Hello, I’m Zainabb and welcome to GYGO! I hope that you’re being kind to yourself and extending a hand to the most marginalised members of your communities, whether that’s through protest, community care, or buying a bunch of games. Here’s this week’s news.
Content warnings: sexual assault and racism.
Ubisoft, Evo, and World of Warcraft Face (Some) Accountability Following Sexual Assault Allegations
In the wake of several sexual assault allegations, several video game companies and groups have taken steps towards accountability. Ubisoft has launched an internal investigation into complaints about sexual assault and a toxic workplace environment, whilst this year’s EVO Online has been canceled, and one of the largest World of Warcraft guilds has been gutted following accusations against one of its players.
Complaints of assault and abuse were leveled at senior employees at Ubisoft’s Toronto studio, resulting in the resignation of co-founder and Editorial VP Maxime Béland and Editorial VP Tommy François being placed on disciplinary leave. A third, unnamed employee has been fired, whilst several other senior employees have resigned.
Top Ubisoft executives Yannis Mallat (head of Canadian studios) and Cecile Cornet (head of HR) are also gone. Ubisoft is cleaning house.
— Jason Schreier (@jasonschreier) July 11, 2020
With employees describing the workplace environment as toxic and claims of sexist and abusive interactions being an everyday occurrence, Ubisoft’s internal investigation is only a small step towards proper accountability, which must result in an overhaul of the company’s culture, and hiring and complaint practices. Ubisoft has outlined some of the steps they are taking towards fostering a safer and more inclusive working environment but won’t be able to release the outcomes of these efforts until their internal investigation is complete.
Finally, World of Warcraft guild Method has faced an exodus of members as they left the group following sexual assault accusations against one of the guild’s top players, MethodJosh. MethodJosh was banned from Twitch last year and recently removed from Method after the details of the Twitch ban came to light. Method co-CEO Sascha Steffens has also been accused of inappropriate sexual behaviour.
Several of Method’s teams have since resigned, including its Path of Exile team and teams in both Europe and America. Over fifty streamers and advertisers have also cut ties with the group in a positive show of solidarity with survivors, leaving the future of Method uncertain.
Orion Black Leaves Wizards of the Coast, Detailing Their Experiences of Professional Misconduct
Narrative designer Orion Black has shared their experiences of working on Dungeons & Dragons at Wizards of the Coast, outlining professional misconduct, a hostile working environment, and WOTC’s lack of commitment to diversity and inclusion.
It's July 3th and I no longer work for Wizards of the Coast. I no longer work on D&D. https://t.co/XLEmwEg1Ge
— Orion D. Black -They/Them- (@DungeonCommandr) July 4, 2020
Black accuses the company of exploiting Black workers, suggesting that they were a “diversity hire” as their values were not respected and their critique ignored and rejected. They shared an example of their work being stolen by a colleague, and detailed the pressure they faced to stay silent about the issues at WOTC.
Despite the company’s public talk about improving diversity and inclusion and removing racist representation in D&D and Magic: The Gathering, in practice, Black says they experienced hostility, rejection, and pushback when bringing up issues to be resolved within the organisation and within work on D&D itself, including the need to pay Black freelancers equally.
Since Black’s statement, several actual-play content creators have made the decision to end their D&D campaigns and move to different systems (and game creators) that better reflect and uphold values of inclusion, respect, and justice for marginalised people. The Broadswords and d20 Dames will stop playing D&D at the end of their current campaigns.
1/4 After careful reflection and much discussion, we at d20 Dames have decided to see our campaign through to its natural conclusion, at which point we plan on switching to a different game. Our podcast is all-femme and predominantly WOC and –
— d20 Dames are staying home (@d20Dames) July 9, 2020
D&D responded to Black’s statement in a tweet, apologising for their “negative experiences” and describing Black’s statement as “an opportunity for us to improve the experiences of all those who contribute to our company and community.” It does not seem like they have reached out directly to Black, and it’s important to note that Black also provided the company with many “opportunities” to improve while they were contracted, in conversations that Black notes were rejected. Positive experiences for marginalised people within a community or company are fostered only upon a foundation of respect, understanding, and fairness. WOTC may want to begin by paying Black contractors equally, and listening to the years of complaints of racism and discrimination both within their organisation and their games.
Well, and I do mean this as politely as I can, the first step is to hire BIPOC and let them direct the business of portraying different kinds of people in your gaming properties. Like, let black, Asian, indigenous, and other people show you how it's done, and pay them for it!
— Jesse Heinig (@JesseHeinig) June 18, 2020
Wizards of the Coast purports to be inclusive and diverse when in reality they have a long history of racially discriminatory behavior, avoiding accountability through a culture of secrecy and fear.
They are an unequivocally racist company:https://t.co/yNWHKMILQm
— Zaiem Beg 😷 (@zbeg) June 8, 2020
So looking at this situation, A bunch of marginalized consultants will be joining D&D, hit with a Gag Clause, and then made unable to speak up publicly if things go wrong? Its a situation primed for disaster. D&D is NOT making a space that is safe for marginalized groups. (7/18)
— Russ Wilde 🏳️🌈 #BLM (@RussWildest) June 19, 2020
In other news…
EA has announced a Sims 4 reality TV show where players compete to create the most compelling in-game stories. The four-episode series begins on July 17th and you can watch the trailer below.
Nintendo has finally introduced cross-save for multiplatform Switch games, allowing players to save and continue their progress between their Switch and their PC. Titles that now feature cross-save include Fortnite, Minecraft, and Divinity: Original Sin 2.
Amazon Studios is developing a television series based on the Fallout franchise, working with Bethesda and Westworld creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy. There aren’t any details yet but Amazon have released a teaser for the project.
— Amazon Studios (@AmazonStudios) July 2, 2020
World of Warcraft pro and streamer Byron “Reckful” Bernstein has died at 31 years old. Bernstein, who had been struggling with his mental health, died by suicide. He was developing his own game, Everland, and was best known for his popular World of Warcraft streams on Twitch. If you need support, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on 1-800-273-8255 in the US, call the Samaritans on 116 123 in the UK, and you can find a list of international support lines and crisis centres here.
Naughty Dog has released a statement condemning online harassment of the developers who worked on The Last of Us Part II. In response to hateful and bigoted harassment, including threats of violence, the studio called for a “constructive and compassionate discourse”, stating that the safety of their team is their “top priority”.
Apparently, but not surprisingly, the US Army has its own Twitch channel, continuing the gamification of military recruitment, which may also lead to the desensitisation of military personnel and the dehumanisation of their targets. On a recent Call of Duty stream, viewers were banned for asking questions about US war crimes, which the US Army esports team claim constitutes harassment, and which continues America’s ongoing avoidance of accountability for atrocities committed both at home and overseas.
In good news, you can get some excellent visual novels whilst supporting Black trans people in itch.io’s new Visual Novel Romance Collection for Black Trans Lives. The bundle comes with 14 titles for $10 or more, with proceeds going to The Okra Project, an organisation that provides mental health and community services to Black trans people. Titles include some queer faves, including Ladykiller in a Bind, Heaven Will Be Mine, and Arcade Spirits.