Ubisoft's Raymond: controversial topics need "certain level of polish"

Ubisoft Toronto managing director Jade Raymond on tackling tough topics

As the industry ages and technology progresses, game developers are beginning to tackle topics that are heavier than the standard "save the world" plots. Torture, sexual assault, abuse, and drug use are all topics that have begun to creep into recent titles. Ubisoft Toronto managing director Jade Raymond told the Official Xbox Magazine that there's a "fine line" that developers have to be cognizant of when they deal with certain ideas.

"At Ubisoft we have studios all over the world, and there's a very fine line between what you think is interesting and what someone else may think is not respectful - you don't want to offend anyone," Raymond told OXM.

"As a consumer, I remember in my teens and early adulthood thinking a lot about religion, taking religious studies classes and really trying to understand the differences in beliefs. I think games would be a great way for someone trying to understand to experiment with these things. I think it would be fun in certain circumstances, with the reincarnation for example, but yes, it's very touchy."

Raymond explained that certain topics need to be handled with subtlety and care.

"I do think that certain topics, in order to be treated properly, do need a certain level of polish and quality," she said.

"There are certain topics that we are able to just jump right into, and one that a lot of people have tackled wholeheartedly is environmentalism. That one doesn't feel so touchy because we can make a statement, we can simulate stuff and say 'this is what's going on.' We could make a game about that topic very easily and still make it a big success," said Raymond. "Others, I agree, would be better to try in indie games and maybe the statement or experience can be better expressed that way."

Raymond told OXM that part of the problem with innovation and trying out new topics is the fact that current audiences are unforgiving when it comes to execution.

"One of the things I see that's different is that our audience expects perfection," she said. "Before, there were only, say, two million people playing games - they were real fans and they were playing every game. They were willing to forgive bugs, and try things that weren't as much fun because they were different. Now, there are 30 million people buying and they only buy the top five. They expect perfection. I think that growing up with everything being so good, so easy to use, there are certain expectations."

"It's not very forgiving. It does limit innovation, because if something isn't working as you get towards shipping, you have to cut it or revert to back what you know does work."

Ubisoft Toronto is currently working on Splinter Cell: Blacklist, which has a planned release window of Spring 2013. The full interview with Raymond can be found here at OXM.

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Latest comments (4)

Tim Carter Designer - Writer - Producer 9 years ago
"you don't want to offend anyone".

So much for games as art.
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Is the definition of art 'offending people', then? I had no idea...
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Charlie White Software Support Analyst 9 years ago
I hate this stepping on egg shell approach, just because someone is offended doesn’t mean they’re in the right. Some people are offended by multiculturalism, homosexuality, abortion, atheism – what should we do? Ban all those things? Everybody has the right to be offended, and I have the right to offend others. But no one has the right to never be offended.
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Sergio Rosa9 years ago
@Jessica: I am inclined to understand Tim's statement as "when you worry too much about offending people you end up with a crippled vision of what you wanted to make" and where's the art in that? You end up worrying more about pleasing others, completely ignoring your original vision.
Kinda sounds like the Mass Effect 3 ending thing.
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