After nearly a dozen years of collaborating on successful games in the Far Cry, Splinter Cell, and Assassin’s Creed franchises, Dean Evans has left Ubisoft.
Best known for leading the boisterous marketing campaign and creative direction for the neon-infused homage to 1980s action films, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon, Evans most recently was working on a new game concept with Ubisoft that the company shelved. In the aftermath, Ubisoft offered him a chance to join the editorial leadership group in Paris headed by chief creative officer Serge Hascoet, but he instead chose to step aside.
“I split with my wife, and then the project I was working on was canceled. All of this massive s— going on at the same time and I started thinking, ‘Is the best option for me to move to another foreign country?’ Evans says. “I’m 40 this year, and it’s so f—ing cliche, but you do think about it in the same way you do when you turn 30. These milestones, you start thinking about what you really want to be doing and whether you’re making the right decision.”
Evans says he’s leaving Ubisoft on good terms. Rather than immediately jump into a new endeavor, he plans to move back to the United Kingdom, then take some time off to travel. “I’ve been in the business now for over 20 years, nearly 12 of those have been at Ubisoft,” Evans says. “I’ve never really taken much of a break.”
When Evans eventually reboots his career, don’t expect the next project to tread along the same worn path as his earlier works. After years of making bombastic shooters and tense stealth situations, he has ambitions to form a much smaller team and stretch beyond the boundaries of conventional triple-A game design.
“A lot of people have been complaining about the triple-A business and the lack of risk taking, that I’d be a total f—ing hypocrite if I moved forward and didn’t take any risks,” he says. “So f— it, I think I might go out and set up my own studio and see where that goes.”
During our meandering conversation, Evans continually returned to concepts he feels could challenge the status quo. He expressed admiration for the ideas being espoused by fellow Ubisoft alumni Brie Code, who in a series of editorials and speeches over the past couple years has been challenging the conventional approach of hyper-focusing design decisions on catering to the hardcore gamer. Instead, she’s advocated for breaking down the barriers that currently make interactive entertainment a daunting proposition for the millions of people who aren’t compelled to play games driven by verbs like “punch,” “kick,” and “shoot.”
“The way I look at it is, without trying to s— on anyone, we’re at this point of the age of the designer-saur,” Evans says. “There are going to be major changes coming in. When you speak to people about the next generation, you know who the designer-saurs are because they’ll start talking about PlayStation 5 or whatever the next Xbox is. They’re not talking about kids. You’ve still got 40-year old dudes making games for 40-year old dudes. No one’s going to f—ing care. That’s the balance that needs to shift.”
Where does he see this new era ushering interactive entertainment? Away from singular platforms, scripted storylines driven by cinematics, and objective-based game design and more toward open-ended experiences that allow users to create their own ways to play and express themselves.
“I’m a big believer that the future is not games we as creators make, but that we create virtual worlds and give tools and systems to players and they’ll make infinite amounts of games,” he says. “We’re going to build spaces for players not just to play in, but to exist in. You’ll see it, in 10 years digital existence is going to be as important as your virtual existence.”
For Evans, the key to unlocking this potential may lie in studying and engaging with one of the more underserviced demographics in recent years.
“I spend as much time as possible with friends’ kids and seeing how proficient they are in everything and what an amazing, kind of captivating audience they are. To think we have the most powerful entertainment medium on the planet, and we’re ignoring the future of our planet. We’re not making games for this audience with the budget and attention they deserve.”
You heard it here first – Dean Evans believes that children are our future. Expect more news about his new endeavor as we get closer to E3.