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“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.

Last week I started going through a list of games for which I answered the following question: “What are your favorite games for platforms you’ve owned?” (from a social media meme that made the rounds back in early January). Check out part 1 for my picks that went from the VIC-20 until the PlayStation 2. Here then is part 2.

Game Boy Advance: Super Mario Advance 2
I really loved the Game Boy Advance, it had a fantastic form factor. I know this game is basically a remake of Super Mario World, but looking through the GBA library, this was the game I remember enjoying playing the most.

GameCube: The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker
Even though it was received with mixed reactions because of the cartoony look, I was in love with this game even then, and it was at the time my favorite Zelda game since A Link to the Past (yes, more than Ocarina of Time). Sure, some bits were a bit of a drag (having to cross the entire map by boat), but it remains one of my favorite Zelda games, and I would love for them to revisit this version of Link again on Switch.

Nintendo DS: New Super Mario Bros.
I played tons and tons of games on the DS, and it would be easy to list over 20 games that I could say were fantastic gaming experiences for me, but I can’t help but think that this game was just so exciting and fun to play. Not only a return to 2D platforming for Mario, but one that was a joy to play.

PlayStation Portable: Lumines
Lumines just felt so damn cool — it brought me back to the cool aesthetics of the Dreamcast era, but with a techno sheen and an even better soundtrack. I’m not generally big into abstract puzzles games, but the way this was presented and the addictive gameplay made me fall in love with it, and spend countless hours playing.

Xbox 360: Red Dead Redemption
Sure, this a multi-platform game, but I played it on the 360, and so I place it here. It’s also my favorite game of this generation. I absolutely love westerns, and love open-world adventures games, and this was just the perfect mix of the two. You can imagine just how excited I am to play its sequel this year.

Nintendo Wii: New Super Mario Bros. Wii
Despite its massive success, the Wii is the Nintendo console I never really “liked,” and it’s also the Nintendo console on which I’ve played the least games. I played Twilight Princess on GameCube, and the only mainline Zelda game I’ve never played is Skyward Sword (I didn’t want to play a Zelda game with those controls and with that low of a resolution). I know the Mario Galaxy games are much loved, but I barely played them, and so the only Wii game that I really have fond memories of playing is New Super Mario Bros. Wii.

PlayStation 3: Grand Theft Auto V
Yes, another GTA game (and another Rockstar game). If I had played this later on PS4, then GTA4 might have been my favorite here, but 5 it is. I loved it for the same reasons I fell in love with the series with San Andreas.

Nintendo 3DS: The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
There are tons of games I’ve loved on the 3DS — and it was after playing Super Mario 3D Land on a friend’s 3DS that sold me on buying one a few days later — but if there’s one absolute standout for me, it has to be this direct sequel to A Link to the Past. Not only is it a fantastic game, but it also really does feel like a direct sequel to the Super NES classic, and I’m still hoping they make another one for Switch, using the same overhead perspective.

PlayStation Vita: Persona 4 Golden
I liked the Vita quite a lot, and there are a lot of games that I really enjoyed playing on it — the only negative I had for the device was that it was missing an extra pair of shoulder buttons. Persona 4 Golden was my first taste of Persona, and it was an absolute joy to play on Vita. I’m still a bit sad that I haven’t been able to really get into Persona 5 (in love with the aesthetic, but not with the rigid structure).

Nintendo Wii U: Mario Kart 8
I loved the Wii U, I really did, and it was home to some of the best Nintendo games in years (so much so that they’re getting re-released for Switch). I really, really loved the Wind Waker and Twilight Princess HD editions, as well as Super Mario 3D World, and don’t get me started on the Bayonetta games (I may even end up getting those again on Switch), but the game I put the most time on was Mario Kart 8. I love this game so much, that not only did I get it again on Switch, I’ve probably played just as much time on it as I did on the Wii U.

PlayStation 4: Yakuza 0
There have been so many great games that I’ve played on the PS4, and when I started thinking about putting Yakuza 0 here, I thought I was surely forgetting something. But no, even though it’s one of the latest games I finished (last month), I can’t help but feel like it was my favorite experience on the console so far — and I’m currently playing Yakuza Kiwami, which I’m also thoroughly enjoying.

Switch: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
To be honest, it’s almost a tie between this, Super Mario Odyssey, and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, but I think Breath of the Wild still has the edge. It’s the Zelda game that has surprised me the most, that has sucked me in the most, and that has seen me put in the most time playing. For a franchise I’ve loved my entire life, it’s pretty amazing to say those things about the latest entry in the series.

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“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.

In early January there was a meme making the rounds on social networks asking you to answer the following question: “What are your favorite games for platforms you’ve owned?” I answered (on Twitter/Facebook) with a simple list, but this week I thought I’d explain why I selected each of these titles. Since there’s a lot, I’ll separate them in two parts, so here is part 1.

(And if you’re curious, here I list what I believe to be my 5 favorite games of all time.)

VIC-20: Gorf
Even though I played games on most of the original consoles — like the Atari 2600, Intellivision and Intellivision II, ColecoVision, Vectrex, etc. — I never actually owned any of them and so what I experienced of them was thanks to my friends who did own them. My first computer — and device that played “electronic games” –was the Commodore VIC-20 (precursor to the much more popular Commodore 64), and the game I remember playing the most on it was Gorf, a sort of suped-up Space Invaders.

MS-DOS: Phantasie III: The Wrath of Nicodemus
I was indeed a big PC gamer through the 80s and early 90s, and although there are tons of games I could point to as being special and essential — it was hard not to include an Infocom game here — I do have a special place in my heart for this computer RPG from SSI, which would I think influence the D&D games they later developed and published. In fact, to this day, when I play RPGs, I still use the same character names that I did when playing Phantasie III. I also remember playing it “co-op” with a friend, which was basically just us two sitting side-by-side in front of the PC, playing through it like you would solo.

NES: The Legend of Zelda
It’s hard not to name the Super Mario Bros. games here — for me, especially 2 and 3 — but my favorite franchise of all time is the Zelda series, and it all started here. I have so many fond memories of playing through this game, as well as its side-scrolling sequel. It’s a testament to the quality of the franchise that 30 years later, it’s still my favorite series.

Genesis: Sonic the Hedgehog
Look, I’m not going to argue that Sonic was any better than the Mario games — it simply wasn’t — but that first game sure was a hell of a lot of fun to play, and I still remember how the colors popped on the Genesis. Mix in the speed of the character, and it felt like I was playing the cutting edge of video games.

Game Boy Color: Wario Land 3
The only proper Nintendo console I never owned (let’s not count the Virtual Boy) is the original Game Boy, but I did get a Game Boy Color, and for some reason the game that really stands out when thinking back on it is Wario Land 3. I can’t really talk about the quality of the game, but I still have vivid memories of playing it, and of the fun sound effects and soundtrack that my wife and I would constantly mimic (she from hearing me play all the time).

Super NES: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
The two Zelda games on the NES were where I became enamoured with the franchise, but this was the game that I truly loved — and I’ll say that I also loved its direct sequel on 3DS, A Link Between Worlds. I also consider it to be one of my favorite games of all time.

PlayStation: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
The PS1 was a fantastic console, and there are tons of games on it that I could pick — the first Tomb Raider game is a top contender as well — but it was hard for me to pick something other than Symphony of the Night. I was already a big fan of the Castlevania games on NES and Super NES, and this was a sequel that felt like an incredible follow-up, on all levels. I also have strong memories of it because I played it on a Japanese PS1 I picked up while I was a student in China, and played it in Japanese — the first words of Japanese I learned came from this and from Tomb Raider, which I also played in Japanese.

Nintendo 64: Super Mario 64
Sure, I love Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask, and when I listed my favorite games of all time, I included Wave Race 64, but if I’m going to narrow it to one title that represents the Nintendo 64 for me, it has to be this. Platformers are to this day one of my favorite genres, and suddenly being propelled into a 3D space was indeed mind blowing.

Dreamcast: Shenmue
When I get asked what my favorite console was, I like to mention the Dreamcast because it was a console that I adored so much, and that I remember really obsessing over. The games that were released on it had this amazing look to them, and it made me feel like I was playing something cool instead of just fun — think Jet Set Radio, Space Channel 5, etc. But if I was to narrow it down to my favorite game, it has to be Shenmue — and as you’ll see later in the list (and I was surprised myself when I was putting it together), it probably created my love of open-world adventure games.

PlayStation 2: Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
I was actually late to the PS2 — it came out at the time in my life where I probably played the least amount of games, mostly sticking to Nintendo consoles (and so the GameCube). I did eventually get one, and tried to catch up as much as I could on the insanely great library of games that ended up coming out on it. San Andreas was actually the first GTA game I played (I never played III, and eventually only a bit of Vice City), and it blew me away. Taking what I loved from Shenmue (although none of the real-life interactions) and blowing them up in proper cities that I could freely navigate was ridiculously fun. Since I also really love driving in games, this made it that much more of an awesome game for me.

Next week, part 2, in which I go from the GBA to the Switch.

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“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.

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“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’m going to GDC this year.

This is a statement I’ve been wanting to make for years and years (probably at least a decade), and I’m still overjoyed that it’s finally happening.

Every year as I see so many people I know (and friends too) gather at GDC (Game Developers Conference) to take in both the conference itself  and all of the festivities surrounding it, I’ve said to myself I’d eventually get there myself.

In recent years, I’ve been at least able to take to take in recordings of talks — at first I started getting access through the studios where I’ve worked (both Eidos Montreal and Ubisoft Montreal give us access), and more recently it’s been even easier to watch a lot of classic talks freely through GDC’s YouTube channel. Last year I was also organizing a weekly lunch session within my team (for those interested), in which I’d pick a talk and we’d watch it as a group in a meeting room while eating — I was inspired by a similar session organized by our studio’s talent development team.

Since becoming a game developer myself (I’m just a few weeks away from my second anniversary at Ubisoft Montreal, and May will mark my 3rd anniversary working in the industry) I’ve been patient and hoping that I would find an opportunity to attend — and sure, I could go anytime on my own dime, but that’s a rather pricey endeavour.

Ubisoft Montreal’s talent development program is really quite extensive and generous — not only organizing attendance at conferences, but also producing in-house training programs and workshops, and things like hackathons — and so a few months ago I finally made a request within my team to attend, and it worked out.

Why do I want to attend GDC so much? I’ve already written about how much I wanted to work in the games industry, following a lifelong passion for games, and for me there’s no greater celebration in our industry than GDC. So it’s the chance to go hang out with my peers for a week, to be inspired by them, to learn things I’ll be able to execute on when I get back to Montreal, and to make all sorts of interesting connections.

It’ll also be my very first visit to San Francisco, so that’s pretty exciting as well, and I hope to at least stay an extra day or two to take in a bit of the city (and to see friends).

The biggest problem I have now though is that there are just too many talks I’d like to attend, and there’s just not enough time, if you look at everything that is happening during the week. What a great problem to have.

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As I wrote at the start of the year, I want to try something new this year on my blog, and so I’ve decided to try writing a weekly column/post, starting today.

I’ve quite enjoyed the past year and a half of blogging I’ve done, after a hiatus of a few years. I liked the exercise of writing regularly again, and it was fun to re-connect a bit with Japan (since the posts were mostly about Japan-related art, design, and culture, just like I did back in the day). But at this point, even though I’m still very much in love with those things, I’d like to write about something that is more connected to my current reality.

So what will I cover in these weekly posts? I’m not exactly sure yet, but it should mostly cover my reality of working in the games industry here in Montreal. We’ll see where that goes, but I imagine it’ll touch on events I attend, things I’m involved in — the public types of things — and whatever else I want to write about.

As for why I want to do it on a weekly basis, that’s actually what I was doing when I first started writing on the web — it was in the guises of a weekly column called “Johnny Sushi” that I was writing about my life in Tokyo (back in 1998), as part of a site I had built with a friend called Acadiespatiale.com (which is long, long gone), that was a celebration of Acadien culture (Acadiens, or Acadians, of which I am one, being the French-speaking people of the maritime region, mostly found in the province of New Brunswick).

And unlike what you might think, using the name “Game Boy” for the series isn’t a nod to Nintendo’s classic portable console — which is in fact the only mainline Nintendo console I never owned, although I did have a Game Boy Color (the model pictured) — but rather is in reference to the “Tokyo Boy” name I regularly used for a lot of the mini-blogs I ran on this site over the years.

My plan is to publish these every Wednesday. We’ll see if that sticks.