Over the past few weeks, dozens of people connected to the game industry have shared stories of abuse on Twitter. One company, in particular, Ubisoft, has had multiple allegations leveled against high-ranking employees, including executives Tommy François and Maxime Béland. In a story from Kotaku, Ethan Gach reports that employees of Ubisoft Toronto are speaking up to leadership “with grave concerns about ongoing reported harassment and an inability to feel safe or protected within our own studio” in a letter signed by more than 100 employees.
The report includes several stories about behavior at Ubisoft, including a particularly disturbing incident in which Béland put his hands around a female employee’s neck. Sources describe a culture in which employees fear being branded as troublemakers for speaking up about problems. “A white guy can get away with just about anything, but I’ve seen a lot of women’s careers get destroyed by speaking up,” one former male Ubisoft employee told Kotaku. “And when the company structure is almost all white guys, women who ‘cause a fuss’ will get pushed out.”
Sources point to problems with HR, including Béland’s wife serving as interim head of HR, as well as systemic issues within the company’s culture and support of female employees. Gach writes:
In addition to parties to celebrate game launches and holidays, Ubisoft Toronto held monthly work parties called UbiBashes where people eat, drink, dance, and play games as the workday fades into evening. These events were billed as a way for the new hires constantly pouring in at the rapidly expanding studio to meet and socialize with coworkers. They could even be a lot of fun. But some former employees also blamed the parties, in conjunction with lax standards from leadership, for creating an atmosphere in which it was easier for incidents of harassment or sexual misconduct to be shrugged off.
Béland has since resigned from Ubisoft. François is currently on disciplinary leave, while investigations into other unnamed employees are in progress.