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Our 1st Anniversary: Glancing Back and Forging Onward

The summer of 2020 shocked many gamers as a wave of sexual abuse and misconduct allegations swept through social media, revealing that leadership at Ubisoft had for years allowed toxic behavior to thrive within the company culture. The stories that came out left many fans and employees hurt and disillusioned by the company they had supported. For some, it marked the end of an era.

For others, it marked the beginning of something new.

The AC Sisterhood was born from the realization that for too long, women in the gaming community (including those working in the industry and consumers) had been silenced and forced to endure mistreatment, neglect and outright abuse. There were stories of men in high-ranking positions humiliating, belittling and threatening female colleagues; some of these same executives also lobbied for erasing female characters from their games’ marketing and diminishing the roles of women in the games. These leaders would often grow visibly upset at suggestions to add more diverse representation and justified this by claiming that “women don’t sell”.

The Assassin’s Creed community in particular was directly affected by some well-known Ubisoft employees being revealed as abusers. Many of us had directly interacted with them at events like E3 and Gamescom, looked up to them professionally, even considered some of them friends. But we also recognized that this wasn’t just a Ubisoft problem; misogyny exists everywhere in the gaming industry and is a systemic issue that cannot be ignored.

We know that there were still hundreds of good, decent employees at Ubisoft whose work we wanted to support and showcase. We need Ubisoft to do better. We know that change will not happen overnight, but it has to start somewhere and if we can help bring about that change with our voices, every voice counts.

The Journey So Far

We created the AC Sisterhood with several goals in mind:

  • celebrating, highlighting and uplifting the women who make the games we love and the female characters who mean so much to us;
  • creating a safe space for all who experience misogyny, where women and other marginalized gamers are free to express themselves without being talked over or harassed; and
  • holding Ubisoft accountable for the mistakes they’ve made and continuing to advocate for better treatment of women, both within the company and in the games they make.

How have we attempted to achieve these goals over the course of our first year?

Our podcast, AC Sisterhood Speaks!, is dedicated to uplifting people—women especially—who don’t often get to have their work spotlighted. Video game marketing campaigns tend to revolve around charismatic (male) speakers like actors, directors and producers. Our guests have included artists, writers, actresses, transmedia producers and a translator from the Kanien’kéha:ka culture. Talented people whose names are rarely spoken in the media yet whose work is incredibly inspirational. We want to continue highlighting such people and share their work with the world, as well as giving women and minorities a space in which to share their own—sometimes painful—experiences with discrimination, in their own words and in their own time.

Our Discord server is meant to be a safe space for women, non-binary people and allies who support them. Being a female gamer often means being harassed in voice-chat when you just want to play games with other people, being ridiculed for the types of games you like, or being talked over so often that you start to withdraw into your shell. It can be lonely, feeling like you’re not allowed to talk about what you love without inviting hatred and ridicule. We decided from the start that toxic behavior would not be tolerated in our server. We want to see women flourish, show solidarity, gain confidence and be less afraid to talk about their experiences. We invite them to share of themselves in other ways too, with fun events like Sea Shanty karaoke nights, multiplayer sessions or in-game Photo Mode contests. We do our best to foster a friendly, diverse, accepting and safe atmosphere, and will continue to push ourselves to make the experience even better for our community.

Another way in which we’ve advocated for tangible betterment in women’s lives has been through charity drives. So far we have raised over $2,500 for Girls Make Games through the sale of exclusive Sisterhood Pins and in spring 2021 we partnered with Discord to raise funds for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Supported by the amazing Assassin’s Creed community and bolstered by a generous $6,000 donation from Ubisoft, we ended up raising over $15,000 in total.

One of the most notable ways the Sisterhood has made an impact was having our logo immortalized in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, in the form of an in-game tattoo that players can find and equip on their character. This was a gesture from the developers themselves who have publicly voiced their support for the movement many times. They approached our founder, Kulpreet Virdi, and the artist behind our logo, Sebastian Dell’Aria, for their permission to include a small tribute to the Sisterhood in the game. Eagle-eyed players may also have discovered letters from two high-ranking members of the Hidden Ones, Magisters Maya and Sebastos…

What’s Next?

The Sisterhood is a movement, not a moment. We knew our work wouldn’t be over in just a few short months. While we are proud of the things we’ve achieved in our first year, there is still more work to be done.

While Ubisoft has made some changes to address problems within its company culture, many current and former employees have expressed dissatisfaction with the implementation of these changes. Certain individuals who were named among the abusers one year ago still remain employed at the company and have even received promotions. The company initially set itself the goal of raising its global percentage of female employees with just 2% over 3 years (from 22% at the end of March 2020 to 24% by the end of March 2023). New metrics for determining CEO Yves Guillemot’s bonuses were introduced to include incentives based on gender diversity at the company. However, these diversity metrics were later suspended and changed to metrics based on reducing the company’s carbon footprint instead.

In our view, Ubisoft can and must do more to show commitment to real change. We will continue to advocate for better treatment of women and minorities working for the company, and for better representation in the games they make and market to consumers. Women should not be treated as a footnote or an afterthought. Their contributions deserve to be celebrated just as much as men’s, and they deserve to work in a company that treats them with respect and care.

There are many ways in which people can advocate for change and we understand that some people may wish to boycott Ubisoft completely. This is a personal decision for players to make which we respect. Since its creation, AC Sisterhood’s approach has not been a boycott of Ubisoft, as we believe the hard work and passion that hundreds of employees pour into their games should not be overshadowed by the abusers. We know that Ubisoft is capable of doing better and we believe that supporting the work of women and minorities is the way forward.

For our part, AC Sisterhood will continue to build and foster our community; one of our goals is to expand our reach internationally, for example by translating our content into different languages. We plan to collaborate with people from other communities to spread awareness, create mentorship and networking opportunities, arrange charity drives and more.

We will also continue to highlight the work of women and minorities in our community, by sharing content, spotlighting community members and amplifying voices with our platform. We are considering branching out into other platforms such as Twitch. We will continue to do our best to ensure that our community is a place where women and minorities feel welcome and supported.

We are also keen to continue doing charity drives and are always on the lookout for charities that support women and minorities in the games industry.

As a final word, we want to thank everyone who has supported us throughout our first year. We may sometimes fall short of expectations, but we do our best to learn from our mistakes and strive to do better. We appreciate those who have approached our movement with an open mind and a genuine willingness to listen and exchange opinions. We love our welcoming, passionate, creative community, and hope you will all still be with us for years to come.

Thank you for sharing in this journey so far, we couldn’t do this without you.

Published by acsisterhood

AC Sisterhood is a movement that strives to highlight women's accomplishments as well as the challenges they face within the video game industry. Started by a group of passionate Assassin's Creed fans in 2020, the movement advocates for fair and equitable treatment of all who work in games, and solidarity and safe conditions for the players who engage with those games.

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