Jade Raymond Talks Innovation And Hates On Activision
Jade Raymond’s creativity and the work she did on the original Assassin’s Creed makes her one of my personal favourite developers and her opinions aren’t too bad either. Lately, she’s a bit upset about the way most in the industry are too frightened to take any sort of significant risk and ultimately just end up copying games that sell well (see: Call of Duty etc.). She believes that the industry would be in a far better place if more developers took those risks and tried something different.
Speaking in an interview with Eurogamer, Raymond said it “takes a real belief in the medium,” for a company to be willing to step outside its comfort zone, but at the same time, “whenever you see a big success it’s because somebody took a risk.”
This isn’t the first time she’s made a public appeal for the industry to step up. Last month, Ms. Raymond told CVG that it was “time for our medium to grow up” and move past the blockbuster mentality (see: popcorn entertainment). You’re probably wondering whether she’s practising any of what she’s preaching and you’d be right to question her but as GM of Ubisoft Toronto, Jade Raymond is pushing her team to produce something meaningful and unique.
“I am pushing our creative teams to think about meaning and to say something deeper than at the surface level,” she said. “One thing I am certain of is that the creative teams who occupy the top spots in our industry should be taking the greatest risks.
“Activision has the recipe and all of the money. I’m like: ‘You guys mess with it a bit!’. I am going to get a phone call from Bobby Kotick now…”
Basically, she just called Activision out on what we’ve been accusing them of for a while now and while we demonise Kotick, he isn’t alone in this. Ubisoft themselves are guilty of it to a degree with the last few AC games and the clear milking of the franchise. I bet Raymond has more than a few things to say about what they’ve done to the series she helped start but that’s probably a story for another day.
“More and more people come to me at Ubisoft and say: ‘I love games. I came into this industry with so many ideas. But I can’t continue to make shooters over and over again. I’m not even in line with the messages’,” she said. “I have that meeting a lot these days. Yeah, it’s time to give our teenage medium a kick in the balls.
“I think it can help to look at what’s been big in media over the past 12 months. Interesting topics that have been in the news include the Arab Spring, internet freedom, the growing class divide. I think games could explore religious beliefs in a fascinating way. For example, imagine a game in which death or save games are aligned with the Hindu belief in reincarnation. Perhaps you could retry levels as animals, or humans with different skill sets upon death?
“Beyond that? What about the way the way the system is stacked against the poor? If you lose your job, especially in the States where there’s no healthcare, your debt can grow out of control very quickly. It’s remarkably easy to become homeless. That meta-gameplay loop could easily be brought into a game I think. Sexism, too. That could easily be brought into a franchise like Call of Duty. If you could play as a woman you could bring in some perspectives to what that might be like.
“I don’t know when we decided as an industry that in order to sell five million copies of a game you have to make a Michael Bay film. There are other options.”
After reading all of that, Jade Raymond must sound like some bright-eyed optimist filled with hope and faith in humanity but she is only too aware pf the reality that the bigger companies view innovation as a “luxury”. This can largely be attributed to the increasing costs of developing a game. She is still hopeful that the industry can move forward and believes that it is the only way for gaming to thrive long-term. Besides, what’s the point if the focus is solely on money and innovation is a distant second? Oh wait, we’re pretty much there already, aren’t we?
“Ultimately, if we are not moving things forward then why are we working here? If you’re going to create something then you have to go above and beyond what’s gone before,” she said.
“It’s the only way.”
Honestly, I respect Jade Raymond even more as a developer after reading this because she literally just said what myself and certainly many of you have been saying for a long time now and that shows that she gets it. She shares our sentiments and is trying to be the change she wants to see in the industry. I did not see this article ending with a line from Ghandi but hey, it could’ve been worse. I could’ve ended with this quote from General Pinochet: “I’m not a dictator. It’s just that I have a grumpy face.”