You know who’s probably breathing a big sigh of relief right now? Riot Games, whose multi-year scandal and lawsuit over sexual harassment and discrimination has been backburnered ever so slightly thanks to all the other awful people in the games industry who’ve now been exposed by their victims. The current studio under fire is Ubisoft, which as we covered last week has become the subject of multiple accusations of abuse and violence lodged against some of its executives and staff. Most notably among those were Tommy François and Maxime Béland, who were put on leave and subject to an investigation and prompted Ubisoft to create a plan for dealing with accusations going forward.
Maxime Béland resigned from the studio last week, but Ubsioft said it would continue its investigations, as have journalists. Kotaku put up piece yesterday interviewing a dozen current and former Ubisoft employees about Béland and the Toronto studio, including commentary from the female employee who alleged that Béland choked her at a work party as a “creepy demonstration” and helped create a corporate culture that made it too risky for victims to speak up. (Béland has not commented on the proceedings or accusations.)
“The people we’ve interviewed described an overall workplace culture that undervalues women’s contributions, normalizes sexism and harassment, and makes excuses for the worst offenders while complaints about them go unheeded,” Kotaku writes. The site also includes part of the letter sent by over 100 employees to executives less than two weeks ago, asserting they had “grave concerns about ongoing reported harassment and an inability to feel safe or protected within [their] own studio.”
The piece chronicles specific sexual assault incidents, “booze-filled events” where “directors would get drunk and get handsy,” the all-white all-male editorial group’s outsized influence, and nonsensical HR policies that made reporting abuse difficult (such as Béland’s wife running HR); it also notes sexual assault and harassment allegations against Ubisoft’s Andrien “Escoblades” Gbinigie, who is seldom named in these pieces.
Former Ubisoft dev Kim Belair also has a piece up on GIbiz today discussing how abusers get away with their abuse for so long and where the industry needs to go next. “These people will never notice that, in their circles, the same group of men is always there, but the women keep changing,” she writes. “The work must happen in the structures and the companies where these problems are rampant, where thousands of people are mistreated every day. We must dismantle them and rebuild them with empathy and accountability, and with an ear to those voices that are leading the charge right now, whether survivor or advocate. […] If anything at all is going to change, this cannot be a ‘moment’. It must be a movement. And this can only be the beginning.”