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Veteran game developer and former Ubisoft executive Jade Raymond spoke to Forbes earlier this week about the state of her profession. Although the indie scene merited a few mentions – Raymond is lending her time to indie developers before pursuing her next venture – the AAA game sector remained the topic du jour, with Raymond offering several thoughts on the trends she sees in 2015. “I think it’s strange that a lot of the basic things we should be experts at we just don’t apply to management,” she remarked.

Specifically, Raymond referred to the longstanding industry practice of awarding bonuses to studios based on game sales, positing that it incentivizes sameness and rote design. When sales are the main objective, she explained, developers tend to go with what has worked in the past. “If your bonus is 100% based on profitability you are more likely to stay with the tried and true route – if Game X is a sequel and the previous game hit that bar, you’re going to do a similar thing but polish a little more.”

Such caution, according to Raymond, inhibits creativity and results in homogenization. “One of these monster games has to have stealth and shooting and melee combat and hand-to hand combat and driving and flying,” she explained. “And suddenly every monster game is like all the other [ones], and cost a lot to make.” Ironically, then, a focus on profitability could actually hurt a studio’s bottom line in the long run: Raymond alluded to the cost and scope of AAA development “ballooning out of control,” a problem that has been noted more frequently as the industry continues to grow. In recent years, for example, Square Enix infamously expressed disappointment at sales of 2013’s reboot of Tomb Raider despite 3.4 million units sold by the end of the launch month.

What’s the fix? Creating a new system of incentives, argues Raymond, is a promising way to promote creativity over boilerplate stability. “I think that if companies really do care about quality, or risk-taking and innovation in the long term, they also have to tie their merit-based bonuses to metrics that align with that,” she said.

The interview also touched on the issue of female opportunity in the tech workplace. Although offering more a more general response, Raymond did make sure to say that she believes there are problems that need to be addressed. “There’s a lot of work to be done in most industries, honestly,” she appraised, “but I do think the games industry has some specific work to do.” In an earlier interview with Polygon, Raymond mentioned details, including the underestimation of her role due to her gender. She also emphasized moderation in regard to creative content: “Yes, I think there are some games, you know, yes, whatever, portrayal of women can be improved. Yes, it can be improved in every single frickin’ entertainment form. Movies, even the magazines that we buy. Women buy these magazines and on the cover of these magazines, women are wearing sexy outfits. You see cleavage, all this stuff. These are the magazines we choose to buy for ourselves. I feel like as a person who loves the game industry and likes making games, action games, I made Assassin’s Creed — it’s a game where you assassinate guys and you have a big sword and stuff. I like bad action movies. I like what we do and I don’t feel like it all has to be so … ”

Since leaving Ubisoft Toronto, Raymond has remained mum about her next step. An announcement, she promised, is coming sometime this July.

Does Jade Raymond have your ear on conditions in the gaming industry? Let us know below.


Francis Kelly

I'm an enthusiast writer who grew up in the 64 tradition - Commodore, then Nintendo. In the following years, the Internet has given me both online publishing and online multiplayer. It's a wash.



  • Sergio Celi

    Well, even knowing that the 40% female gamers statistics include social mobile/Facebook games I can understand why the target market needs to change a bit. Also, people in informatics and computer engineering is predominantly male. I’d like to de sexualize all media but to be frank, It’s impossible not to sexualize when you are a healthy adult. (And sex sells).

  • “I’d like to de sexualize all media” Why?

  • “Women buy these” “we choose to buy for ourselves”

    I feel like she’s got a solution and is looking for a problem.

  • d0x360

    All this talk about the portrayal of females getting better…let’s be honest here men aren’t exactly well written either. I also find it somewhat odd fhsy Jade Raymond who has reached one of the highest levels there is thinks the industry needs work. Is this based on her experience? She doesnt seem to have been held back at all.

  • Sergio Celi

    Well, I mean, trying to make marketing not to use sex or sexualization as a selling point, and focus more on well developed characters beyond ‘she’s a beauty’ ‘he’s a cool nice looking guy’ (and all its variants, gay,les,trans). I expressed myself poorly.

  • d0x360

    I’d rather not desexualize all media. I’m an adult and sex is part of my life. Do I need every game to have sex appeal? Hell no but sex is part of life. sanitizing everything to placate some whining is ridiculous. If someone doesn’t like a game with any sex appeal they are easy to avoid.

    One of the reasons I love CDPR and the witcher series is because it’s written for adults. Its not full of cheese like dragon age, doesnt have silly romance and ridiculous sex like mass effect…and dragon age and 100 other games. The characters fit the writing and the world and so do the situations. I appreciate a developer not treating me like an idiot and I appreciate a complex story with complex characters. 99.9% of games aren’t like that so when one comes along its a win for everyone. Witcher is a well written game. Period. Everyone should be able to appreciate such a thing whether it has boobies or not.

  • Dr_Zox

    I am just going to say this, didn’t anyone else here notice that Jade Raymond quit just before the broken release of unity? quitting before a release is usually very odd particularly going to nothing straight away…

  • Sergio Celi

    I didn’t mean to say to throw out sex away games’ plots or thematics, I was only referring to selling strategies and marketing. I prefer well written characters over ‘he’s a good looking gay guy who doesn’t fit in his society’, like in DA: Inquisition.

  • anonm8

    This article is a bit messy in giving context to what she is saying, like:
    “She also emphasized moderation in regard to creative content”

    Doesn’t seem to agree with what she is saying in the quote, she is only saying that ‘yes, there is room to improve, as there is in all mediums’. She is not emphasizing anything, merely replying the question that it is possible to improve. Not making any claim that she thinks anyone should do it or that it’s an important or urgent issue.

    She’s extremely hard working (and unlucky), I have a lot of respect for her. Specially because she stays professional and acts her role as an executive, without trying to cash in her un-merited fame, received thanks to the sexist game journos.

  • Dr. Evil’s Brother’s Evil Twin

    This sexism bullshit is getting real tiring… I don’t think it’s as big of an issue as people make it seem. What I think happened is people who spout this nonsense wanted to get on the cash grab going on.

  • chloe

    http://cdn.makeagif.com/media/5-11-2015/z8AbSj.gif

    I want to be sexually assaulted by a woman….

  • Reptile

    Well of course the industry needs work, we need to improve games even more to progress further as an entertainment media. Also she was at a high position, but maybe she was held back, like EA, Ubisoft don’t make games for gamers anymore, they make it for shareholders, they make them for market speculation, that is why there are a lot of odd business practices out there like abusive DRMs, always online this and that, etc. Fun is lost in this process, I think that is what she is trying to say, we as industry need to focus not on market numbers and max revenue, but in quality and fun, profit will come as consequence of a game being good.

  • d0x360

    I dont see how anyone could ever think she was held back. She’s very young still and worked up the development ladder to running and helping create ubisofts biggest studios and franchises.

    Before she left she was overseeing multiple dev studios and had creative control for almost every major series they produced except for far cry.

    Also she comments or insinuates that creation is stiffled in the industry and games arent like they used to be but…she had a direct hand in getting us where we are. She lead the direction of assassins creed, she led the change in mechanics for splinter cell after chaos theory, she had in watch dogs etc etc etc. She wielded massive influence at ubi soft its just undeniable.

  • Farmer John Jensen

    The problem is that humans are visual animals. We tend to think in pictures and colors. And, as was mentioned, we are also sexual animals. So the current standard of sexual attractiveness has been, is, and will be a large part of our first impression of people. We’re just wired that way.

  • Reptile

    And with that massive influence she got a massive responsability, even that high, she still had people to answer, numbers to achieve and investors to cater. ACII was amazing, my favourite game of all time right next to Brotherhood, but to the people with the money to invest, what matters are the numbers, they don’t care if the game is good, they care that it sells X copies and they profit, here is the point were bad games, misleading screenshots/videos, shady practices and etc appears, that is her main complain. I have no doubts that most AAA companies need to sacrifice innovation and quality to reach X in sales.

  • d0x360

    Who cares if she still had to answer to a few people? You are missing the point. She rose to basically 3 spots away from running the entire company. Does that sound like someone who’s been held back? Hell no. Ubi soft made he wealthy and gave her tons of power within the company. She rose to a level most men never reach, made more money than most men at that company ever will, had more power than most men there ever will and she did it in very short time.

  • Reptile

    Or maybe you souldn’t care if marketing uses sex or sexualization as a selling point, looking throught it (not in a pervy way) and seeking about the plot to guess if a character is well developed or not. Until you experience the game and its story you will never know if the plot/characters are well written or not. You don’t see Lara Croft with a tag saying “Miss personality”, right?

  • mbits

    It’s strange how much people complain about representation of women in industries that women don’t seem to want to participate in that much. It’s amazing how those who actually *do* want to participate can and *do*.

    Nobody stopped Zoe Quinn from being an indie dev. She put out a crappy choose your own text adventure game and then got a bigger FMV project coming up next and gigs writing. Wu has a studio and created her own game. Hell, even extremely outspoken SJW Ashley Burch is currently voice acting like half of the games out there right now. How can you complain about how unfair the industry is and how they keep women out, when you seem to get more work thrown at you than you can handle?!

    Nothing is stopping anybody from getting into any field that they want. Just because some people choose one field over another far more often doesn’t make it sexist. It makes it something that people just didn’t want to get into. If all *these* women can get into the field, then all the other women who want to can, too.. but the fact is most who want to already have. Those who don’t want to just sit on the sidelines with their useless gender studies or journalism degrees or communications and broadcasting degrees and bitch about how there aren’t enough women in XYZ… while they meanwhile *also* chose not to be in XYZ.

  • mbits

    You just described every publicly traded company.

    The quality of your product isn’t relevant. ALL that matters is how many percentage points higher your revenue is this quarter than last quarter and that you maintain this trajectory forever. The moment your billion dollar company “merely” manages to make stuff, sell stuff, and pay the bills is the moment you start to die.

  • mbits

    Huh?

    You don’t change the market. You sell the market what it fucking wants. That’s the difference between being a business and being a government social program.

  • TeLin特林

    I think she’s afraid of getting attacked by those radfems…

  • BlueLight

    I think the statements are the vague to make anything out about them. The politically correct can say she agree with them and games should be censored, while the other side of the spectrum will say “Well she sees some problems.”

  • Matthew Dolby

    Here we go. Another woman in the industry upset that people ‘underestimated her because of her gender’. Fucking shoot me.

  • Matthew Dolby

    Fucking hell. Now I don’t want to play Cassie. Had no clue her voice actress was a champion for Social Justice.

  • Rüshiera

    Raymond is getting hotter with age, rare to see a women not aging like mashed potatoes

  • chizwoz

    I don’t wanna be overly cynical and want to remain open to the idea that women do face these huge challenges. But that response just stinks of “I really should say there are problems but I can’t actually think of any.”

  • Turt

    She makes good points on management and then ruins her credibility with the gender scare nonsense.

  • chizwoz

    Seems more likely she just knows the biases of the people she was talking to and was playing to them to curry favour.

  • Dr. Evil’s Brother’s Evil Twin

    I get that, but it still needs to die.

  • Turt

    They’re scary

  • Turt

    It’s just the current fad to get free headlines.

  • chizwoz

    Well for the most part I agree it’s bullshit. But I don’t think it always is. I have seen the odd case of genuine sexism in various places I’ve worked. It’s been very rare though and there’s no doubt that the modern feminist movement completely overexagerate it, as they do everything.

  • Dr. Evil’s Brother’s Evil Twin

    I have too, but I don’t blame the location or a game, I blame the asshole who was being sexist. To say games are sexist or a dev is because they have some fanservice, fuck off. That shit has got to go.

  • chizwoz

    Well I think it is principle possible to have systematic flaws in a community or an industry that allows certain problems to sustain themselves. But I don’t actually see what they are in gaming at all. I think it’s far more likely to be what you say, just various isolated incidents. It would be pretty easy for them to analyse it by comparing rates of harassment in gaming with in the general population. That could reveal a systematic problem. Of course the people who make this noise aren’t particularly good at being interested in facts.

  • chizwoz

    Unfortunately, we’ve got a generation of people who’ve been trained to see imbalances and assume they’re injustices. The idea that maybe men and women go into different industries because they enjoy different things is completely unacceptable to these people.

  • DariusQ

    What most likely happened is a few self-important individuals generalized their personal situations to encompass the entire industry. And then they turn around and talk about privilege.

  • DariusQ

    The irony is that breaking into industries like voice acting though are not nearly as easy as you’d think because they are unionized. Unless you’re part of the union you are excluded. And who controls the unions? SJWs.