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Ubisoft staff call for more change, "explanations" around harassment

Update: A Better Ubisoft makes additional claims about low pay and ignored questions around toxicity

Update, September 23, 2022: A Better Ubisoft has reached out to GamesIndustry.biz with additional claims against Ubisoft.

In comments originally sent to Axios, members of the group say management has now stopped answering questions, anonymous or otherwise, about issues not directly related to the agenda of town hall meetings "which means many burning topics can't be publicly discussed."

"Reporting occurrences of abuse anonymously can still end in victim shaming or asking who the victim was again and again when they asked not to be named, or be treated quickly and acted on accordingly, protecting the victim and sanctioning the perpetrator," said one developer.

Another added that they believe their report of sexual harassment was only taken seriously because it was presented as a formal complaint.

"If I hadn't written that, I'm not sure how it would've gone, but in the meetings since I've been asked if I spoke to the harasser about these issues before sending my formal complaint," they said.

"So I can imagine, in line with the workplace policy, that would've still been their go-to response: to ask me to manage the situation myself."

The group also says the company always refers to the issue internally as a "change of culture" without using more specific terms such as abuse, harassment, racism, sexism and toxicity, and that management are ignoring the root causes of the issues.

"They seem happy to announce that a large number of staff members have not experienced harassment, without taking into account that the majority of staff is less likely to be victims of misconduct while underrepresented demographics are most likely to experience it."

Another member questioned the effectiveness of the employee surveys Ubisoft says are issued to help identify problems: "There's really no communication regarding what actions they take based on that data, which makes it feel like the surveys are where the actions begin and end."

Finally, one developer said morale at their studio was so low, they decided to leave. They attributed this partly to the toxic culture, but also low pay "that local management openly admit is an issue, but then can't do anything because HQ won't give them the money."

GamesIndustry.biz reached out to Ubisoft, but the publisher said it had nothing to add to previous comments.

Original Story, September 16, 2022: Assassin's Creed publisher Ubisoft continues to come under fire from its own workers, with more staff claiming the changes made at the company since the 2020 abuse allegations have had minimal impact.

A new report from Axios shares thoughts from staff, including those at the publisher's Paris headquarters, who continue to call for improvements to its workplace.

Game designer Marc Rutschlé told the publication: "It's not harassers who create toxic culture. It's a toxic culture that produces harassers."

He pointed to the lawsuit filed last year, which is still expected to take five or more years to unfold, as a key avenue of hope for Ubisoft staff.

"We want explanations," he said. "The toxic people who left the company – because a large part of them just left and were not fired – never gave any explanation for their behaviour. This will be the opportunity to hear them, in a court of law."

Rutschlé is also calling for more structural changes, including the hiring of more women and more transparency around investigations.

Other sources speaking to Axios said that the only way the issue has been addressed is that people are more aware of the problems, rather than that the problems have been fixed. This is also attributed more to the "brave employees who spoke out and continue to speak out" than it is to management.

One source even claims the changes the company has made are actually having the opposite effect.

"All the recent additional harassment, abuse and D&I training has taught managers how to say the right things – or at least not say the wrong things – and appear to act correctly," they said.

"But in my experience much of the change is superficial."

These comments follow a recent interview with A Better Ubisoft, the group formed by current and former employees to campaign for changes to the company's workplace culture.

The group claimed that, for all the improvements and additional measures put in place, there are still abusers at large within the company.

We spoke to Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot last week about this, to which he responded: "We have done a lot and I think we are a company that can be proud of itself. "We can always do better and so the people that are saying we should fix this and that are helping us to do better. We are open to criticisms, and when they are valid points, we go after them to solve them."

He added: "Ubisoft takes all allegations extremely seriously. While I can’t comment on specific cases, I can assure you that any team member who has been named in a report and remains at Ubisoft has had their case rigorously reviewed and has either been cleared, or has been appropriately disciplined and given an individualised action plan to support and monitor their progress."

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James Batchelor

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James Batchelor has been a journalist in the games industry since 2006, joining GamesIndustry in 2016, and also runs Non-Violent Game of the Day (@NVGOTD). He does play violent games, but always on Story/Easy mode.

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