“Meet The Team” is an offbeat interview with the studio’s talents. Get to know us and discover our backgrounds, favorite games, life at Ubisoft, and hidden talents! This time, let’s meet Ismaïl El Aissaoui, Live Strategy Manager on Just Dance.
Hi Ismaïl! So, do you play?
Right now, I’m playing League of Legends, Red Dead Redemption 2, and I’m discovering Deathloop that just came out. It’s a Die and Retry game with a concept of time loops I love, and in the same genre, Hades has impressed me as well. I also like competitive games that require you to surpass yourself.
What I like about video games is that I’m told a story, and I feel things. I played a lot when I was younger. I loved two golden ages in video games (in my opinion) with on the one hand the RTS games (Real-Time Strategy) like Age of Empires, Warcraft, Starcraft, Age of Mythology, etc., and on the other hand FPS games (First Person Shooter) with Call of Duty 4, Rainbow Six Vegas, Gears of War.
Which games have marked you the most?
L.A. NOIRE is, for me, a great classic that has marked me well. It’s an action game where you play as a detective, and I particularly liked the game because the concept builds around facial expressions, which were very advanced. During interrogations, you had to guess whether or not the suspects were lying based on their facial expressions.
The mood and atmosphere of the game also marked me a lot because it explores an era of corruption and traffic during the post-war period under a Jazz and gangster delirium and it is very well reproduced. I also recommend this game because it is inspired by detective novels, rarely found in video games, but treated very well in an open world. I love it.
If you could work on another Ubisoft game, what would it be?
There are several, but I’ll start with For Honor! I’m in awe of the studios’ work, especially since it’s a “Game As A Service.” The game has the best sword fighting gameplay and the best mechanics I’ve ever seen! I’m also a big fan of fighting games, and I would see myself working on them.
As a big fan of Star Wars, I must also mention this brand! I know nothing has been announced about the game yet, but it would be my dream to work on it.
What did you do before Ubisoft?
“I had never really felt represented in video games until the character of Altair”
I worked with the Cameroonian studio Kiro’o Games on the game Aurion: the Legacy of Kori Odan. It was a memorable experience that made me realize that there are very few African studios. I realized that they were experiencing ten times more obstacles to create their game. Africa is under-represented in the industry, and I hope that will evolve.
Being of Moroccan origin, I would like to develop a video game in Africa and be inspired by brands close to my heart, such as Assassin’s Creed, my favorite at Ubisoft. The first one is particularly dear to me because we play a character of Arab descent. I had never really felt represented in video games until the character of Altair. For me, it is the most diverse brand in terms of representations of origins, and we do not see many in video games.
What is your best memory at Ubisoft?
Three years ago, I went to India to meet the Just Dance teams of Ubisoft Pune for a project handover. It was a unique experience. It’s like I met an equivalent of every member of my team there! Laughs. We resembled each other, so in the space of a week, we quickly got closer. I was able to discover Pune and party with the local teams. I really enjoyed the experience for the human quality of the trip beyond the work done together. We’ve been in touch ever since, and if they’re reading this, Salam to them. I will never forget that trip.
What is your proudest achievement?
Let me introduce my work first. I am Live Strategy Manager. My job is to develop the Live in the Just Dance brand. So I manage the in-game business strategy by being the architect of the different animations once the game is launched. It’s a very versatile job where you work with many people. You acquire a little business knowledge in all areas to expand your expertise in animating our players’ sessions and improving our performance.
What I’m most proud of is that I introduced the concept of seasons into Just Dance. It’s a concept specific to “Game As A Service” games but not commonplace for a 10-year-old brand like Just Dance. So I worked to bring new ideas and get our players used to this type of content and events. I developed the strategy from JD 2020 until today, and it makes me very happy to perpetuate this principle on the brand. I’m proud to have established it and that the idea of seasons has become important for the brand and the players above all. On Just Dance, we’re lucky to have a very cool and positive community on our content. My goal is to make them dig it, and I hope it will continue for a long time.
Who inspires you in your work?
This may sound a little cheesy, but it’s my mother. She doesn’t know anything about video games and doesn’t really understand my work. But she inspires me because she’s the reason I’m here. Studying video games can be expensive and she worked hard to give me that. She is a strong woman who really gave of herself to make me happy. I’m thankful to her, so I do everything to make her happy, and I think that’s reflected in my work. I love you, mom! Laughs.
Editor: Jennifer Lufau
Graphist: Stéphanie Guerin