Ubisoft has announced that they will be removing the guest appearance of a real-world journalist from Watch Dogs: Legion following accusations from fans that she holds transphobic beliefs.
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A staff writer for American commentary outlet The Atlanic, journalist Helen Lewis was initially included in Watch Dogs: Legion as an in-game host of the fictional ‘Buccaneer Podcast,’ which promotes itself as “your source for what they don’t want you to know.”
In the podcast, Lewis discusses various social issues related to the game’s setting, such as political demonstrations, surveillance states, and what the price of ‘justice’ means in an ever-evolving police state.
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Despite the fact that her in-game discussions are in no way related to transgender issues, some fans took issue with Lewis’ appearance in Watch Dogs: Legion due to her history of questioning the various elements and goals exemplified within some transgender activist movements.
In 2017, after former UK Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn called for changes to be made to the government’s Gender Recognition Act, as at the time it did “not allow trans people to self-identify their gender” but did “[force] them to undergo invasive medical tests,” Lewis shared her concerns regarding what she saw as a “radical rewriting of our understanding of identity.”
“Being a woman or a man is now entirely in your head,” wrote Lewis. “In this climate, who would challenge someone with a beard exposing their penis in a women’s changing room? That’s why feminists have raised the alarm over the move to self-identification, along with some older trans people who fear that “trendsters” will erode the goodwill they have worked hard to acquire.”
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In a 2019 piece for the UK’s “leading progressive political and cultural magazine,” The Newstateman, Lewis noted that she held a “belief that trans women are women, and trans men are men,” but defended her position regarding “self-ID and its impact on single-sex spaces.”
“This is a tragic story, from start to finish,” she concluded. “The imperial over-reach of a handful of trans activists, in trying to rewrite widely accepted ideas about gender by stealth, has done nothing to improve the lives of trans people.”
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The discovery of Lewis’ inclusion in Watch Dogs: Legion inevitably sparked a massive wave of backlash against Ubisoft, with many criticizing the company for the hiring of a woman they believed was transphobic.
Pointing to a previous piece written by Lewis titled “Welcome to the Age of Ironic Bigotry, Where Old Hatres Are Cloaked in Woke New Language,” Twitter user @headsfallsoff claimed that “one of the game’s major voices of “resistance” is an actual voice of an active, successful British hate movement.”
“Ironic, that it’s supposed to be a game about resisting fascism,” said @AmberSmokesWeed. “But they included a transphobic piece of shit in it.”
User @Haruharuharuko attempted to bring Lewis’ inclusion to the attention of Bloomberg journalist Jason Schreier, stating that it seemed “like something worth putting on blast for just a multitude of reasons.”
“It’s just f***ed,” they summarized.
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Following this wave of outrage, Ubisoft announced just days after its release that Watch Dogs: Legion, ironically itself a game about fighting back against an oppressive and totalitarian state, would be receiving an update in order to remove Lewis and replace her podcast episodes.
In a statement provided to Kotaku, an Ubisoft spokesperson stated that the company was “made aware of controversial remarks from a journalist whose voice-over performance appears in two in-game podcasts in Watch Dogs: Legion,” and clarified that “Neither Ubisoft nor the game reflect this journalist’s viewpoints.”
“The development team worked with an external producer to select speaker profiles for these podcasts and were not aware of the controversy at the time of booking or recording,” the spokesperson explained. “While the in-game podcasters are following a pre-approved script and are not speaking in their own name or with their own opinions, we understand this collaboration itself may be seen as offensive and we deeply regret any hurt this has caused. In response, we will be replacing these two podcast episodes in an upcoming update and will reinforce our background checks for partners in the future.”
As of writing, Ubisoft has not given a specific release date for the Helen Lewis-removing update.
What do you make of Lewis’ removal? Do you think it’s justified? Let us know your thoughts on social media or in the comments down below!