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.

Game Boy 002 – GDC

“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.

Game Boy 001 – Start

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.