The fact that Ubisoft executives have made the studio an unsafe place to work has already been well chronicled, but a new report from former Kotaku writer Jason Schreier, now at Bloomberg Businessweek, is adding a few more voices to the matter while also confirming a number of suspicions about the studio’s design choices and effectively recounting the events.
The piece features some additional stories from more rank-and-file Ubisoft employees. One account comes from a former Ubisoft customer service center worker in North Carolina who attempted to report her manager for making explicit comments about other women’s bodies and derogatory remarks about hers; the first two times she was instructed to “talk it out” with him, the third finally saw the manager removed, but only with corroboration with another male employee. The customer service worker also received a thank-you card from the HR department and a $200 Visa gift card. There’s another report from an employee in a San Francisco office says that she was instructed to smile more and threatened with termination if her attitude didn’t improve.
There’s also confirmation that the sexist environment bled into design choices of Ubisoft’s games. Several current and former Ubisoft employees recount design changes made to the Assassin’s Creed series in order to primarily focus on male protagonists, including a reduction of focus for the female protagonist in Syndicate, a removal of Bayek’s wife Aya as a playable character in Origins, and the switch from making Kassandra the only playable character in Odyssey to giving a choice between her and her brother Alexios. It also points to the infamous remarks about the difficulty in animating women as a given explanation for excluding female avatars in Assassin’s Creed Unity multiplayer.
Finally, there’s reports from anonymous inside sources that state the studio’s HR management “held a general distrust of victims” that undermined the department’s ability to function appropriately. There are also reports of complaints filed in recent weeks over inappropriate jokes from colleagues, unwanted sexual propositions, groping at parties, and sexual assault, with some of these allegations having been originally filed years ago.
The roundup does remark that employees were shocked that Ubisoft moved as quickly as it did when allegations first started making the public rounds, and pointed to chief creative officer Serge Hascoët’s removal as a particular surprise considering he reportedly had a close relationship with CEO Yves Guillemot and was granted the authority to greenlight or halt development of any project he didn’t like.