Ubisoft removes video seen as insensitive to Black Lives Matter

  • Video games
  • Tuesday, 01 Sep 2020

Ubisoft has recently come under widespread scrutiny for its culture. — AFP

Video game publisher Ubisoft Entertainment SA will remove a controversial scene from its latest mobile game that appeared to link Black Lives Matter imagery to a terrorist group, according to an internal message reviewed by Bloomberg News.

Last week, Ubisoft released Tom Clancy’s Elite Squad, a game for iOS and Android in which the player builds a team of fighters to take on Umbra, a terrorist organisation. In the game’s introductory video, Umbra is portrayed as a “faceless organisation that wants to build a new world order”. Umbra, which uses a raised black fist as its logo, is described as a group that attempts stoke riots and undermine world leaders through social media.

The video became the subject of intense social media criticism over the weekend, coming against the backdrop of violent protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, following the police shooting of Jacob Blake on Aug 23. This year has been an inflection point for the Black Lives Matter movement and has seen widespread calls for racial justice after a policeman killed George Floyd in late May. In June, Ubisoft said it would donate US$100,000 (RM416,550) to the NAACP and Black Lives Matter.

On Saturday, Ubisoft apologised for the Tom Clancy’s Elite Squad video and said it would remove the “‘raised fist’ imagery” from the game. On Sunday, in a thread on Ubisoft’s internal message board, Mana, employees said they were furious that this had happened. “Ubisoft needs to do better,” wrote one employee in a lengthy message reviewed by Bloomberg.

Charlie Guillemot, the game’s creative director and general manager of Ubisoft’s Owlient studio, responded with an apology and pledged to remove the “entire introductory sequence” from the game. “In the future, we will more rigorously review content produced and about to be released in order to help us avoid similar mistakes,” he wrote in an internal message reviewed by Bloomberg.

The introductory sequence was produced in 2018, according to the post on Mana by Guillemot. But some users on Twitter said the game’s fascist undertones should have raised red flags. Ubisoft has recently come under widespread scrutiny for its culture. Earlier this year, the French publisher ousted several executives and other employees who were accused of sexual misconduct. A Businessweek investigation found that many of the complaints had been filed years earlier and that Ubisoft had ignored or mishandled them. Chief executive officer Yves Guillemot has promised extensive changes.

Ubisoft is run by five brothers who founded the company in 1986. Charlie Guillemot, the CEO’s son, earned a master’s degree in computer science in 2014, according to his LinkedIn profile. Months later he became the general manager of the Owlient studio in Paris, where Tom Clancy’s Elite Squad was developed. – Bloomberg

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