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Assassin's Creed Valhalla creative director steps down following accusation of long-term affair with a fan

(Image credit: Ubisoft)
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Assassin's Creed Valhalla creative director Ashraf Ismail has announced that he's stepping down from the project. The move follows an accusation made earlier this week that Ismail, who also worked on Assassin's Creed Origins and Black Flag, was engaged in a sexual relationship with a fan while hiding his marriage from her. 

On June 21, Twitch streamer Matronedea posted several images of text conversations with Ismail on Twitter (opens in new tab) , and said they were engaged in an "on and off" relationship for nearly a year. During that time, Matronedea says Ismail lied about being married and having a family.

When confronted about wearing a wedding ring during an interview, for example, Ismail said it was a way to prevent his parents from having to "answer to their community why their eldest son is not married."

But Matronedea says she has confirmed with three separate sources that Ismail is married, which he also suggests in his statement. "The lives of my family and my own are shattered," Ismail wrote (opens in new tab). "I am deeply sorry to everyone hurt in this."

"If someone is routinely seeking out partners who are 8-18 years younger than them and fans of theirs, that person is seeking out people they can take advantage of," Matrondea tweeted earlier today. "They are abusing their position of power. It's not rape, but that does not make it okay."

In a second tweet (opens in new tab), Ismail sought to distance Valhalla and its development team from himself. "There are hundreds of talented, passionate people striving to build an experience for you that do not deserve to be associated with this," he wrote. "I wish them all the best."

Ubisoft declined to elaborate on the incident, but did confirm that Ismail is currently taking "a leave of absence."

This accusation came as part of a wave of others in the games industry (opens in new tab). Over the past week, several dozen people have come forward to allege emotional and sexual abuse from a variety of streamers, developers, and other industry professionals, including noted writer Chris Avellone (opens in new tab).

Update (June 25): An updated statement (opens in new tab) from Ubisoft promises a full investigation into the allegations against Ismail and other Ubisoft employees, and "appropriate disciplinary action" where required.

"Concerning recent allegations raised against certain Ubisoft team members: We want to start by apologizing to everyone affected by this—we are truly sorry. We are dedicated to creating an inclusive and safe environment for our teams, players, and communities. It is clear we have fallen short of this in the past. We must do better.

We have started by launching investigations into the allegations with the support of specialized external consultants. Based on the outcomes, we are fully committed to taking any and all appropriate disciplinary action. As these investigations are ongoing, we can't comment further. We are also auditing our existing policies, processes, and systems to understand where these have broken down, and to ensure we can better prevent, detect, and punish inappropriate behavior.

We will be sharing additional measures that we are putting in place with our teams in the coming days. Our goal is to foster an environment that our employees, partners, and communities can be proud of –one that reflects our values and that is safe for everyone."

Steven Messner
Steven Messner

With over 7 years of experience with in-depth feature reporting, Steven's mission is to chronicle the fascinating ways that games intersect our lives. Whether it's colossal in-game wars in an MMO, or long-haul truckers who turn to games to protect them from the loneliness of the open road, Steven tries to unearth PC gaming's greatest untold stories. His love of PC gaming started extremely early. Without money to spend, he spent an entire day watching the progress bar on a 25mb download of the Heroes of Might and Magic 2 demo that he then played for at least a hundred hours. It was a good demo.