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Former Rocksteady employee turns down sponsored award following sexual harassment allegations

UPDATE: Warner Bros. responds on sexual harassment investigations.

UPDATE: Warner Bros. Games has responded to Eurogamer with a statement in response to previous investigations into sexual harassment at the studio. Below in full:

"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."

ORIGINAL STORY: A former Rocksteady employee has turned down a Women in Games award following allegations of sexual harassment at the developer.

Kim MacAskill, who worked as a writer at the studio including on the forthcoming Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League game, was recently nominated for a lifetime achievement award by the nonprofit organisation.

However, MacAskill is now "bowing out" from the nomination as both Rocksteady and Warner Bros. Interactive are among the event's sponsors. Receiving the award would be "an unspoken acceptance of what they did," she has said.

MacAskill took to Twitter to explain her stance.

"When I received the nomination, I couldn't sit for a whole day with beaming pride. I saw a problem with Juniors struggling to get a break, I stood up, I asked for change, I pushed for change, I spent endless hours founding a scheme called Play it Forward and the industry listened," she said.

"But then I saw Warner Bros - Rocksteady's logo on the poster and all that joy just sank."

In 2018, MacAskill led a letter signed by 10 of the company's 16 female staff at the time that raised complaints about behaviour.

As The Guardian reported in 2020, the letter included "slurs regarding the transgendered community" and "discussing a woman in a derogatory or sexual manner with other colleagues", and sexual harassment "in the form of unwanted advances, leering at parts of a woman's body, and inappropriate comments in the office".

Rocksteady then released a statement stating it met with female staff, listened, and dealt with issues raised.

"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 for termination of staff," read the statement.

"Since then, we have introduced new ways of ensuring we are making good on our commitment to inclusion, such as asking all female staff to provide feedback about the portrayal and behaviour of characters in the games we make. We are dedicated to listening and improving, and have employed specialists to help further enhance equity and representation at Rocksteady."

In her statement following the nomination, MacAskill said Rocksteady attempted to resolve the situation with money.

"After an investigation, there were resolution offers. They've offered me money. Lots. They've offered to put my name back on the game...something the studio director refused to promise after my departure (classy). They offered some cool stuff. But I've said no. To all of it," she said.

"All I want is an apology and last week, I even asked for it. Hell, I half begged. I just want this to be resolved but not like that. Not with money. How does anything change that way? Somehow in 2022, an apology is still too great a cost for Warner and Rocksteady to bear."

She claimed that "Warner Bros investigations are crooked" and "Rocksteady is image over intention".

"To take an award connected to them would be an unspoken acceptance of what they did," she said.

"Again, thank you to everyone who has supported me, celebrated with me, been sad with me and to Women in Games, I only ever support you. I offer my shield and support to all other nominees - take this and be proud.

"It's just not my year... even if the concept of being a woman, for this award, standing down because of a connected company that almost broke me for having a vagina seems bizarre."

She ended with a final statement to Warner and Rocksteady.

"Take accountability. Apologise. Stop enabling bad behaviour. You can throw your name on every diversity event going but unless you take accountability it means nothing and I see you."

Kotaku contacted MacAskill who explained she approached Warner Bros. about declining the award and that she wanted to resolve the situation. The publisher told her it was not open to discussion.

Eurogamer has contacted Warner Bros. for comment.

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Ed Nightingale

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Ed has an interest in streaming, people and communities, and giving a voice to marginalised people.