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CW: Sexual harassment and assault
Ubisoft said it is "deeply concerned" by the sexual harassment and assault allegations leveled against two of its employees, which come after Dying Light 2 narrative designer Chris Avellone was accused of using his influence and status to prey on women in the games industry.
The company's product and brand marketing manager Andrien Gbinigie (a.k.a.'Escoblades') has been accused of sexual harassment and assault by a number of women, while its associate public relations director Stone Chin has also been called out for "predatory behavior" including incidents reported nearly a decade ago.
In a statement to Gamasutra regarding accusations this week against Gbinigie and Chin, a Ubisoft rep said, "We are deeply concerned by these accusations. We take any allegations of abuse or harassment very seriously and we are looking closely into the allegations to determine next steps."
Several first-hand accounts posted online detail how Gbinigie abused his position of power to manipulate, harass, and assault multiple women. One person recalls how Gbinigie pressured her into reciprocating his "flirtatious" advances and "sexual comments" when she was 18 years old, and after apologizing for that initial behavior over a year later, how he then groped and raped her at an industry event.
Regarding the rape accusation, they claim Gbinigie asked them to meet him and some friends in a hotel lobby ahead of a PAX industry party. Gbinigie, however, arrived alone, and asked if they wanted to head to his friends' room, where the rest of the group was apparently waiting. After brushing aside a "feeling of panic" and following Gbinigie to the room, they saw there was no one else in the room.
"I’m still not ready to relive the intimate details publicly, but that’s when he forced himself on me. It wasn’t the longest experience as, as he said at the time, his friends were expecting us - but it was enough for him to get out of me what he’d clearly wanted from the start, and to put me in my place," they wrote.
"It’s taken a long time and a lot of therapy to stop listening to words that are burned into my brain - 'you should be grateful' - to forgive myself for the fact that at a certain point I stopped fighting him, and to try to be okay as I can be with the fact that my first experience with sex at all was rape. It wasn’t the longest experience, but it was enough to still fuck me up to this day."
Others have also shared their personal experiences with Gbinigie, highlighting a pattern of abusive and manipulative behavior that stretches back years. In one instance, Gbinigie is accused of gaslighting a colleague and manipulating them into having sex with him.
"He invited me to Gamescom 2017, to see him, to be with him. Once we were there he was publicly neutral towards me. We had sex. Immediately after Gamescom he went cold and dropped me. Made me feel insane for thinking we could be more. He used me for sex, I was an easy get," reads another account.
"He went to a female friend of mine who works PR and lied to them, told them I was mentally unstable. Discredited me whilst I was sat there questioning myself. I felt like such a fucking idiot. I still do."
Additional sexual misconduct allegations have been shared through third-parties to protect the identities of those involved, including some that implicate longtime Ubisoft employee Stone Chin. Chin is specifically accused of using his position within Ubisoft's public relations team to prey on multiple women, with many claiming his behavior has been an "open secret" for some time.
At the time of writing, Gbinigie has posted a response to rape allegation on Medium (which has since been taken down by the website) to "categorically and vehemently deny" the claim, although he hasn't addressed -- or denied -- any of the other allegations made against him. Chin has yet to issue a statement.
Update 6/25/20: Ubisoft has released a general statement covering an outpouring of accusations against multiple current and past employees, saying that it has partnered with an external consultant to address allegations of abuse, assault, and racism.
This is also the statement Gamasutra recieved in reply to an earlier email for background on the investigations mentioned in the above original article, as well as information on what is being done in response to allegations against Maxime Beland, as well as instances of harassment within the Community Development team, the sexual assault allegations against Ubisoft Massive director Antoine Emond, and cases of racism, homophobia, and sexism at Ubisoft Sofia. Ubisoft's full statement can be found below:
"Concerning recent allegations raised against certain Ubisoft team members: We want to start by apologizing to everyone affected by this – we are truly sorry. We are dedicated to creating an inclusive and safe environment for our teams, players, and communities. It is clear we have fallen short of this in the past. We must do better.
"We have started by launching investigations into the allegations with the support of specialized external consultants. Based on the outcomes, we are fully committed to taking any and all appropriate disciplinary action. As these investigations are ongoing, we can't comment further. We are also auditing our existing policies, processes, and systems to understand where these have broken down, and to ensure we can better prevent, detect, and punish inappropriate behavior.
"We will be sharing additional measures that we are putting in place with our teams in the coming days. Our goal is to foster an environment that our employees, partners, and communities can be proud of –one that reflects our values and that is safe for everyone."