Playing Hard offers unprecedented access to a highly secret world where a few gamers/designers are shaping what has now become the biggest entertainment industry in the world. It follows the creation of the game For Honor over a four-year period. As the production team grows from 40 to 500 people, we witness the human theatre involved in creating and launching a major video game.
From Montreal to Los Angeles, through Cologne, Moscow, Seattle, and Asia, we follow Creative Director Jason VandenBerghe, Producer Stéphane Cardin, and Brand Manager Luc Duchaine as they struggle to bring an idea to life. Beyond the commercial success of the game, their dreams, fears, and relationships are at stake.
“Immortality comes when you give your people something that they needed... and that they can keep when you are gone.”
CONTEXT AND PRODUCTION NOTE
The production of this documentary was made possible due to an exceptional combination of circumstances. By opening the doors into the creation of a new intellectual property, Playing Hard offers a unique occasion for the viewer to plunge into the heart of the gigantic video game industry, which now surpasses Hollywood in terms of revenue. More than just a look at the production process, it delves into the human theatre involved in creating and launching a major AAA video game. The film shows the challenges, conflicts, hopes, decisions, and critical moments that pave the road to a worldwide launch.
Never before have viewers been exposed to the incredible human machine that is required to create such a large-scale game. Never before has a major video game publisher opened the doors of its fortress, with complete independence, to a documentary crew.
But after several months of shooting, the director's access to For Honor 's production floor was revoked. It took many months and discussions for Ubisoft to reverse its decision and give the documentary's production team carte blanche. The documentary team was under non-disclosure agreements to ensure that no details were made public before the game was launched.
Ubisoft bet on transparency, a quality that is missing in the game industry, according to some observers. Ubisoft had no say over the final cut of the film.
"This is just how I am: melodramatic."
Jason has worked on some of the greatest video game franchises in the world, but never with the same team after “shipping” a project. He scares some people he works with, and every conflict he’s involved in affects him deeply.
His imagination has no boundaries. He has a magnetic personality and a contagious insanity, qualities that permit him to achieve his dream: creating a video game from scratch, straight out of his imagination.
"I've known the pain of having something not work out."
Stéphane Cardin has a keen mind. He understands every aspect of creating a video game and does not hesitate to gamble on something if he thinks it will pay off. He has the trust of the studio’s management and head office, but he still has to prove that he can create a game that will be a commercial success. His last project failed. On For Honor, he’s directing a team that grows from 40 to 500 people.
Being a divorced father of two who tries to find balance in his life, he doesn’t want to fail on this one.
"If you have a solution, bring it forward."
As Director of Communications of Ubisoft Montreal, Luc Duchaine had to interview many candidates for the brand management position on the game soon to be named For Honor. He finally decided to give himself the job.
Luc is the guy who has to sell the game. He is a loudmouth who says what he thinks, even more so when there's pressure. He wants to achieve the #1 spot, and he won't let anything stand in his way. Even his own health.
Jean-Simon Chartier | Director and Producer
Jean-Simon began his career in advertising. After having traveled as a wannabe journalist through Latin America and Southeast Asia, he decided to pursue his love of documentary filmmaking, founding MC2 Communication Media. Over the past few years, Jean-Simon has produced documentaries (independent and series) in partnership with several broadcasters in Canada and abroad, as well as many wide-reaching collaborative web projects. Several award-winning documentaries produced by MC2 have been released in cinemas and featured in festivals such as IDFA, Hot Docs, DOK.fest, RIDM.
Jean-Simon has directed a few documentaries for television, all of which were character-driven stories told in a broad social issue context (Body “À La Carte”, Alleluia, Marchands de bonheur, Soeur Violaine, and Encountering Burning Man). Playing Hard is his first feature documentary as a director.
a MC2 COMMUNICATION MEDIA production
Written, Directed, and Produced by
Erik West Millette
Directors of Photography
Production and Post-production Manager
Sound Designers and Mixers
Graphic Design and Titles