So, as you can probably tell, this isn’t a Star Trek post. Don’t worry, I’m going to be recapping the next TOS episode next week. This week, there have been some recent, shall we say, shenanigans that I’ve decided I’d rather talk about instead.
As it turns out, the French video game developer Ubisoft has a bit of a sexual assault/harassment problem. So that’s fun! Though not really.
So what is Ubisoft, you may be asking. Well, as I mentioned above, it’s a French-based game developer and publisher, founded in 1986 by the Guillemot brothers. Yves Guillemot is the current CEO of the company, and has been since 1988. They’re the developers behind the insanely popular Assassin’s Creed franchise, among other titles.
There are four other people that really have a bearing on this particular story, however: Maxime Béland, Serge Hascoet, Yannis Mallat, and Cécile Cornet. Let’s start with Maxime Béland.
Béland had been the company’s vice president, at least up until he resigned earlier this month. The reason for his resignation? Why, that would be multiple allegations of inappropriate workplace behavior, of course! The best (actually worst) of the allegations? That he choked a female employee at a launch party for Far Cry 4 at the company’s Toronto branch.
Another three also resigned: Hascoet, Mallat, and Cornet. Hascoet was allowed to resign because of some allegations of his own. Apparently he liked to hold meetings at strip clubs, which is totally professional and not creepy at all. Also, he had a lot of creative control over Ubisoft’s projects, which also explains why so few of their games had female protagonists; not that they’re “too hard to animate” which was the excuse du jour a few years back. Allegations against Mallat (Ubisoft Canada’s ex-CEO) of sexual harassment also lead to him leaving. Cornet, who was the head of HR, also resigned. I’m guessing that this because several complaints were lodged about the people above, and she basically didn’t do her job.
I would like to repeat that the above people weren’t fired, but were allowed to resign, while an investigation into their whole deal is apparently ongoing. I’m not really sure how ongoing that investigation really is, though, because Ubisoft appears to want all of this to just go away.
See, around this time Ubisoft decided to start a new hashtag on Twitter, #Ubiforward. It also came with a new website detailing a bunch of stuff about new games and whatnot. Know what isn’t present there? Any kind of acknowledgement of the shit going down in their company.
Which isn’t to say that they didn’t address it. They did, in the most half-assed way possible, and without a hashtag in sight. Almost as if they didn’t want people to actually see it. Because it would make the company look bad.
Hey, you know what else makes the company look bad? Rampant sexual harassment and assault of employees.
Speaking of which, some folks have been wondering how much, if anything, Yves Guillemot knew about the situation. He’s asked that in the article I just linked, and his response comes across as intentionally vague, and dodging the question. Personally, I find it hard to believe that he didn’t know something was happening. The people implicated were in positions of authority in the company. He had to have known something.
I think what pisses me off the most is that the game industry (the “AAA” one, at least) is rife with abuse. The also French-based developer Quantic Dreams has had similar sexual harassment and abuse allegations levied against it. Netherrealm Studios, the developer behind the last three Mortal Kombat games, has fielded reports of workers developing PTSD symptoms after being forced to watch hours upon hours of real, graphic violence to emulate for the game’s fatalities. And by that, I basically mean snuff films. Hell, the writers behind a visual novel app called Lovestruck have decided to strike due to low wages and general fuckery.
Add to that the almost continuous crunch imposed by workers in the industry, and you have yourself a rather unpleasant situation.
In this case, though, I would like to point out a silver lining. Apparently there is a class action lawsuit in the works against Ubisoft, and I personally hope they take them for every penny they have.
All of this makes one thing extremely clear, and its something I’ve been saying for years now: the game industry needs to unionize. It’s really the only way that these abuses will actually stop.
Oh, and also fuck Ubisoft. Fuck the whole AAA industry, while we’re at it.