Over the past month, Ubisoft has been embroiled in one of the largest scandals in industry history, with more than a dozen ex-employees alleging that the video game publisher is a haven of misogyny and sexual harassment. Now, Bloomberg News has published a lengthy report that reveals new details about the ingrained culture of toxicity at many of Ubisoft’s studios, allegedly enabled by executives that prioritized family connections over complaints of misconduct.
One of the most upsetting anecdotes comes early in the piece. In the company’s Paris headquarters, during a presentation of an important game led by a woman–who was out of the room at the time–chief creative officer Serge Hascoët pulled up a YouTube video of a French song that describes sexually explicit acts with a woman with the same name as the presenter, pausing it when she came back into the room. (Hascoët has since been removed from his position.) A racist anecdote from the publisher’s Bulgarian office describes multiple staff members calling the Black Star Wars actor John Boyega a “monkey.”
This culture of sexism seeped into the publisher’s games. The report focuses on how it affected the Assassin’s Creed series, stating that scripts were changed in development to focus more on male characters, particularly in Syndicate and Origins. According to the piece, Syndicate was supposed to feature the twins Jacob and Evie equally, through Jacob ultimately ended up with much more screen time. Origins’ male hero Bayek was set to be injured or killed early in the game, and players would assume control of his wife Aya, but that changed over the course of development. The latest game in the series, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, originally only allowed players to control Kassandra, a woman. However, when members of the publisher’s male-dominated editorial team said that a female protagonist wouldn’t sell, players were ultimately given the choice of Kassandra or her brother Alexios.
In recent weeks, a number of employees have left Ubisoft in the wake of similar allegations, including a marketing manager and several executives named in the report. The creative director of the upcoming Assassin’s Creed Valhalla also stepped down following accusations of infidelity.
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