Ubisoft Execs under fire for sexual misconduct, say “women don’t sell games”

Kaitlyn Maracle details the recent scandal coming out of Ubisoft Studios relating to sexual harassment and their recent alleged comments about female characters

Kaitlyn Maracle
30th July 2020
Trigger warning: Sexual harrassment/assault
In a recent report from Bloomberg, a toxic and misogynistic culture has been revealed at yet another game development company, with top executives being accused of sexual misconduct towards female employees.

The report details a number a concerning interviews with anonymous current and former employees as part of the #MeToo movement, revealing a way of life at Ubisoft that is undoubtedly sexist and harmful to women in the industry. 

Allegations include: ignoring complaints of harassment, misogynistic and racist comments, giving colleagues cakes containing marijuana without their consent, fatphobic remarks and business meetings held at strip clubs. One interview details an instance where a female employee left a meeting for the bathroom, and a male exec played a “French song describing sexually explicit acts with a woman who has the same name as the presenter”. Another woman only had her complaint against a sexual harasser held up when a male colleague corroborated her story. The list of unprofessional, offensive and borderline traumatic events seems to go on and on.

Ubisoft's marketing department allegedly told developers that "female protagonists won't sell"

Prior to this report, Ubisoft released a statement promising massive changes to the company’s culture, including appointing a ‘head of diversity’ position and a ‘head of workplace culture’. These new positions were alongside a review of policies and reporting procedures, an investigation into the plethora of allegations and an employee survey. However, it is hard to imagine such change will be drastic  when the person promising this change, Ubisoft’s CEO, was one of the more prolific perpetrators of abuse and misconduct. His direct involvement was not addressed in the statement.

One of the more talked-about aspects of Bloomberg’s article was the way in which the sexism at Ubisoft seeped into the games they publish. Ubisoft’s marketing department allegedly told developers that “female protagonists won’t sell”, in reference to one of the Assassins’ Creed: Odyssey playable characters, Kassandra. According to the report, originally AC: Odysseywas meant to have Kassandra as the single main character, but developers were told that “wasn’t an option”, and the choice to play as either Alexios or Kassandra was implemented. 

Many on social media have (rightly) expressed their anger at the idea that female characters don’t sell video games, referencing protagonists such as Lara Croft, Aloy from Horizon Zero Dawn, Samus from the Metroid series and Bayonetta as examples of women who are badass and are main characters in some of the best selling video games of all time. 

There are clearly changes that need to be made in the video game industry. With four male employees for every one female at Ubisoft, it highlights just how male-dominated the games development industry is. Promises of change from the top are no good if the top people are the perpetrators of this abuse, but hopefully the #MeToo movement and the bravery of the Ubisoft employees can inspire real change from within.

[Featured image: Ubisoft Studios Twitter (@Ubisoft)]
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