Why #HoldUbisoftAccountable needs to keep trending

Last year, the gaming world was rocked by serious allegations of physical and sexual harassment which had taken place within Ubisoft. Reports were astonishing in their numbers and led to several senior executives stepping down from their posts. 

Now, a new report details that little has changed in the months since, with fans organizing to demand that Ubisoft be held accountable for its abusive culture.  

Allegations were made at all levels and several senior executives left soon after (source: map via Flickr)

Previous reports paint a grim picture, with allegations coming from multiple studios from all over the world. HR, when informed of these instances, did not carry out proper procedings but instead covered up the allegations with many employees reporting that HR seemed to be protecting these alleged abusers. One notable example was then Vice President Editorial, Maxime Beland, resigning after allegations surfaced that he had chocked a female employee at the launch party for Far Cry 4.  

According to Le Télégramme, HR director Cécile Cornet stepped down in July of 2020 but did not leave the company until very recently. Cornet has been replaced by Anika Grant, who is a three year veteran of Uber. However, employees told the magazine that many of the HR employees who worked to maintain Ubisoft’s toxic workplace remain in their positions and that they do not “expect anything to come out of these appointments.” 

Fans have also been disappointed to find that “nothing has changed” at Ubisoft’s Canadian branch since Christophe Derennes took over for Yannis Mallat. Derennes happens to be Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot’s cousin.  

Ubisoft’s Canadian branch has reported little change despite the change in leadership (Source: Guilhem Vellut via Flickr)

After the report released, it did not take long for fans to mobilize and #HoldUbisoftAccountable began to trend on Twitter. 

Fan sites such as The Codex Network, a site which documents and catalogues Assassin’s Creed’s complex and convoluted lore, released a statement in which they demanded changes to be made at Ubisoft. “Our beloved games are created by people like you and they deserve to be able to pursue their passion in a healthy environment full of dignity, respect, and compassion.” They said. “We demand change, not mere marketing tactics and we stand together and hope you stand by us, different yet indivisible.”  

Assassin Creed content creators such as LazerzZ have voiced their support for the movement, with many others announcing their intention to no longer buy Ubisoft’s products or accept promotional offers until they see changes have been made. This has largely been met with praise from fans.  

LazerzZ has been one of several vocal critics of Ubisoft’s aggressive microtransaction model (Source: image taken by me)

On May 24th Ubisoft responded with an update from CEO Yves Guillemot about the “ongoing changes” currently underway at the company.  

It states, “Last June, we faced the fact that not all team members were experiencing the safe and inclusive workplace that we had always intended Ubisoft to be. Since then, we have engaged in a company-wide effort to listen, learn and build a roadmap for a better Ubisoft for all.” 

In the update, Guillemot notes new tools have been put in place which allows team members to report their problems under anonymity and all allegations are “received and treated by an independent external partner to guarantee impartiality.” 

More than 14,000 employees have participated in a range of assessments which include focus groups and listening sessions, with policies concerning discrimination and harassment being strengthened. New expectations have been implemented for managers, with a new focus on care, inclusivity and respectability.

Guillemot notes that multiple female held roles have been created to help Ubisoft chart a new direction. “Management – myself included – have a responsibility to act as role models and be exemplary for our teams. I want to stress my personal commitment to continue to improve our workplace culture and create real, lasting and positive change at Ubisoft.” 

AC Sisterhood tattoo added to Assassin’s Creed Valhalla before launch, but this feels performative in the wake of the numerous sexual assault and harrassment allegations lauded against executives. (Source: image taken by me)

This may have satisfied some but for many this update fell short. There is real worry over how different a workplace culture can become when the people who emboldened abusers remain in place, and some leadership positions are now held by those who have an incentive to protect leadership from further scrutiny.  

Guillemot, whilst not personally implicated in the allegations last year, was a close acquaintance to many of the men who have since been dismissed. It raises questions over his leadership as these men escaped consequences for years. It spells a worrying idea; that he was either ignorant to what was happening at his company or that he knew and did not try to change it. Either option is deeply concerning and raises questions over his ability to lead Ubisoft in a better direction.  

Aside from this, Serge Hascoët, former chief creative officer who is named as playing a central role in the company’s culture problems, may no longer work at the company but his legacy remains. Hascoët was a powerful individual in charge of all creative decisions and insisted on Ubisoft’s games always having a male lead. Reports have detailed how Assassin’s Creed Odyssey was forced to include a male counterpart, despite Kassandra being considered canon. These decisions were made due to Hascoët’s belief that “women don’t sell.”

Serge Hascoët left Ubisoft following damning allegations last summer (Source: Ecole polytechnique via Flickr)

Future projects at Ubisoft do not seem to spell an end to this problem and with a workforce who seem unconvinced by the efforts being made, much more needs to be done until confidence can be placed in the company once more. Ubisoft’s responsibilities to their staff remain, even if media attention moves away. 

 

Feature Image: steamXO via Flickr

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