Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot sparked controversy by saying that “you need a little friction” to make video games, a remark that caused a backlash over the company’s well-known problems with workplace toxicity and abuse.
“Creating a video game is not easy,” Guillemot said in a recent interview with La Presse (opens in a new tab) (Google translated (opens in a new tab)) in response to a question about why workplace misconduct seems so widespread in the games industry. “There is a ‘challenge’, from time to time a lot of tension. Techniques have to be put in place to make sure that everyone manages to find their place. To create, you need a little friction, because everyone has to manage to find their place. an idea goes over. It is a job that brings many rewards when you succeed, but it’s hard.”
It’s a fairly innocent statement about the nature of collaborative work, and not quite a direct quote because the interview is in French. However, the “friction” comment immediately raised eyebrows because of Ubisoft’s long and ugly history with workplace abuse. Those issues first came to widespread attention in mid-2020, and while some high-level managers were removed. (opens in a new tab) in the immediate aftermath of those revelations, many employees were critical of what they feel is too slow a pace of significant change. In July, for example, the employee group A Better Ubisoft (opens in a new tab) shared an open letter saying that “we have seen nothing more than a year of kind words, empty promises, and an inability or unwillingness to remove known offenders.”
Guillemot rebutted these claims in GamesIndustry (opens in a new tab) interview earlier this month, saying “we’ve done a lot” to address abuses and “acted quickly by cutting some people’s jobs” when allegations of wrongdoing emerged. He echoed those sentiments in response to criticism of his comment in this interview, saying that “there is absolutely no place for toxicity at Ubisoft or in our industry.”
“When I said that sometimes there is friction, I was thinking about the creative tension that is common and essential in innovative companies like ours, where people have the freedom to challenge ideas and have heated but healthy debates,” Guillemot said in a statement sent. to PC Gamer. “To prevent this tension from becoming negative or to deal with it if it does, there are essential strong policies, values and response procedures.
“Over the past two and a half years, we’ve made great strides in delivering safe and great experiences to all of our teams. Healthy, respectful work environments are our top priority and we’re happy to say that. According to our latest surveys, our team members are reassured that we are on the right track.”
Guillemot and Ubisoft have previously pointed to employee surveys indicating the company is moving in the right direction, including in a recent GamesIndustry interview. But these too were criticized by some employees for lack of context and specificity (opens in a new tab).