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Ubisoft boss draws fire for comments on “friction” in game development

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Yves Guillemot, boss and co-founder of Ubisoft, has raised eyebrows for his comments on the need for “a little friction” in game development.

Discussing his company’s troubles with harassment and workplace toxicity, as highlighted by a number of employees since the summer of 2020, Guillemot told La Presse that Ubisoft had been “progressing at a good pace” in dealing with its issues – but that “creating a video game is not easy” and sometimes created “a lot of tension”.

“Techniques must be put in place to ensure that everyone succeeds in finding their place,” Guillemot continued, now discussing the games industry in general. “To create, you need a little friction, because everyone has to succeed in getting their idea across. It’s a job that brings a lot of rewards when you succeed, but it’s difficult.”

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The remarks have been criticised for appearing to accept a need for “friction” among employees during game development – at a time Ubisoft is still trying to correct its workplace issues.

Guillemot has since offered a further explanation of his answer, first published by Kotaku, in which he began by stating there was “absolutely no place for toxicity at Ubisoft or in our industry”.

“When I spoke of there sometimes being friction, I was thinking of the creative tension that is common and vital in innovative companies like ours, where people have the freedom to challenge ideas and have heated but healthy debates,” Guillemot said.

“To prevent this tension from becoming negative or to address it if it does, that’s where strong policies, values and corresponding procedures are essential.”

Guillemot concludes by stating Ubisoft has made progress, that its latest employee surveys reflect this, and that building “healthy, respectful working environments [is] our top priority”.

In a recent interview with GamesIndustry.biz, Guillemot said similar – that it was “a company that can be proud of itself” but that “can always do better”.

But ahead of Ubisoft’s recent celebrations for the 15th anniversary of Assassin’s Creed, a fan group closely linked with the series’ development claimed some staff who faced scandal – or who protected these people – remained at the company.

“Ubisoft takes all allegations extremely seriously,” Guillemot said in response to this. “While I can’t comment on specific cases, I can assure you that any team member who has been named in a report and remains at Ubisoft has had their case rigorously reviewed and has either been cleared, or has been appropriately disciplined and given an individualised action plan to support and monitor their progress.”

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