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“We have to be careful to remain entertaining” Ubisoft’s boss says on the balance between politics and entertainment

3 min read

Video games can be entertaining. Video games can also have something to say, but nailing the balance between the two is like walking a tightrope made out of dental floss. Few games have managed to combine the spheres into a complete package, let alone one that does well critically and financially. When it comes to dealing with heavy topics such as war, jingoism and violence, Ubisoft normally gets a ton of flack for taking a seat directly in the middle.

See here’s the thing: I don’t blame Ubisoft at all for sticking more to entertainment than providing a message, because the harsh reality is that a game which veers more towards the preachy side of life is most likely not going to be fun. Doing so would most likely result in a fanbase echoing this classic statement:

On the other hand, making a game and then slyly using heavier themes to market said product means that Ubisoft can and should be criticised for their PR sleight of hand, because this is a company that knows all too well what will sell and how they’ll push it out so that all eyeballs will be focused on their product. Nobody knows this more than the Ubi-Boss himself, Yves Guillemot, as he spoke with Games Industry Biz about how current Ubisoft games are designed to never be too serious. “We have to be careful to remain entertaining,” Guillemot explained.

When we go too serious into something… There are other mediums that can tell you more about different subjects. The goal each time is to make it believable, but still fun and interesting. It’s a thin line we have to follow as an industry. How can we make people feel that this can happen, and at the same time still be fun and not too serious?

But that’s our life. We know that there are all sorts of situations everywhere and we still want to have a fun, interesting life. Here, we mix entertainment and the possibility to have fun with the world around us — that can be good and also extreme or different from what we expect.

He’s not wrong and I like Ubisoft games for still being pure escapist fluff. I only wish that they’d stop teasing players with carrot on the stick themes, because the games can still sell well without needing to go in that direction. Ghost Recon Widlands may have been a jingoistic sandbox featuring Team America on a rampage, but beyond that, it was still a damn good experience that managed to sell over 15 million units.

Ghost Recon Breakpoint has learnt from that narrative misstep, and is plunging forward with a story that has a much lower chance of pissing off Bolivia in favour of some more fictional exploits that have the merest hint of this could actually happen yo. And so far? It looks rather damn good.

Last Updated: September 4, 2019

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