before it was made public: "This has left us feeling that we have been violated by the source or sources as it was kept private for personal reasons to all involved, not due to industry secrecy."

MacAskill said on Twitter that she is "whole heartedly apologetic" to anyone who feels their privacy was violated by the release of the letter, but added, "For me, it was important to speak. We all signed it, the stories ARE true and [Rocksteady] take no accountability."

Andy covers the day-to-day happenings in the big, wide world of PC gaming—the stuff we call "news." In his off hours, he wishes he had time to play the 80-hour RPGs and immersive sims he used to love so much.