Games Industry

“Well, start discussing it yourself”: Ubisoft Vice President of Publisher Games Politics

The main thing from the Kotaku interview.

               

Before E3 2019, Ubisoft Vice President Tommy Francois gave an interview about the presentation of political topics in the company’s games. Then he explained that, ideally, the developers are trying not to give up the political context in general, but to reveal the problem from several sides of the conflict.

It’s like a matrix where you live a thousand lives, make a thousand mistakes, look at all points of view among these mistakes and learn some of them.Tommy Francoisvice president of Ubisoft

After that, Kotaku editor-in-chief Stephen Totilo talked to him – we chose the main thing from the conversation . Francois responded in detail to Ubisoft’s criticism of why politics in publishing games is portrayed this way.

First of all, the journalist drew attention to the fact that in recent years, players have been asking more and more questions about the political subtext in different games. And supposedly most often “in doubt” is the Ubisoft game.

In his opinion, the latest releases of the publisher do not at all reflect the point of view that François expressed earlier. What can a player “learn” from Far Cry 5, where he opposes a religious cult? The journalist believes that the plot in it somehow concerns many political parties, but does not reveal the position of any of them.

The vice president did not agree with Totilo – in his opinion, so the games offer a look at several points of view at once. Francois compared this to a menu in restaurants.

The goal is not to teach someone, but to tell you more about everything.

Tommy Francois

vice president of Ubisoft

As an example, he cited Watch Dogs Legion, where there are no main characters – the player selects them from various NPCs. Francois called this mechanics “a step in the right direction.”

In response, the journalist noted that in Ubisoft games there is no impartial distribution of all political ideas. In the same Assassin’s Creed Origins, which takes place in Ancient Egypt, the developers abandoned the historically confirmed nudity of the inhabitants – but they added girls who went to Alexandrian schools. In reality, they were visited strictly by boys.

Another example is the Ghost Recon Wildlands. Players take on the role of federal US agents dispatched to Bolivia to counter drug cartels. Despite the fact that the game became a hit for Ubisoft (almost 10 million players in the first year), it was criticized in Bolivia itself – because Wildlands showed the country too one-sidedly, without revealing the problems of local residents.

This is so and not so. Ghost Recon put a lot of emphasis on the cooperative – first of all, games should be fun.

Tommy Francois

vice president of Ubisoft

According to Francois, he understands what caused the discontent – however, the vice president also explained that before undertaking the setting, the developers studied him well.

We wanted to show that when it comes to cocaine, whites are mentioned first. Because it is produced for us – our nightclubs. When I say “ours,” I mean North America, Europe, and other places where there is money.

What we learned is that Bolivian families are forced to grow cocaine not because they use it. This is the poorest country in South America, and people are trying to survive there – they sell drugs to feed their children.

We hoped that in the game itself it would appear somewhere.

Tommy Francois

vice president of Ubisoft

In fact, notes and audio recordings with conversations in which this topic is covered are scattered in Ghost Recon – however, judging by statistics, the players were not interested. On PS4, only 13.6% of the players received an achievement for even half the collected finds.

Or take the aforementioned Far Cry 5 – which, according to the developers themselves in 2017, is largely inspired by the situation with increased political tension in the United States. There are references to Donald Trump and the Rednecks in the game, but all of them are often served humorously – as if to satisfy both liberal-minded people and conservatives. Neither one nor the other would be happy if their flaws were taken seriously.

Francois replied that it would be dishonest to talk more about someone. According to him, he was convinced of this when, in early 2017, “as part of a US study for the Division series,” he visited Trump’s inauguration as president.

I thought that I could better get to know people who are against Trump – but it didn’t work, because both sides were extremely aggressive.

Tommy Francois

vice president of Ubisoft

According to journalist Kotaku, a similar problem in Ubisoft games concerns the use of weapons. Based on the statements of Francois, now the publisher’s internal studios are increasingly trying to evade violence – for example, Watch Dogs 2 can be passed without almost killing anyone. However, in the most successful games of the company of recent years, including Rainbow Six Siege and The Division 2, this problem has not been solved in any way – and it is unlikely to be, because everything in them is entirely based on the use of weapons and shooting enemies.

With each new game we try to invent new mechanics so that the player uses weapons less often. This is important because aiming mechanics alone bring a lot of fun. We need more social interaction, like Animal Crossing or EVE Online. In the case of the games that we are currently working on, we think every time: what else can we add so that the player does not rely on weapons to solve problems?

Tommy Francois

vice president of Ubisoft

At the end of the interview, François rather sharply expressed that often the perception of games depends on the players themselves – whether they want to see politics there or not.

You play with someone at The Division. Since you don’t see politics here, then, damn it, start discussing it yourself. Why are developers responsible for this? Why am I responsible for this? The Division can serve as an excellent backdrop for talking about politics during the game. […]

I hope this didn’t sound aggressive – just fervent.

Tommy Francois

vice president of Ubisoft

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