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Ubisoft’s Jade Raymond on making blockbusters ‘with more meaning’

Ubisoft’s Jade Raymond on making blockbusters ‘with more meaning’

Jade Raymond, managing director of Ubisoft Toronto, laments the Michael Bay-inspired action games that are dominating the market now. How can blockbusters “weave in a little bit more meaning?”

Andrew Yoon

March 9, 2012 2:00 PM29Jade Raymond, managing director of Ubisoft Toronto, summed up her frustration that the biggest hits in the games industry are modeled after Michael Bay action movies. At a game developers’ rant at GDC 2012, the Assassin’s Creed producer lamented the abundance of the “narrow genre of action games, mostly dominated by first-person shooters.”But, she wasn’t entirely pessimistic. “I don’t think that means we’re stuck not addressing anything of meaning to people,” she said, as she introduced some key changes blockbusters could make in their games.

I Am Alive

Speaking about topics she’d be interested in designing, Raymond talked about a desire to make a game about “how terribly stacked up against the very poor our systems are… We could imagine some kind of gameplay loop, once jobless, debt and the lack of healthcare spiral out of control,” Raymond said. “We could have micro-gameplay based on fighting for basic needs, like food and shelter.””Why not attack the most taboo subject of all across all media? Religion… We let players die a lot. Couldn’t it be interesting, for example, to model the beliefs in Hinduism and reincarnation and allow players to retry levels as different animals or as humans with varying skill levels?”But Raymond understands that these topics would be impossible for a company (like hers) to pursue. “I’m a realist, and now I’m a studio head at a big publicly traded company. And I have to admit, at $60 million per big AAA game, it’s not very likely we’ll be able to make one of these subjects the core of a brand new IP.”She suggests a good alternative would be to “try to weave in a little bit more meaning into existing blockbusters.”

Grand Theft Auto V

For example: “Maybe Grand Theft Auto could make some interesting statements about how messed up our penal system is by saying to advance your criminal career, you need to end up in jail and develop the connections and skills you need in order to advance.”Or: “Maybe games like Call of Duty could make some kind of statement about sexism. For example, you could let players play as a woman and you’d have to make the choice to stay covered up and suffer reduced performance or suffer terrible comments from fellow soldiers.”

Splinter Cell Conviction

“Maybe Splinter Cell (a game that Raymond is currently working on) could make a statement about the ethics around interrogation of suspects. We could put players in the position of a frog that’s been placed in water that’s slowly becomes hotter… they only realize how monstrous a thing they’ve done after the fact.”

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