‘Gender critical’ journalist cut from Watch Dogs video game after developers discovered her views on trans people
Watch Dogs: Legion has cut a voice appearance from the ‘gender critical’ journalist Helen Lewis over her views on transgender people.
Lewis, a columnist for The Atlantic and a former New Statesman journalist, was one of many figures from the British media industry drawn on as voice talent to populate in-world podcasts and radio stations in the game, which is set in a dystopian futuristic version of London.
However, after the game’s initial release on October 29, developer Ubisoft has said that an upcoming patch would ditch the podcast episodes featuring Lewis after it was made aware of her “controversial viewpoints”.
In a statement to gaming outlet Kotaku, Ubisoft said: “We were made aware of controversial remarks from a journalist whose voice-over performance appears in two in-game podcasts in Watch Dogs: Legion. 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.
“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.”
Watch Dogs: Legion cuts Helen Lewis over trans views, splitting internet.
Inevitably, the decision has sparked Twitter discussions about the suppression of free speech from the kind of people who do little else aside from having Twitter discussions decrying the suppression of free speech.
However, fans have come to the defence of Ubisoft, arguing that the game is their creative work and that it is the company’s right to decide what is and isn’t part of it.
Set in a high-tech future, Watch Dogs: Legion is a notably LGBT-inclusive game, with players able to pick anyone to be their protagonist from a vast world that, true to real-life London, is populated with many queer and gender-diverse characters.
As well as the endless array of potential queer protagonists, the game also features a prominent non-playable queer character hidden in plain sight – though players will have to make it through the entire game in order to discover their backstory.
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In a nod to the city’s queer heritage, the game’s world also features rainbow flags marking the location of several real-life LGBT+ venues.
Helen Lewis has claimed trans rights reforms are ‘gender’s version of Brexit’.
Helen Lewis has written columns about attending meetings of controversial pressure group Woman’s Place UK, and has previously claimed that acceptance of transgender people’s right to self-identify means that women are unable to “challenge someone with a beard exposing their penis in a women’s changing room”.
She has strongly criticised proposed reforms to the Gender Recognition Act as “gender’s version of Brexit” and a “radical rewriting of our understanding of identity”, asserting that “a man can’t just say he has turned into a woman”.
The privately-educated columnist has also previously attracted controversy for suggestions that working class communities don’t support full LGBT+ equality, writing in a 2019 column that policies on trans inclusion are “less interesting to swing voters in places such as Redcar, where the steelworks recently shut down under the Tory government”.