Ubisoft devs speak out on their ‘inability to feel safe or protected within’ the studio

    
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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.”

Source: Kotaku, GIbiz
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angrakhan

I think what makes this prevalent at game studios is an unfortunate side effect of how they form. How do they typically form? Well, some big shot top level guy breaks off from their current gig and starts up a new studio. Do they start interviewing and hire the best and brightest for the top level positions? No, they surround themselves with their buddies in the game industry. All the folks that they worked with before get those executive level positions. Well, now what do you have? It’s the good ol boys/girls club leading the studio. If that club happens to be ethical and upstanding then great. However, if it isn’t there’s not anyone with enough power to really make a change in the corporate culture.

ihatevnecks
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ihatevnecks

Yeah, HR being in a relationship with an exec is the first sign a studio is a shitshow you should avoid.

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Fred Douglas

His wife being head of HR is just egregious. What a joke.

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Greaterdivinity

Glad to see Kotaku can still do the deeper dive investigative pieces despite losing most of their seasoned investigative journalists…even if that article was god-damned soul crushing to read.

I seriously don’t know what the “better future” coming out of all of this is (all around, on the streamer, PR/journo, development etc.) but I hope we get there. This is beyond unacceptable and I hate that shit like this has persisted for so long and hurt so many people and their careers.

Ubisoft needs to go hard against these folks, including potential criminal investigations for some of their reported behavior if applicable. They need to send a clear message and others need to follow.

One upside, I’m glad that more and more people are becoming aware that HR doesn’t exist to protect them, it exists to protect the company. I doubt that’s ever going to change in any meaningful way, but I hope it’s yet another reason for employees to organize so that they can get a union to help protect them and their rights as their employers tail to do so.

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Toy Clown

If nothing else, 2020 will be the year known for not only Covid-19 and a US president intent on tearing the country down, but also for the injustices on-going in First World countries, decades and a century (or more) after the freedom and subjugation ended for not only of people of color but also for highlighting how blatant sexism still is.

It’s like all these years we’ve been living under a blanket, pretending everything is normal. I can’t be the only one happy to see the blankets being peeled back on a lot of on-going issues. I hope we can continue the momentum to give all lives an equal footing to start out on.

I want to see these offenders get their comeuppance. Publicly. Loudly. Their actions exposed. Most importantly, severe public punishment where they can’t snake up the backside to rise again once everyone “forgets”. But it sadly doesn’t happen, which is why people are taking things into their own hands right now. It often takes a martyr to push the system forward positively a baby step, easily undone by a politician intent on taking the power away from the people and handing it to corporations and those with money.

(I got on a soapbox there. Sorry, not sorry!)

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Danny Smith

Oh no, not producer of buggy open world crap used to sell minibuys! those paragons of upstanding behaviour and friend of the consumer! Say it aint so!

How can we support assassins creed 27 now!?

Sarcasm aside the amount of “we didnt want to rock the boat”, “sometimes you look the other way for money” or the good old “i was just following orders” that people have said about all this going on lately is gross. Its just like the EVO pedophile scandal. Theres no way absolutely nobody in a position of power had no idea. They chose to do nothing till enough people spoke out or evidence piled up. Its more crooked than a very crooked thing.

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Arktouros

The big thing people don’t really understand when it comes to systemic change is there’s huge swathes of people that are basically enabled, supported and actually thrive on the status quo even if the status quo is horrible. I think most people are just trying to make it through life and aren’t willing to risk things for higher moral calling. This is why when a victim of abuse comes forward you often times see lots of people coming forward to support them because the tide has turned and it’s now safe and secure to act with their conscious.

Now that isn’t to say or imply you’re wrong, it’s to to say that there’s an understandable motivation behind that behavior. If we want to see changes in that behavior then just stating moral platitudes about “doing the right thing” or “good people stand by while evil triumphs” and such isn’t going to really be a motivator for change. Most people already know it’s wrong, what they need is a way to safely and securely report the wrongs they see and that isn’t always as clear cut as it might seem (IE: As in the article one of the guy’s wife was head of HR).

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Arktouros

Bah damn auto correct conscious = conscience.

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imayb1

I always think about the psychological science experiment about the ‘moral objector’ (or conscientious objector). Most of them *pulled the trigger* to cause extreme pain to a victim-volunteer under a doctor’s order, even when they morally objected.

It’s a sobering study for many reasons. An authority figure (the doctor in this scenario) asks a volunteer to electro-shock a victim-volunteer in increasing strength regardless of whether the victim-volunteer answers questions right or not. The scene is set so the volunteer can hear the victim screaming while the doctor tells him/her to use shock again. It’s all done under the name of science, further swaying people who might not otherwise volunteer to cause pain to another. The insidious arrangement of an established system and authoritative figure encouraging or ordering the volunteer is a powerful force that convinces people they’re doing the ‘right’ thing– or at least doing what they’re supposed to be doing.

That is what bad corporate culture is all about.

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Dagget Burmese

Are they all still working together during Covid?

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Ken from Chicago

You’d think the Me Too movement was the warning shot across the bow that game studios needed to straighten up. Instead, years later the same crap crops up.

Akso, wouldn’t it be Blizzard snd Bethesada most breathing a sigh of relied. At least their scandals were “merely” game-related, not legal issues (aside from the “leather” collector’s edition bag).

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Bruno Brito

Considering how the higher ups at Blizzard are, and how Activision operates, i’m certain an exposed is waiting to happen.