Citing “personal issues,” Ubisoft creative director Ashraf Ismail said on Twitter today that he is stepping down from his role on Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. The reference ties, no doubt, to a Sunday tweet from a woman who said he’d deceived her about his marital status while they were in a one-year relationship.
That tweet was part of a wider, quickly emerging movement on social media to call out people, mostly men, for a range of harmful and abusive behaviors in what has become the biggest #MeToo moment in the games industry.
In the case of Ismail, the claim wasn’t assault, but of a pattern of infidelity that a former partner said she wanted to warn other women about.
“This person is married. When he starts a relationship with you, know he’s married,” the woman, a streamer named Dani, wrote on Twitter on Friday. In her initial tweet, she shared apparent text messages between the two in which she’d questioned why he was wearing a wedding ring during a video interview, only to be told that the ring was a ruse meant to satisfy conservative parents.
In a later tweet, she said: “I don’t want other women to go through the same, and I’ve already had several tell me he did all the same stuff to them, and they’ve all been in the gaming community. After verifying he was married, I figured I wasn’t the only one he had done this to.”
In a message to Kotaku today, Dani said she’s heard from about 10 other women who’d had similar experiences to her own. “Some were within Ubisoft, some have been on twitter/social media,” she said. “All with similar stories.”
“I do feel like it was an abuse of power,” she said to Kotaku. “He saw me at the Ubisoft booth at E3 2017 and brought up my tattoo. I had no idea who he was before that. The women who’ve spoken to me have mostly been much younger than him and have been huge fans of AC, which can obviously affect the power dynamic.”
Ismail had been silent on social media since Dani’s tweets.
Today, he tweeted: “I am stepping down from my beloved project to properly deal with the personal issues in my life. The lives of my family and my own are shattered. I am deeply sorry to everyone hurt in this.”
His Twitter feed subsequently appeared to be taken offline.
“Ashraf Ismail is stepping down from the project to take a leave of absence,” a Ubisoft rep told Kotaku “The development team is committed to delivering a great game in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla.”
As creative director for Valhalla and game director for 2017's Assassin’s Creed Origins, Ismail was not just the person overseeing the games’ creation but was also the public face of those mega-projects. He had recently returned to the spotlight with the reveal of this fall’s Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, and had done numerous interviews about the game, including with Kotaku.
Update: June 25, 10:45 a.m.: Added a quote to help clarify the power dynamics at play.