I had planned to talk about a completely different subject for this month of July 2020 when I launched the new version of the blog, but it is impossible to pretend that nothing had happened in recent weeks. social media and the press. If the primary goal of the site is to share entertaining articles on video games, you have to know how to tackle the most serious current topics. It is also the role of blogs to educate readers and provide support and visibility to movements and testimonies concerning the industry in which they say they belong (Black Lives Matter, MeToo).
Since the end of June, dozens of women working in the video game industry have shared accounts of harassment and sexual assault. Toxic behaviors that go far beyond the gender gap present in companies, and which we had already witnessed with the #MeToo movement in the world in 2019, but also in France on several occasions.
This time it is not a studio that is involved, it is several companies around the world (Ubisoft, Blizzard, Codemasters, Insomniac Games, to name a few). To “sum up”, the testimonies show that in these companies, men sexually harass (or even assault) women (work colleagues, sometimes by being their supervisor). Most often at their workplace, but also during networking evenings which are numerous in the video game industry.
I mostly subscribe to people who work in the video game industry on Twitter (in France and abroad) that I don’t necessarily know, but that I am because I like their work (artist, developer, marketing …). In a few days, my news feed consisted mainly of testimonies from women who were harassed.
Among the testimonies, I even discovered a person who is a professor at a university where I studied. If these testimonies seem distant for many people, they nevertheless concern more women than these few testimonials, and undoubtedly people of your entourage.
This movement necessarily touches me because it is not anecdotal events. When we go through the testimonies, it is not a few cases that we observe, but a call for general help. If we are (or have been) in this industry, we rubbed shoulders with these people, the victims, and the attackers, during these same evenings. I am not a victim. I’m not the aggressor, but I have to be part of the solution otherwise it’s just like.
This harassment sometimes takes the form of “jokes” (term used by the aggressor) made in the presence of other people, aimed at making their female colleagues uncomfortable. But it also takes more serious forms: hands on the buttocks, forced kissing, rape in some cases.
When these behaviors were reported to managers and HR departments, the response was often the same: denial. The victims were then dismissed (when they did not leave the company, morally affected by these horrible and degrading experiences) while the harassers and attackers were “protected” by the direction (including the human resources department). One of the testimonies even indicates that the man who harassed her was in a “relationship” with the HR representative.
The various companies concerned have published messages on social networks to condemn these behaviors and to share the changes they were going to make within companies to stop this toxic culture (like Ubisoft with this letter from Yves Guillemot).
The change must take place in several places at the same time (read this Twitter thread which puts forward many ideas), with in the first place sanctions for those accused. It is not acceptable to see that the guilty persons simply change service (that they are transferred as “punishment”) and that the subject disappears from the news after a few days (or weeks). Support must be provided to people who have been the victim of these behaviors, and an effective system must be put in place to notify future disturbing behaviors to the responsible departments (management, human resources).
It should also be understood that change will only happen if everyone realizes that they are actors (for good or for bad) during these exchanges. Witnessing these “jokes”, these “unhealthy allusions” or toxic behavior without intervening makes us the first person to endorse these actions. We must support the victims when we observe these exchanges, but also open dialogue with people around us to listen to the SOS they can send us. A victim often thinks of being responsible, and it is extremely difficult in such a closed environment to share these experiences (and to point the finger at the culprit) without being blacklisted in the company (and the industry in general).
We must stop creating hostile atmospheres (to women), either with parties with a majority of men (including people hierarchically above female employees), or with the presence of alcohol (in excess or not) which serves as an excuse for stalkers and attackers.
If this subject may seem distant for many, it should be highlighted that the video game industry in France is a “small” circle. The people who work there have often been employed in several companies (there are not 20 development studios per department in France) and we keep in touch with everyone (be it the press, blogs, publishers, studios,…). We don’t talk only through Twitter or during a Twitch show.
We were able to witness many reactions following these testimonies, mostly support for the victims, but also outrage at the behavior of the accused. There are also in some cases Broadchurch syndrome: “I thought I knew him” (but which is rather “I closed my eyes because it did not concern me”).
This movement affecting the video game industry is only the visible part of an iceberg that concerns all industries. As with many hot topics (Black Lives Matter is one), we can (and should) be part of the solution to make things change. Whether through our behavior (on the Internet, social networks, at work) by being proactive and by questioning our attitude daily. If a friend has a toxic behavior, it is up to us to tell him, we cannot close our eyes to play the card of astonishment a few years later.
To understand the magnitude of the problem (and follow this news), you can read this Twitter thread which brings together testimonies from around the world as well as the article in Liberation which deals in detail with the accusations against Ubisoft France.
This post is not intended to be an in-depth dossier as are the various papers that have been published by the press since the beginning of the movement. But it is important not to abandon the victims who have managed to testify, recalling that a problem exists and that it must be solved (by companies and managers, but also employees). Our role is to support the victims after this ordeal, not to question their testimony. And that education and awareness is everyone’s business.