It’s the people. The stream of people that flows through the doors at all hours of the day. There’s no rhyme or reason to it, at first: often you’ll swear blind you saw the same person enter more than once, or watch a fresh-faced young man enter and leave a barely recognisable shadow of a human being scant minutes later, with a beard that trails down to the floor and tired eyes that have witnessed too much. We meet our guide, in the lobby – four unlabeled hallways spiral off it and a glass-fronted reception plastered with Assassin’s Creed imagery gives this area of the building a semblance of normality. Our guide is a young man, visibly stressed, and his eyes repeatedly dart down to a tattered schedule he’s clasping in both hands.
“You need to go upstairs to the third floor. That’s one flight of stairs, even though we’re on the first floor. Don’t worry about where the second floor is or where it might have been. That’s over now. Gone. A man will be there holding a sign to direct you to the meeting room. Please don’t deviate from the path, because this place can be… like a maze. Yes. Likea maze.”
We walk up, and there is no man with a sign. Instead, a wild-haired man carries unmarked cardboard in front of himself and looks determinedly at the escalators as though daring them to open. We continue on the only path available to us and take too many right turns – we take five, with no discernable change in height, yet are still making progress and can still see the city outside through the windows. Occassionally children look inside and point at us and their mothers quickly pull them away, hurrying them down the street.
The corridors – the endless corridors – are concrete painted grey and blue. Flickering flourescent lights stretch overhead. Employees – for that is what the people who march into the building are, we’re assured – walk past us silently, avoiding eye contact. Occasionally we catch a glimpse of an open door (all doors are unlabled, or at the very least labeled in a way that our eyes cannot discern) and spy a man or woman stealing through into darkness past iron gates crafted from giant rotary metal teeth.
It’s hard to tell if every corridor looks the same or if they’re all somehow the same corridor.
We reach the room, after a trek; the windows are covered with a sort of gauze, and chairs are arranged in rows for us to sit on. We are told that if we want to go to the bathroom we must take an employee with us so we don’t get lost. Not becoming lost is paramount, we are told. I ask if I can talk to one of the people wandering about the place, and I’m refused almost instantly. They wouldn’t want journalists to ask questions, they say. They’re all very busy.
I ask our guide (as he takes us to the bathroom) whether there is a map of the building and he looks at me, confused, as though he’s having problems understanding what a map is. “You can’t… map Ubisoft Montreal,” he says, turning the word over in his mouth like a loose tooth. “Many of us who didn’t join after a “tour” were born here, and we know the building plan through the old ways. I’m third-generation. Over half of us were born to and raised by fellow employees, and during crunch time, the wolves that roam the Wild Places would care for us.”
He paused and shuddered, his hand resting on a set of heavily scarred toothmarks on the back of his neck. “Mother Wolf cared for all of us,” he said, and just stared.
We went to the bathroom (in turn, while a big man squatted in the corner of the room and watched us intently) and filed back out. Our guide gathered his senses and continued. “This was originally a fabric warehouse, before all… the trouble. But things have changed since we moved in.”
Since Ubisoft’s arrival in the building, numerous extensions and bargains with unfathomable creatures have doubled the external space of the building and more than tripled the internal space, with many rooms utilising all possible surfaces – floor to ceiling – due to a blasphemous disregard for the physical laws of God’s Earth. Much of the building is contained below ground, and thanks to the Dark Rats gnawing through the fabric of reality and opening holes to the Shadow Realm, a new motion capture studio has recently been installed in the weeping rend between the worlds.
I asked where they made the games in this place – popular games like the Far Cry, Prince of Persia, Assassin’s Creed and Rainbow Six series – and our guide glared sideways at me. “I don’t know,” he snapped. “I don’t know where the games come out. There’s just corridors and rooms and chairs and tables and metal gates and screaming and wolves and the rats, the rats, the rats in the walls, always squeaking and plotting and chewing and gnawing at the slick-wet crumbleworld, and then… games happen. I don’t know. I don’t know. Do you know?”
I didn’t know. There was certainly no visible sign of anyone making games. No open spaces filled with people, desks strewn with action figures and anime posters on the walls. No boards with schedules written on. No sign of anyone doing… anything. Just corridors, and stairs, and meeting rooms, and shadowed doorways with those metal gates that barred entry, or exit, or both.
I fled, leaving many of my possessions and much of my sanity behind in that place; that terrifying, cavernous place where space and time turn to dust like old bones. I fear I will not make it through the night, for I hear the wolves calling for me on the hills and the rats burrowing through the walls. That building knows me, and it hungers. Though I walked through the exit door I cannot ever truly leave. – If you’re interested in joining Ubisoft Montreal, why not check out their Careers Page?