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Ubisoft staff back Activision Blizzard protests, decry 'ingrained culture of abusive behavior'

"By choosing profit over our security, you are literally toying with our lives. We should not have to choose between work and our safety."

Ubisoft employees have voiced their support for protesting Activision Blizzard developers and called for more accountability and action to combat "a widespread and deeply ingrained culture of abusive behavior" within the games industry.

As reported by Axios, almost 500 current and former Ubisoft workers signed a letter criticizing the Assassin's Creed publisher, Activision Blizzard, and other industry-leading companies for allowing toxicity to take root and flourish through seemingly willful inaction.

The letter was released as Activision Blizzard employees staged a walkout at Blizzard Entertainment's headquarters in Irvine, CA, to voice their anger at the company's dismissive response to a lawsuit filed by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. 

That lawsuit called out a "frat boy" culture at Activision Blizzard, and contained a number of sexual harassment and discrimination allegations that were initially dismissed by Activision Blizzard as "distorted" and "false" descriptions of the company's past. 

"To the workers of Activision Blizzard, we hear you and want to loudly declare our solidarity with you. Over the past week, the games industry has once again been rocked by revelations that have long been known by too many of us. Revelations that a year ago many were hearing about Ubisoft," reads the letter, shared in full on Twitter by Axios Gaming newsletter co-author, Stephen Totilo.

"It is clear, from the frequency of these reports, that there is a widespread and deeply ingrained culture of abusive behavior within the industry. It should no longer be a surprise to anyone: employees, executives, journalists, or fans that these heinous acts are going on. It is time to stop being shocked. We must demand real steps be taken to prevent them. Those responsible must be held accountable for their actions. We believe you, we stand with you and support you."

The letter goes on to directly question why Ubisoft management has offered nothing but "kind words, empty promises, and an inability or unwillingness to remove known offenders" after a number of serious allegations were made against key staff at Ubisoft studios around the world.

While some of those allegations were made in public, an extensive report published by Gamasutra last year found the cycle of abuse and misconduct ran deep at Ubisoft, with over a dozen former and current Ubisoft employees explaining how the company had spent years building its workplace culture on a bedrock of toxicity and deniability.

"You need to do more," the letter tells Ubisoft management. "That does not mean more training sessions that go ignored by the people who need them most, and that does not mean more re-assurances and kind words. It means real, impactful action. The only way to fix something so ingrained is the remove the pillars that are complicit with it, be it by actively taking part or by supporting it.

"This is not only a matter of process, focus groups, PR management or eduction. This is a matter of people's lives, their mental and physical health. By choosing profit over our security, you are literally toying with our lives. We should not have to choose between work and our safety.

"We have stood by and watched as you fired only the most public offenders. You let the rest either resign or worse, promoted them, moved the from studio to studio, team to team, giving them second chance after second chance with no repercussions. This cycle needs to stop." 

In order to bring about meaningful change, the letter proposes that Ubisoft, Activision Blizzard, and others collaborate with each other and create a set of rules and processes for handling reports of misconduct. The collective employees of Ubisoft have also demanded a seat at the table when it comes to deciding how to move forward, and warned management that "ignorance is not an excuse, not in law and certainly not in the eyes of your employees."

"This collaboration must heavily involve employees in non-management positions and union representatives," they explain. "This is essential to ensure that those who are directly affected by these behaviors are leading the change."

In response, Ubisoft said it wanted to be clear that it takes the letter and the issues it raises "very seriously," before adding that it has already made commitments to engage with its employees to "enact fundamental changes."  It's unclear whether the company intends to take further action to address the specific concerns highlighted in the letter, although it did note "there is still more work to be done" to create a safe and inclusive work environment.

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