Game Boy 003 – League

“Game Boy” is a weekly column in which I write about being a game developer working in Montreal. You’ll find them all under this category, and it starts here.

I don’t think I’ve ever played as much Magic: The Gathering as I do since working at game studios.

It’s no secret that I love board and card games, and in terms of Magic, it’s a game that I’ve been playing on and off pretty much since the start — the game debuted in 1993, and I believe I started playing in 1994, around the time the Fallen Empires set came out. I absolutely fell in love with the game then, and played pretty consistently from that point, even continuing in Tokyo when I moved there in 1998. I just went to a random game shop, saw a bunch of young kids playing, and came again with my cards and started playing with them. I could barely speak any Japanese, and they couldn’t speak any English, but we managed to play games and have fun.

After a while I did sort of stop playing, and it took quite a few years before I learned about a casual weekly league that was happening at a Shakey’s pizza restaurant in Takadanobaba. I decided to go on a whim, and not only did I turn into a regular — and got interested in the “limited” format, where you make a deck out of a limited number of packs, and play with that, which is pretty much the only format I enjoy playing to this day — but I also made some good friends which led to fun game nights outside of the league, and beyond Magic (other card games and board games).

That league eventually died down and I stopped going, and so I again stopped playing for a while until I convinced a few friends to play in league-like sessions, and we did so infrequently during my last few years in Japan.

And then came the time to move back to Canada, and so I sold all of my Magic cards. All of them.

Forward to me working at the Square Enix Montreal studio, and discovering that one of my colleagues also enjoyed playing Magic, and that he was playing in a league — that league was mostly held in the Eidos Montreal studio, but I’d build myself a limited deck, and we would play a few games every Friday end-of-day over beers.

Again, after I moved to Ubisoft, I stopped playing for a while, but then last summer I started getting the itch again to play, and so decided to start a league within my team. I ended up easily convincing quite a few people who had never played the game, and a few who hadn’t played in a decade or more, to join up, and we’ve been going strong ever since. Just this week week we started our 5th season — we make a season last about a month, and we’ve made them coincide with the release of new sets, and so have played with cards from Amonkhet, Hour of Devastation, Ixalan, and now Rivals of Ixalan.  Even better, we moved to a new building last week to be closer to the rest of our merged teams (my original team of 50-60 people is now part of group that numbers close to 250), and when I sent out an invite to everyone to join us in our Magic fun, I was able to add an extra ten people.

I’m sometimes surprised at how Magic has managed to sustain my interest for pretty much half of my life, and even more shocking is that I have just as much fun playing it now (maybe even more) as I did back when I first started close to 25 years ago.

The X-Files (Season 11)

I’m having so much fun watching this latest (and probably last) season of The X-Files, because it’s really having a lot of fun with itself, to a point where it almost feels like a trashy parody of itself (especially this week’s 4th episode, which was fantastic). With last year’s return of the series, I can’t say that I was super into it, except for the two funny episodes — the one on drugs, and the werewolf one (starring Rhys Darby), which was in fact of the best X-Files episodes ever. It’s always been true that the real classic episodes were in the “monster of the week” category, especially the ones with a sly sense of humor, and not only are they embracing this right now, but it really feels like everyone involved is having fun. The weakest episode this season was the first one, which touched on the kind of boring overarching story they have, and I’m hoping they’ll only go back to this at the end of the season.

Jaws: The Revenge

I wasn’t expecting anything spectacular here, just some good cheesy fun with a mechanical shark, and the saddest thing here is that the scenes with the shark are so far and few, and you have to deal with so much boring family scenes. Oh, and now there’s some sort of telepathic link with Jaws? OK. And when we do get attack scenes they’re not that great, except for the banana boat attack (nice big lunge for one of the riders). I don’t think I even watched this back in the day — don’t even remember watching any of the Jaws sequels (this was the fourth and last film in the franchise). Can’t say I really enjoyed watching this.

Bright

Yes, I watched this (during the holiday break), and yes, it’s not very good. I watched it out of curiosity, and because even though it had bad buzz, I did think that the setting was an interesting one. Or that it could potentially have been interesting. I didn’t absolutely hate it, but it’s an ugly film to watch, and it’s a wonder that they spent so much money on something like this — and I’m also shocked that they’re doing a sequel. Oh well.

Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters

This is the first part of a trilogy of animated films about Godzilla produced for Netflix, and it’s fantastic. It’s produced by the studio behind Knights of Sidonia, Ajin, and Blame, and has the same CG-animated look — and although I really enjoyed Sidonia and Ajin, I was let down by the Blame movie. Unlike Blame though, this is a fascinating watch, setting up an interesting sci-fi setting that jumps thousands of years into the future. The CG-animated style works great here, and makes for a slick look throughout. Can’t wait for part 2.

Antiporno

I wrote about watching another film in Nikkatsu’s rebooted “Roman Porno” series (Wet Woman in the Wind), and this is another film under that umbrella that popped up on Mubi. Directed by Sion Sono, this one quite literally lives up to its title, and is pretty much the furthest you could get from feeling erotic. I watched it a month ago, and at the time I felt pretty negative about what I had watched, but a month on, I remember it more as being an audacious take — and critique — on the world of erotic cinema (the film is very meta), and there are certainly some interesting visuals (like the main set in yellow that you see pictured).

Patriot

I knew nothing about this series, an Amazon Original — and apparently the pilot was first released back in 2015, and then the rest of the season was released now — but I noticed a few raves for it on my Twitter timeline and so decided to check it out, and I’m glad I did. I’ve only watched the first 3 episodes so far (of 10), but this is such a fantastic and smart series. It’s beautifully shot — it definitely has a filmic quality to it — and the situations are steeped in dark comedy (the premise is an American agent who goes undercover in an industrial company). It appears it has already been renewed for a second season, and that’s good news indeed. The funny thing too is that I watched the first episode of this straight after watching the original Robocop film, and so it put a smile on face to see Kurtwood Smith starring in both. The one thing that bugs me a bit though is that the inspector speaks French with a strong accent (i.e. she’s not really a French speaker). It becomes annoying because most of her dialogue is in French with subs.

Shameless (Season 7)

It continually surprises me just how much I continue to enjoy this show, 7 seasons in. They recently added this 7th season to Netflix, and I’m just over halfway watching it, and again, it’s just good fun. I keep thinking that they’ll have nowhere else interesting to go with these characters, and yet each new season is another fun (and ridiculous) new adventure with the Gallaghers.

My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman

I finally watched the first episode of this last night — with Obama as his first guest — and enjoyed it to bits. Obama truly comes off as a great, intelligent, reasonable, and funny man. The questions aren’t incisive, but Letterman is good at keeping the conversation going, and so I’m quite looking forward to the rest of the series — it’s on Netflix, and we’ll get a new episode every month.