Ubisoft is removing two in-game podcasts from Watch Dogs: Legion because of transphobic comments made by the real-life journalist playing the host.
Ubisoft is removing two in-game podcasts from Watch Dogs: Legion because of controversial statements made by the host in real life. These podcasts are part of a system of in-game audio logs, which have been roundly praised for fleshing out the world and the narrative of the game.
This support for the narrative is important thanks to the central gameplay conceit in Watch Dogs: Legion. Rather than giving players a central protagonist who grows and develops throughout the story of the game, Legion gives players the opportunity to recruit and play as any NPC they encounter in the entire game. Every NPC is playable throughout the entire game, including all cutscenes. As impressive as this mechanic is, it doesn’t exactly make for a cohesive storyline, so the audio logs scattered throughout the world are an excellent way to help fans fill in the gaps.
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But, as Kotaku reports, Ubisoft has found a bit of a problem with two of the podcasts that fans can listen to in the game. These podcasts are hosted by British journalist Helen Lewis, whose character is simply referred to as “Helen” in-game. Ubisoft was made aware that Lewis had made some controversial remarks in the past about transgender people, largely in an op-ed titled “A man can’t just say he has turned into a woman,” which was written in opposition of new transgender-friendly legislation in the UK. Her stance got her branded a TERF, not unlike a certain other prominent British writer. While Lewis’s appearances in Watch Dogs: Legion were entirely scripted, with no transphobic content at all, Ubisoft recognizes that “this collaboration itself may be seen as offensive and we deeply regret any hurt this has caused.” To that end, the podcasts have been removed, and will be replaced in a later update. Ubisoft has also promised to reinforce background checks for people it hires in the future, to prevent similar incidents.
This is an excellent play for tolerance from a company with a pretty terrible track record. Ubisoft has a long history of workplace abuse and crunch. The creator of the Rayman series was recently outed for such behavior not long after his departure from the studio, and he’s far from the only one. Ubisoft has a long history of controversy that it doesn’t always have a good answer for, so its response to this recent one is promising.
No one deserves to feel unsafe while playing a video game, and it’s easy to see how the presence of someone like Helen Lewis could have that effect. It’s especially troublesome for Watch Dogs: Legion, which has a pretty strong theme of embracing diversity in a quest to overthrow the corrupt authoritarian government. Removing these podcasts is a good move, and one that will make Watch Dogs: Legion easier to enjoy for a lot of people.
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