New Schreier report on Ubisoft

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pappafost

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There's a new Jason Schreier article about the sexual misconduct allegations at Ubisoft.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-07-21/ubisoft-sexual-misconduct-scandal-harassment-sexism-and-abuse

He lists off so many incidents that in my mind these things are not a fluke but a wide-spread problem. He interviewed three dozen current and former employees. Sometimes these things are hard to prove, but honestly, my view on sexual harassment allegations is where there is smoke there is fire. There are just too many examples for this not to be a widespread problem.

It's like HR had a complaint box that went straight into the shredder!

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plan6

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Yeah, pro-tip for life: HR exists to protect the company, not the employees. If you have CEOs that are that level of trash, don't be shocked when the HR is equal levels of trash. But the entire thing puts a lot of quotes about women in the AC games into a whole new context.

From a form Ubisoft employee who dealt with this exact problem.

https://twitter.com/ghostordie/status/1285622406107799553

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Humanity

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Back when Schreier wrote for Kotaku I happily read his stuff. I'm not about to get a Bloomberg subscription so I've missed on his his last few pieces and honestly I think a lot of others are missing out as well. Good on him for moving on, but I do think having these sort of articles behind a paywall will hurt the message.

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plan6

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Given how Kotaku is on fire and its CEO killed Deadspin, I think he made the right move. The message won't exist if the man doesn't have an outlet to report for. I don't subscribe to Bloomberg, but I do have two news paper subscriptions because I think its a good idea to pay for good reporting.

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csl316

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Hmm, I can read this one without a sub, it seems like.

In any case, probably gonna be a tough read, but for some reason I'm gonna read it. Which is making me wonder why I want to read something depressing in the first place.

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bwheeeler

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I'm one of the weirdos who LOVED Origins and Odyssey and was stoked for Valhalla. Not any more. Could not be less interested knowing what went into making that world.

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frytup

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#7  Edited By frytup
@humanity said:

Back when Schreier wrote for Kotaku I happily read his stuff. I'm not about to get a Bloomberg subscription so I've missed on his his last few pieces and honestly

Bloomberg gives you a couple free articles a month. And it's probably not difficult to manipulate that with some creative cookie management.

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subracore

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@plan6 said:

Yeah, pro-tip for life: HR exists to protect the company, not the employees. If you have CEOs that are that level of trash, don't be shocked when the HR is equal levels of trash. But the entire thing puts a lot of quotes about women in the AC games into a whole new context.

From a form Ubisoft employee who dealt with this exact problem.

https://twitter.com/ghostordie/status/1285622406107799553

Wow. Reading through Schreier's article and some of the tweets from former Ubisoft employees is pretty horrific. Please change the disclaimer at the start of their games to be "Designed, developed and produced by a multicultural team of various beliefs, sexual orientations and gender identities that were regularly sexually harassed, abused, and ignored or even punished for speaking out"

I wish I could say I was shocked by some of the allegations - like how could men who host meetings at strip clubs, choke coworkers and grab their genitals, push them to drink excessively and drug them without their knowledge keep working or be promoted??? - but the rot runs deep and is everywhere in this industry and many others. Thankfully some of this is getting out there but letting a couple of the worst offenders go and quickly trying to pivot to business as usual is clearly not enough; everyone in a supervisory or managerial position is complicit in building and maintaining an abusive workplace if they did not actively try to correct these problems. Yves and many others at Ubisoft were either enabling this behavior or (if we're being naively charitable) dangerously incompetent - in either case completely unfit to continue leading and protecting those that continue to work at the company. They would all have to go for me to be comfortable in buying another of their products, so I think it's pretty safe to say I'll never purchase another Ubisoft game.

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north6

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#9  Edited By north6

Do people think the assassin's creed games are sexist? Kind of lost me there in the article., when the article infers that the lack of female mc's in AC games proves they are sexist. There's no shortage of clearly sexist accusations already detailed in the article around the studio heads actually taking sexist actions, this doesn't really help.

I've always thought of AC games as the most made by committee, least offensive, bland games, but maybe that's just my mind rolling up all of the stories together after Brotherhood once they lost control / seemingly stopped caring about the "future" storyline. The London one was OK too I guess? Big blind spot for me if people are reading sexism into games made years ago attempting to portray a narrative various centuries ago. I would have liked to have seen a female MC sooner, but I wouldn't call that sexist.

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ll_Exile_ll

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@north6: It's not that the game's are full of outwardly sexist content, but they definitely have a long history of not really featuring any prominent or well realized female characters. With like over a dozen games, the only one with a strictly female protagonist was the Vita game (Syndicate and Odyseey have female protagonist options alongside male protagonists). Any one game with a male protagonist having mostly male characters in the story is fine, I don't think anyone was calling FF XV sexist because it was a boys road trip game because that series has had female protagonists in the past and usually a lot of female characters.

Assassin's Creed having as many games as it did and being always male focused stories was a pattern. You can't really argue that's a coincidence that there are so few female characters after that many games, it's deliberate. A pattern of female exclusion in the storytelling isn't as overtly egregious as obvious misogynistic content, but it's still not great. There's also that famous excuse they gave about not ever having playable female characters because it would be too hard to animate, which is just ridiculous reasoning.

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SethMode

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#11  Edited By SethMode

@north6: I can't recall a point in the piece where it was stated that the games themselves encouraged sexist behavior, it simply points out that options for a female protagonist weren't there for a long time largely because they were shot down by the sexist culture within Ubisoft. As @ll_exile_ll said, for starters, that Unity situation was INSANE and SO STUPID and just oozed a sexist culture spilling out into the game, but even more than that, the idea that Kassandra in Odyssey (the character considered better almost universally in nearly every way) was SUPPOSED to be the only character, but a male protagonist was forced in in fear that female protagonists "don't sell" (another entirely absurd thing to say). Or hell, dropping the part where you play as Aya altogether from Origins, which taken with the entire situation as a whole, reeks of sexist and exclusionary behavior.

Anyway, my larger point is, at no point in this piece did I think Schreier was pointing at AC games and saying "these are sexist". It directly argues that heir development was made by sexists who didn't even want to diverse options, which is an inherently sexist situation.

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Intradictus

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@sethmode: I knew about the Unity thing but I didn't know they wanted to cut the Aya sections or Alexios being a last minute addition. That is unfortunately unsurprising. I made the mistake of looking at the comments on a GameSpot article taking about Schreier's piece and remembered why I tend to hate capital G gamers and also why this sort of culture can persist

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north6

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Gundato

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@north6: In the grand scheme of things they are probably some of the better game portrayal of women. But they are far from good and that is more just a reflection on the rest of gaming generally being a massive shitshow

Off the top of my head

  1. Cool Templar knight Altair fights almost immediately becomes "personality free mother of his child"
  2. Most of Ezio's "conquests" (because there really is no other term for the vast majority of women he encounters) exist to show how macho he is or to be a damsel
  3. Lucy (Kristen Bell's character in the Desmond time) gets straight up shanked and everyone forgets about it outside of a brief DLC most folk never played. A lot of that probably had to do with contract negotiations but it is still pretty shitty
  4. I don't remember much of Connor's mother but I suspect she didn't exist outside of being a way to get a Mostly White guy some native american powers. Probably more one for racism but still. Also, I think she got fridged?
  5. Women models are difficult and expensive
  6. I mostly tapped out after AssFlag (which was actually surprisingly good about things to the point I wonder if Yves et al forgot asscreed existed for a few years) but I remember reading that the reason that Haytham was a Templar is that Edward's daughter got kidnapped and sold into slavery and that made Haytham angry or some shit? So... some REALLY bad tropes coupled with even more "women as plot motivations"
  7. While I think that focusing on Bayek actually made for a more interesting story in Origins (he really didn't give a shit about the war and just wanted closure for the loss of his child) it is hard to look at that game, and previous hints, and not realize Aya was meant to take over the protagonist role at some point since it is really her story

They manage to roll in a LOT of shittiness toward women over the course of the games. On its own most of that can be attributed to background radiations level of misogyny in gaming but coupled with the allegations of needing "white alpha males" and...

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Shindig

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I cannot forget Kristen Bell getting shivved. It came out of nowhere and I assume it went nowhere as well?

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@shindig said:

I cannot forget Kristen Bell getting shivved. It came out of nowhere and I assume it went nowhere as well?

Kinda. If I remember correctly, she didn't want to continue with the character anymore so they had to find a way to write her out. But the whole "Surprise! She was a Templar all along!" and then not doing anything with it beyond Desmond having some vague guilt over the situation was a lame way to do it.

The worse one for central story purposes is actually Juno. They spend like, 3 or 4 games setting her up as the Big Bad, only to kill her off in a shitty comic book no one read. And then didn't mention that in subsequent games. Because reasons.

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Humanity

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@therealturk: oh really? I always wondered why they never talked about Juno again. The only good part of AC3 for me was the modern day stuff. All the American revolution parts were mostly a complete slog with Connor being possibly the most unlikeable protagonist I’ve ever played as.

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@north6: I only ever played the Ezio games, but I remember being super grossed out that getting layed was legit Ezio's reward for some sidequests.

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#19  Edited By north6

@therealturk said:

@shindig said:

I cannot forget Kristen Bell getting shivved. It came out of nowhere and I assume it went nowhere as well?

Kinda. If I remember correctly, she didn't want to continue with the character anymore so they had to find a way to write her out. But the whole "Surprise! She was a Templar all along!" and then not doing anything with it beyond Desmond having some vague guilt over the situation was a lame way to do it.

The worse one for central story purposes is actually Juno. They spend like, 3 or 4 games setting her up as the Big Bad, only to kill her off in a shitty comic book no one read. And then didn't mention that in subsequent games. Because reasons.

Wow - The Juno stuff was legit the most interesting part of AC, and I was genuinely fascinated by that storyline. It is probably telling that I have played almost all of the games and finished at least two since Brotherhood and had no idea what happened to that character, and eventually cared so little about the story that I stopped wondering what they did with her, but yeah, that tracks. What a shitshow of storytelling. Hopefully this shakeup puts some new life in their writing.

I was never really sure how much influence Jade Raymond had in the first AC, but it is still probably my favorite, if just for how groundbreaking it was at the time. More of this. Been a slow downhill slide since then with some minor upticks.

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Shindig

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Nah, I felt like Assassins Creed was dressed up to be something more free-form than it was. One of the few games I've had genuine buyer's remorse from,

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@north6: Yeah. I only found out about it because I had to look up what happened. She was literally a giant floating head in part of Syndicate. Then Origins came along and she was nowhere to be found. Since interactions with her were sort of a "hidden" thing where you needed a ton of collectables to unlock that bit of the game, I assumed that I had missed something so I went for a guide.

Turn out, nope. Just killed offscreen. It sucks because it was one of the few ways the modern day stuff might have gotten genuinely interesting. Instead they went all in on the Layla Hassan character. And with all due respect to the shit going on at UbiSoft and the acknowledging the absolute need for more female leads in games - her character suuuuuuucks.

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north6

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@davikaze said:

@north6: I only ever played the Ezio games, but I remember being super grossed out that getting layed was legit Ezio's reward for some sidequests.

Ah ok. Are you grossed out by sex, or the hamhanded way it was delivered by the writing?

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plan6

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@north6: sex as a mission reward is super gross. It is on par with “if I give some enough gifts they will have sex with me“ as a game mechanic. There is no magic series of tasks one can due to get another person to bang them.

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aktivity

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@davikaze said:

@north6: I only ever played the Ezio games, but I remember being super grossed out that getting layed was legit Ezio's reward for some sidequests.

Which were those? I'm honestly curious, I cannot remember that being the case for any of the women in the Ezio games. There were definitely several damsels in distress, but besides some flirtations I don't remember any of those leading to sex. The only (implied) sex scenes I remember happened at the beginning of AC2 and Brotherhood and those weren't sidequest rewards.

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@plan6 said:

@north6: sex as a mission reward is super gross. It is on par with “if I give some enough gifts they will have sex with me“ as a game mechanic. There is no magic series of tasks one can due to get another person to bang them.

Yes, it's hard to imagine how so many capital G "Gamers" ended up being some blend of nice guy asshole or incel with rewards like this so rampant in games for so long (and still).

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Humanity

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I mean it's easy for everyone to sit here now and say "yah that was super gross" but Ezio is considered by many the best Assassins Creed protagonist. I always disliked him especially for this behavior. Not that he rescued a damsel in distress and a sex scene followed or anything (it's been too long and I don't even remember most of the quests from those games) but that whole care-free playboy suddenly turned master assassin angle felt off to me. Altair might have been a lot more square but his story had a trajectory with some redemption mixed in.

Although with everything coming to light now it's really hard to look at any of those characters the same way again. I will say that I always thought Bayek was incredibly lame and could not understand what people found interesting to him, and playing that game as the wife could potentially have been a lot more interesting. I mean grieving father or grieving mother doesn't really change much but the character herself could have room for better interactions.

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@sethmode said:
@plan6 said:

@north6: sex as a mission reward is super gross. It is on par with “if I give some enough gifts they will have sex with me“ as a game mechanic. There is no magic series of tasks one can due to get another person to bang them.

Yes, it's hard to imagine how so many capital G "Gamers" ended up being some blend of nice guy asshole or incel with rewards like this so rampant in games for so long (and still).

You make it sound like this wasn't present in all media.

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SethMode

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@shindig: Fair, but I personally could see the interactivity of games and the lack of really any games handling romantic or sexual relationships well for decades being a bit more influential, in my opinion.

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Lets be honest for a second here.

This kind of horrific abuse IS going on for years not only in gaming industry but most workplaces.

I have been victim of a mobbing in workplace for 2 years. I have a new job but I still haven't recovered fully. Just a side note, I've lost the job when I spoke out against mobbing.

As long as we live in a culture where victim is blamed, whistleblowers are shunned and stigmatized this will continue to happen.

I'm glad the lid has blown on Ubisoft and can only hope gaming industry and world as a whole become better place.

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north6

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#30  Edited By north6

@plan6 said:

@north6: sex as a mission reward is super gross. It is on par with “if I give some enough gifts they will have sex with me“ as a game mechanic. There is no magic series of tasks one can due to get another person to bang them.

I don't know the specifics for the AC question in particular here, but speaking generically I'd disagree. A "mission" is just a tool in a developers toolkit used for storytelling. I don't see how sex after/before/during a mission is better or worse than anything else. I'd understand the argument if it were "no sex in games", but objecting to sex as a component of a piece of storytelling seems odd. I'd similarly understand that the specific mission in question is written with ridiculous juvenile undertones, which seems likely.

But why object to sex in a mission? Seems like it's just limiting a capable storyteller/developer from interesting or provocative storytelling.

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north6

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@sethmode said:
@plan6 said:

@north6: sex as a mission reward is super gross. It is on par with “if I give some enough gifts they will have sex with me“ as a game mechanic. There is no magic series of tasks one can due to get another person to bang them.

Yes, it's hard to imagine how so many capital G "Gamers" ended up being some blend of nice guy asshole or incel with rewards like this so rampant in games for so long (and still).

Still not sure i understand the objection to this as a component of a mission, reward or otherwise. Would sex be better portrayed through the main story route?

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Shindig

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@sethmode said:

@shindig: Fair, but I personally could see the interactivity of games and the lack of really any games handling romantic or sexual relationships well for decades being a bit more influential, in my opinion.

But does that interactivity really lead to people going, "COOL! SEX!" or are they more likely to look at the XP prompt and then upgrade their throwing knives? For me, it's the latter.

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#33  Edited By Onemanarmyy

I will say that in Yakuza Kiwami, when i nearly maxed out a relationship with a club lady and got a sexy reward for it, i was surprised when the game mentioned that it would go even further if i maxed out the bar. At that point i had to know how far they would go with that.

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north6

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#34  Edited By north6

For the record, it may be a lack of my playing the right games, but there aren't many examples I'd classify as *good* examples of sex as a "reward" for missions. The closest I can come up with are Mass Effect, or Dragon Age - these genuinely add something to the narrative and don't occur unless you meet certain requirements. These are also probably the weakest parts of the interpersonal relationships you build with your crew though, and sort of feel obligatory.

This general lack of good evidence for what I'm referring to isn't proof that it can never be good so we should outlaw it, it's asking for dev's to do better. I understand that its tempting to say "because this has previously been lazy or juvenile, it will always be bad / gross, so it should never be given a chance."

Yakuza is a weird one, as I genuinely think its probably just supposed to be silly, but I could go either way on that. Also I've not completed those parts of Yakuza, but got far enough that I can assume how it goes.

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@north6 said:
@sethmode said:
@plan6 said:

@north6: sex as a mission reward is super gross. It is on par with “if I give some enough gifts they will have sex with me“ as a game mechanic. There is no magic series of tasks one can due to get another person to bang them.

Yes, it's hard to imagine how so many capital G "Gamers" ended up being some blend of nice guy asshole or incel with rewards like this so rampant in games for so long (and still).

Still not sure i understand the objection to this as a component of a mission, reward or otherwise. Would sex be better portrayed through the main story route?

Yes. Sex happens between consenting people when they decide they want to have sex with each other. Not because someone did all the things on a check list. Setting it up as a "Mission reward" or pay off when you give a female character enough gifts is a terrible way to model relationships. It makes a game mechanic out of the sexist theory that if you take a girl out on a date enough times, she will "Put out" or "Give it up."

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#36  Edited By DaviKaze

I wish I could remember specifics, but I think it was in Revelations. I can't recall anything about the quest, except that the quest-giver was immediately like, "Oh, great job, now we sex!" Maybe it was a race?

Since it seems to need to be explained, sex is not a reward you're entitled to under any circumstance. It is not a "prize". A quest reward is a prize you get for completing a quest.

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north6

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#37  Edited By north6

@plan6 said:
@north6 said:
@sethmode said:
@plan6 said:

@north6: sex as a mission reward is super gross. It is on par with “if I give some enough gifts they will have sex with me“ as a game mechanic. There is no magic series of tasks one can due to get another person to bang them.

Yes, it's hard to imagine how so many capital G "Gamers" ended up being some blend of nice guy asshole or incel with rewards like this so rampant in games for so long (and still).

Still not sure i understand the objection to this as a component of a mission, reward or otherwise. Would sex be better portrayed through the main story route?

Yes. Sex happens between consenting people when they decide they want to have sex with each other. Not because someone did all the things on a check list. Setting it up as a "Mission reward" or pay off when you give a female character enough gifts is a terrible way to model relationships. It makes a game mechanic out of the sexist theory that if you take a girl out on a date enough times, she will "Put out" or "Give it up."

Maybe this is a structural, or esoteric argument communication issue? I'm making two assumptions that you hopefully agree with. If not, then we probably don't have any basis to start from.

1. Despite almost all historical evidence to the contrary - Video games can effectively use sex to further a narrative. This is irrespective of how they choose to implement it.

2. Video game designers have to work within certain constraints. Barring some revolutionary design breakthrough, they have certain tools to use. Missions, (yes, with flags that are set ingame by completing certain tasks) are among them.

With those two assumptions in mind, I would argue that it is far more possible to create an interesting narrative where sex is used by allowing the player to have *some* agency in who, or how this might occur. The alternative is essentially a movie, where the player is forced into whatever narrative is pre-ordained. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, TLOU2 uses this to some positive effect (without going into spoilers). By definition, allowing the user any agency in this would *have* to be allowed with a mission. As I said in another post, there aren't a lot of great examples of this, but the closest I can come up with are Mass Effect/DA. This can absolutely be done more effectively.

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Gundato

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#38  Edited By Gundato
@ulfhedinn said:

Lets be honest for a second here.

This kind of horrific abuse IS going on for years not only in gaming industry but most workplaces.

Yes and no and I think understanding the distinction is very important

Yeah, there is still a lot of abuse in a lot of workplaces. Some microaggressions and some outright directed hostility. And, as folk will gladly point out, it is not HR's job to resolve disputes: it is HR's job to protect the company from them

What happened at ubisoft goes above and beyond that.

Yeah, stuff like Fuckface Serge Hascoet (who is apparently intended to be brought on as a consultant after his golden parachute?) insisting on games being made his way to his tastes are a very "entertaining" and easily citeable and are the kinds of iron fist "do it my way if you want to advance" bullshit that is in most companies

Ubi went beyond that. People were (assuming a standing "allegedly" from here on out) accused of physically assaulting (e.g. choking) people and outright CW sexually assaulting and raping people. And HR defended them, punished the victims (aside from the person who got a gift card for her troubles...), and outright moved people around to wait for the allegations to die down. And Yves either knew about this and enabled it or was so ridiculously negligent and incompetent that he never noticed the many attempts by his employees to ask for help.

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@shindig said:
@sethmode said:

@shindig: Fair, but I personally could see the interactivity of games and the lack of really any games handling romantic or sexual relationships well for decades being a bit more influential, in my opinion.

But does that interactivity really lead to people going, "COOL! SEX!" or are they more likely to look at the XP prompt and then upgrade their throwing knives? For me, it's the latter.

Again, you're not necessarily wrong, but part of the reason I made the distinction of capital G "Gamer" is because I absolutely know it's at times about "COOL SEX" in a lot of games. I'd say it played a hand in "waifu" becoming so popular in in the West. I've certainly seen it enough on places like Gamefaqs or segments of social media here people are bitching about vagina bones and female characters having smaller boobs.

Regardless, my purpose wasn't to cast a broad net, moreso to actually speak about a very real, very persistent portion of the hobby that is objectively terrible. I did not mean to offend if I did.

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north6

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#40  Edited By north6

@davikaze: I think I found that AC mission on youtube. Agreed, that's very a very stupid mission.

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Shindig

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@sethmode: Fine, I'll concede. Although I consider waifu culture to be more anime's problem of being for and made by perverts.

The type of sex depicted elsewhere in games is frankly like seeing two dolls bashed together. Or an implied cutaway.

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SethMode

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@shindig: I'm more than willing to agree that anime perverts are the cause of most problems.

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Humanity

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@shindig said:

@sethmode: Fine, I'll concede. Although I consider waifu culture to be more anime's problem of being for and made by perverts.

The type of sex depicted elsewhere in games is frankly like seeing two dolls bashed together. Or an implied cutaway.

The whole argument is the age old conundrum of "popular media is instructional in bad behavior" which has dated back to the days of violent movies turning teens into serial killers. Because they will watch it and imitate it. Agency in video games is still so far removed from real life that it's a stretch to assume sex as a reward in simple side quests will somehow influence the psyche of the player or condition them to think of sex as a "reward" - specifically because a lot of men, and probably women as well, already consider sex a reward without the help of video games. If anything if a game teaches someone that by giving a woman 5 gifts and taking her on 2 really nice dates you will "win" sex in the end, that is still better than the conclusion a lot of men have apparently come to on their own that you get that woman drunk and get to the sex that way.

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aktivity

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#45  Edited By aktivity

@north6: Could you point me to that video? All I'm getting is Sofia stuff.

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TheRealTurk

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@humanity said:

I mean it's easy for everyone to sit here now and say "yah that was super gross" but Ezio is considered by many the best Assassins Creed protagonist. I always disliked him especially for this behavior. Not that he rescued a damsel in distress and a sex scene followed or anything (it's been too long and I don't even remember most of the quests from those games) but that whole care-free playboy suddenly turned master assassin angle felt off to me. Altair might have been a lot more square but his story had a trajectory with some redemption mixed in.

To be fair, that's more on the gameplay/graphics than the writing. If I remember correctly, the story takes place over something like a 15-20 year period (Ezio is around 18-20 at the start of AC2, and he's 40 in Brotherhood, which picks up almost immediately after the end of 2). It's just that it gets compressed into around 20 hours of gameplay and the game isn't very good at showing the passage of time.

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tds418

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I love AC2 and Brotherhood, and even enjoy Revelations for the most part.

That said, there are Cristina missions in Brotherhood (I think that's the game?) that make me cringe. For example, in one mission Ezio pretends to be Cristina's husband and kisses her on that pretense. When she finds out it's really Ezio, she clearly is uncomfortable and disturbed by the situation. But the game plays it like Ezio is the charming protagonist in the situation, despite the clear lack of consent.

So with stuff like that and the fact that at least through AC3 the main protagonists and most of the main characters are all men, it's hard for me to take the position that AC has been good for the representation of women in games. (I haven't played past 3).

Just my $0.02.