The USC League of Legends team will compete in a series of games against UCLA for Conquest Thursday, but the company responsible for creating the game has been in the news recently for something else — a class-action lawsuit alleging gender-based discrimination.
The lawsuit, issued on Nov. 5 by the company's female employees, alleges that women at Riot worked above their pay grade without promotions and were subjected to sexist comments and verbal harassment from supervisors.
The company was founded by USC alumni Brandon Beck and Marc Merrill in conjunction with Incubate USC – a student startup incubator.
A report issued by gaming media outlet Kotaku several months ago preceded the lawsuit. It alleged that Riot regularly turned down female applicants and reinforced a culture that promotes aggressive male personalities.
Companies with reputations for poor working environments like Riot Games can still recruit students at USC.
The USC Career Center receives thousands of job postings a day and according to Jennifer Kim, USC Career Center director of employer relations and research, they only have the staff power to verify that the companies are legitimate.
"[Vetting] the workplace environment is beyond what we can do," Kim said. "We don't want to allow those kind of employers [with bad reputations], [but] with very limited staff we literally could not [vet the workplace environment]."
Riot Games is listed on the USC Career Center website as a company that has recruited at USC in the 2017-2018 school year. They listed postings for a software engineering intern and a video post-production intern. According to Kim, they have not posted any jobs or recruited through the Career Center in 2018.
Amy Blumenthal, Director of Media Relations at Viterbi, wrote in an email to Annenberg Media that Riot Games has attended the Viterbi career fair in the past.
"Our focus is on providing the best opportunities to our faculty and students that advance our academic mission," Blumenthal said. "We constantly evaluate these relationships in order to maintain high societal, legal and ethical standards and adjust accordingly if these are not met."
Riot Games said in an email to Annenberg Media that they have made progress towards a more inclusive workplace.
"While we do not discuss the details of ongoing litigation, we can say that we take every allegation of this nature seriously and investigate them thoroughly," Joe Hixson, Riot Games corporate communications lead, said. "We remain committed to a deep and comprehensive evolution of our culture to ensure Riot is a place where all Rioters thrive."
The question remains whether students in the future are willing to accept a lucrative job offer from a company with a murky reputation.
Kim said the Career Center doesn't make assumptions about potential employers but try to educate students about the opportunities available.
"We want to empower our students to do the research and as they interview and go through the process … not [to] think they have to choose the first opportunity," Kim said.