Assassin’s Creed Valhalla Creative Director ‘Stepping Down’ Amid Infidelity Scandal

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Photo: Frederic J Brown/ AFP, Getty Images
Photo: Frederic J Brown/ AFP, Getty Images

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 behaviours 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.”

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 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.

Comments

  • If this is just a case of him cheating and not assaulting, raping or pressuring then isn’t this a personal issue? Seems we’re becoming way too puritanical…

    • Yeah… Nothing like conflating personal drama with issues of harassment, assault, etc.

      Can’t wait for the, “He lied to get them into bed! He’s basically a sexual predator!” crowd to show up though.

      • Have you never done any form of consent training?

        Lying to bed someone makes the encounter non consensual. They are consenting to the act, based on what they believe is happening, not what is happening. If then there is a pattern of continual lying over multiple people that is most definitely a sign of a predator.

        And then if that is happening in a work place as some of this seems to suggest (though I am not sure) and they are his juniors, that adds a whole other level to the type of predatory behaviour.

        • So.. then every person who has had an affair, and not stated to the other party that they are currently married/in a relationship to someone else, prior to commencement of the affair, has engaged in non-consensual sex? Therefore committing rape?

          *Scratches head*

          • No, it doesn’t fall under the category of legal rape, even under the jurisdictions where “rape by fraud” is included in the legal definition of rape (rape by fraud is like the Revenge of the Nerds situation, among other situations). But rape doesn’t cover all situations where consent is dubious.

            If you lie to a person about your marital status, yes, they have engaged in sex that raises issues of dubious consent, because without that piece of information the person they slept with may not have consented. And the person knew that otherwise they wouldn’t have lied. They lied to get a person in bed and took away their ability to give fully informed consent.

            While people hate this analogy, it is much easier to think of consent in terms of a contract. If this were a contract, the contract would be void – if you entered a business relationship and were actively lied to about the other business’ finances or legal status, that contract would be void because you would not have consented to enter the contract had you known the information that was actively hidden from you. And you’d be angry and feel like your rights were violated and you’d have a right to be angry.

            But anyway. Is it illegal? No. Is it scummy? Yes. Does it make the people it happens to feel violated and used? Yes. Is it a consent issue? Totally. Something doesn’t have to be rape to raise consent issues. Does it mean he should step down? Dunno, if he was lying about this to hit on subordinate co-workers then its probably a HR issue totally separate from any consent issues. Hope that helps with this perspective, even if you don’t agree or weren’t asking in good faith.

          • Sleeping with a married person is a moral issue, it is a CHOICE, if you are lying to someone to in order for them to sleep with you, you are purposely not giving them the right to make a moral decision… YES that is non-consensual. Text book. It can be just as bad taking away someone’s physical choice.

            And NO, it is not rape, that doesnt mean it isnt bad. ‘Consent’ is a very broad thing, sexual assault is the extreme consequence of it.

          • You miss understood my comment.

            If I, a married man enters into a relationship with another person for the purposes of having an affair, but do not tell that person that I am married, therefore “lying to bed” them have I engaged in non-consensual sex?

            According to many, many different sources, non-consensual sex doesn’t exist, it is rape.

            Hence my original question, if I have sex with someone without telling them I am married to another, therefore lying to bed them, have I committed an act of assault, specifically, rape?

          • It was a serious question @Moonrabbit.

            Many sources claim that “non-consensual sex” doesn’t exist. It’s rape, pure and simple. And if lying about ones marital status constitutes “non-consensual sex”, then that open up a whole other can of worms for other such instances.

    • I don’t get the puritanical vibe? He stepped down from his current project to deal with a personal issue. Seems fine to me.

    • The implication I got is that this has happened through his work at Ubisoft and his interactions with the wider industry through his position at Ubisoft.
      If that’s the case, it’s not personal issue and being forced to step down is how these kinds of things have often played out for a long time.

  • What a joke. This has nothing to do with us or his employment other than the obvious fact that he is stepping down because he’s going through some self-made, but still personal, shit. Do we really need to go trawling through every angle of people’s personal lives for a story?

    • ‘Creative director for big upcoming title unexpectedly steps down.’

      Yeah, it’s relevant. Makes sense to explain why as well.

  • If he knew he was married he has committed the criminal offence known as fraud. If he obtained consent while deceiving someone then the consent was invalid.

    Have a google – plenty of people around the world have been imprisoned for misrepresenting their marital status – laws will differ from region to region of course.

    Why is this a “personal/wait till the puritanical crowd shows up type issue” – when a game publisher lying about features of a game would cause wall to wall cries for refunds? Lying is lying and if your lying impacts severely on others it can be a crime.

    • Yeah that differing law things a surefire scapegoat. It’s not even relevant so you’re strawmanning like hell there to an insane degree.

      What he did makes him a scumbag. But if it, and I mean only if it was straight up cheating, it was not illegal.

    • Really? What a moronic take on the situation.
      Wrong? Sure. A crime? Only in the most a ss-backward, overly religious countries. And we don’t want to go down that path. And negates consent? Nope. Two adults decided to sleep together. Yes, he lied (by omission) about his marital status, but didn’t force anything.
      The hard right oft comes from religious conservatism, and unfortunately, the left are becoming a mirror of what they rage against.

  • I have a question here.

    Are some of you guys:

    a) Blind
    b) Terminally stupid
    c) So desperate to defend shittiness that you misread articles

    ?

    In case the former, I will put this in caps.

    HE WAS NOT FIRED NOR WERE ANY CHARGES LAID NOR WAS THIS ANYTHING OTHER THAN HIS OWN PERSONAL DECISION AND THERE IS NO EVIDENCE TO SUGGEST OTHERWISE SO WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU CARRYING ON ABOUT

    if the issue is b), then it’s going to be a struggle to put this in words you understand but let’s try:

    The man was not fired from his job. Shush.

    But I get the feeling from the heated attitudes here that the answer for most of these dudes is a big fat C).

    HE ONLY CHEATED OMG THE LEFT IS SO PURITANICAL EVERYONE IS SO WOKE CANT A MAN CHEAT ON HIS WIFE IN PEACE ITS NOT ILLEGAL YOU KNOW

    It’s hard to tell which is more pathetic and indicative of poor life choices. That you would leap to defend people who do toxic stuff like cheating because you feel that the current wave of women finally speaking out challenges your ideological point of view (and you are unwilling to admit what that says about your ideological point of view) or whether you’re simply sociopathic to the point you handwave away the damage caused by cheating and burble about ‘legality’.

    Though it’s pretty clear that in the case of some of the guys here, these two are one and the same thing.

    If defending cheating on one’s partner by screeching ‘it’s not illegal OMG SJWs what is the world coming to’ is the hill you want to die on, then you’re a sad garbage fire of a human being.

    And you don’t need a crystal ball to work out that some people here betray their partners and squawk this stuff out as a means of justifying their shitty behaviour.

    Gross.

        • I was being sarcastically metaphorical 😉

          The removal of downvoting was a great move. It means people need to commit to being awful openly, not just dogpile to censor others (while screeching about free speech at other times).

          Granted, the most unpleasant people here have no issue being unpleasant in what is a generally receptive space for them, but the hope is that if they have to type out their nastiness more often ONE day they will read it and think ‘Gosh, am I REALLY defending abusers and terrible people? Why would I do that??? Hmmmm.’

    • Didn’t see anyone defending cheating?

      Blakeavon brought up the point about consent, etc and how lying to someone to bed them is, well, non-consensual, which is fair enough.

      Issue is, if the sexual encounter has now been deemed non-consensual, that becomes a legal issue. Hence my issue, is having an affair, and not telling that person you are married, grounds to be charged with sexual assault.

      Cheating is a despicable act, from a moral standpoint, but not a legal standpoint, hence the queries around consent, etc

      Noone here is defending cheating from what I can see

      • That’s because nobody was defending the individual’s shitty behaviour.

        He just read what he wanted then apparently lost his goddamn mind running off on a tangent yelling at people that don’t exist.

      • Well as an actual criminal lawyer the answer, in the legal context, is “it depends”. It certainly is quite possible that the issue could be relevant to the legal concept of consent, but pretty unlikely.

        To explain, in Victoria the elements of the offence of rape are:
        1. Intentional sexual penetration of person B by person A; and
        2. Person B doesn’t consent; and
        3. Person A doesn’t reasonably believe that B consents.

        So basically in this case, the issue of his marital status would have to be reasonably understood by him at the time of the sexual act to have been likely to have impacted consent from her. This is because there are people for whom the relevant issue (marital status here) is NOT a barrier to consensual sexual activity with another person.

        To be simple about it, if her physical actions were suggestive of consent, but she had told him she’d never sleep with a married man because the idea repulsed her, and he’s aware of that when they have sex, then arguably he has no reasonable belief in consent and has committed an offence – much the same way as in those mistaken identity cases where someone has had sex in the dark (seemingly physically consenting) believing it was person Y, when it was in fact person X and person X knew or should by virtue of the circumstances have known that there was some mistake as to the identity.

        However if he lies to her about being married, but her lack of consent to sex in those circumstances is never actually communicated to him and she otherwise presents at the time as willing to have sex, then quite realistically he has a reasonable belief in her consent (despite it being factually otherwise) and has not committed an offence.

        Again to be absurd to make a point, let’s say a guy held the very strong view that he’d never have sex with a girl who owns purple socks and proceeds to have sex with a girl who was wearing no socks when they met. They never discussed his disgust for purple socks before having sex and he then finds out the next day that she is wearing purple socks around her house. He feels disgusted by it and tells her he’d never have slept with her if he knew. Here there was no rape because she held a reasonable belief in consent. Plain and simple. It matters not that she later becomes aware of his issue.

        • wow… that’s a rather fantastic explanation that just made everything a little more complicated lol.

          Thanks for the clarification though!

  • She just shared the information to warn other people he was married so he wouldn’t do it to other people. It wasn’t her responsibility to keep it quiet for him so he could continue as he had been, because it’s a situation of his own making. It wasn’t like she was asking for him to be fired, just giving people a heads up. He then willingly stepped down because this understandably put his personal life in flux and being a creative director of an Assassin’s Creed game probably isn’t a job with a workload where you can also deal with fixing a major marriage problem like this.

    It’s not cancel culture, it’s just hens coming home to roost for a guy who cheated on his wife. Happens all the time. We only care or think it’s cancel culture because it’s related to a major video game.

    • And of course anyone who squawks about CANCEL CULTURE is too choked on their own privilege to realise their entire systems of existence are predicated on that very notion.

      I mean there is a REASON why the majority of media and society revolves around white dudes. It’s because everything else, up until recently was CANCELLED.

      You need to be kind of stupid not to grasp this. And by stupid I mean ‘probably aware but unwilling to admit’

  • No upvotes, no downvotes, no report function any more soo… go nuts everyone! /s

    Seriously though the tone of discussion around here has plummeted recently.

    • Quite the opposite. This site used to be a group of alt-right dingleberries who simply downvoted anyone left of Goebbels to silence them, while simultaneously squeeeaking about ‘freeze peach’ whenever the conversation turned to discussing why you shouldn’t say racist, sexist or homophobic things, or collect cartoon images of children.

      Now they can’t silence opposition so they are forced to actively push their repugnant views. Luckily for them they still make up a vocal majority, but they’re getting pushback from people they would normally have censored into silence and that’s a good thing.

        • We like Burnside… he offers many insightful thoughts… often times missing the point entirely, the funny thing is, Burnside and his ilk are generally the ones that are known to dogpile that downvotes.. Hell, you could agree with what they say, and just because you have disagreed with them in the past, they’d still downvote you into moderation hell *shrug*

          But eh.. we let him do his thing and he provides us with much entertainment.

          • Now now, let’s be honest. I’ve been here long enough (not to imply you haven’t) to have seen many of the culture wars take place in these comments, and usually downvotes are piled on both sides. The give and take is pretty even.

            I will use this reply to point out one hilarious thing Worrito said up there, since I already replied to him once and I didn’t want to do it twice on one comment (directly).

            “Now they can’t silence opposition so they are forced to actively push their repugnant views. ”
            Let’s deconstruct this. The statement here is that prior to the update, you could SILENCE someone on this website with downvotes. This is literally false. You could say the most outrageous shit, and despite having a number in a red box, it would still be there. Nobody has ever been silenced from downvotes. To imply so is disingenuous, which is par for the course for people like Worrito (the Burnsides of the world).
            Secondly, he says the previous quote as if his side of the idelogical argument didn’t also use downvotes in the EXACT SAME MANNER.
            It just strikes me as particularly funny how two faced some people can be. If you’re going to be a hypocrite, maybe don’t be so flagrant.

          • Now I’m doing the one thing I said I don’t like doing (directly replying to a comment twice) because I can’t reply to myself.
            There is one caveat to my argument. If the dogpiling was dogpiley enough, you could prevent someone from directly taking place in a conversation, as their comments would be stuck in moderation hell. This only happened after like 20+ downvotes, and I only ever remember happening to people with particularly bad views or people who particularly deserved it (like, was being very insulting instead of conversing properly). I don’t remember this ever happening to someone on the “left” side.
            There is also reporting a user’s comment, which could cause them to be banned or stuck in moderation hell. I only remember this happening a couple of times, and usually to someone being egregiously offensive (using slurs or something) or very obviously trolling. Again, this hasn’t happened to the “left”.

        • Yeah I’m not trying to point any fingers or anything btw – the downvoting, flaming, piling always seemed pretty even from both sides. And it’s not worth going into specific instances or point scoring or whatever anyway.

          But how about we just like…don’t? The left v right thing is getting a bit tiresome.

          • I always laugh when I get called alt-right. If I was I must be the worst alt-right person ever given I’m a registered labor voter and volunteer.

          • It’s entirely amazing when Labor voters try and tell people they aren’t conservatives.

      • I really appreciate you guys taking the time to prove my point.

        The lack of awareness is, while not surprising, entirely adorable.

      • I’d also point out to John, because he’s either drunk or being disingenuous (look it up) –

        You people certainly did downvote to silence.

        Because you know perfectly well that that was the purpose of downvoting, and its result. It prevented further posting.

        So yes, while it did not remove the comment in question, it silenced the person whose views you did not like.

        But then again, we all know that, it’s just it makes you uncomfortable so you’re lying about it.

        Fair enough, if I were that kind of person I’d feel bad about it too.

        • Wow, you’re a masterclass in trolling, becuase there in no way anyone can be this blatantly hypocritical on purpose.

        • You. Cannot. Stop. People. From. Posting. Via. Downvotes.
          Downvotes are used to express disagreement or distaste. No matter what you say, they’re literally unable to silence anyone. They certainly didn’t silence you, did they?

          I found it funny that I wasn’t the first person this week to call you out on your hypocrisy.
          But yeah, I’m convinced now more than ever that you are just a troll. Nobody could be this stupid.

          • He certainly comes from the school of “attack the person, don’t refute their points.”

          • By “silencing” I think he’s referring to your account being flagged such that every comment gets moderated. Conversations are awfully one sided if one person’s comments take a few days to appear. Especially when the useful lifetime of a story’s comments section is usually measured in days.

            I’ve seen a number of people state that too many down votes on the old site landed you in moderation hell, but no confirmation either way. Have you seen statements confirming it one way or the other?

          • I believe it had to be a large amount (20+) and that it had to be the total number – taking into account the upvotes as well.
            I could be wrong, but there aren’t that many evil right wingers on this site anyway.
            I don’t know if it’s ever been officially stated, and why would it? Some veils aren’t meant to be lifted.

          • It was somewhere between 3-5 downvotes and you got stuck in moderation hell.

            Also @john… Didn’t you know? Anyone right of Marx is an evil right-winger?

          • Uh? Did you not pay attention back then? Enough downvotes (and not that many, at that) would place a person under automoderation and only a moderator could undo that manually. Well, there was only one moderator doing so, Alex Walker, among a myriad of other things he does for the website so if you were lucky, you got out of automoderation in a couple days. Some times, it took quite a bit longer.

            That means that the people who downvoted you literally and forcefully removed you from a discussion. Isn’t that the definition of “silencing”?

  • At some point Kotaku AU went from being a pretty decent place for the comments section to a reactionary shit hole full of people insisting that everything is fine with the world and anyone saying otherwise is some kind of brain fried ultra leftist.

    Sucks to see this place become just like Kotaku US comments section.

    • Looks at this thread thats been hijacked by a brain fried ultra leftist.
      You might have had a point in another article, but not this one.

    • Your comment demonstrates you didn’t actually read the comments ( most of which were nuanced discussion) and instead wanted to de-legitimize all the opinions that don’t align with yours as being partisian talking points

      It’s also telling that you’ve completely ignored all the comments from kotakus resident wet sponge worrito.

    • I’m a little disappointed, if I’m honest. You’re one of the better posters on this site – even if we don’t see eye to eye a lot of the time – but to take away that analysis from this article is just not quite right.
      As a general observation, yeah, Kotaku has over the last 6 years slowly drifted into a less fun place (both in the comments and the articles, I’d argue), but that’s true of the internet. Since 2012, it’s slowly become a more political and thus divided place. Gamergate happened, the 2016 election happened, lots of smaller and bigger events happened. It’s a shitty place and it’s only getting worse.

      But this comment section was, for the most part, pretty decent. You had discussion about the article, you had discussion about law and you had disagreements, and honestly, this is a good thing! Look at Weresmurf’s comment tree again. About the only questionable thing there is Kasterix “predicting” a group of people he doesn’t like’s response. The rest of it is good discussion and if people are actually reading what they’re replying to, I think some would walk away with a better understanding of what’s going on in the article.
      Next, d3cadent grumbles about the article’s existence, and derrick gives a nice explanation of why that is. This is nice and friendly too.
      In the next tree, cmac has a bit of hostility referring to a previous comment as a “moronic take” which could obviously been worded less bluntly, but his reply seems to come from a genuine place.
      Up until this point, the comment section has been pretty good, a bit of bluntness but otherwise nothing you wouldn’t want in a community. Then you get to Worrito’s post.
      A post laden with hostility. It takes aim at everyone he doesn’t like with a big fat brush. Just read it again. Then read the replies. Nobody in that tree is hostile unless you wanna include m2d2’s “The irony” which is just two words calling out hypocrisy.
      Only after all that, you get to derrick’s meta commentary saying that “the tone of discussion around here has plummeted recently” (which is what you’re saying) and then Worrito posts another imflammitory reply and it all just becomes meta discussion. The thing is, I bet you dollars to biscuits had Worrito not posted that first comment, Derrick would have not felt the need to air his thoughts, at least not in this article.

      All this to say, I know that Worrito may align with you politically or ideologically – but do not give him a pass for this. You’re better than that.

      • Yeah fair. Although I was referring to the site more generally, not just this article. Been thinking the tone has been lowering for a while now.

      • I know you want to be nice, but i honestly DONT think hes better than that on some of the things hes said in the past and recently.

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