20 Years Ago

My friend Kyle tweeted out that today marks 20 years since the release of the film The End of Evangelion (July 19, 1997). I actually got to see it in theaters in Tokyo that summer, as part of my first visit to Japan, and this made me think back at how much my life changed that year.

It was at the start of May 1997 that I went to the city of Tianjin, China as part of a 10-week program to study Chinese at Nankai University — along with a group of students from McGill University and the Université de Montréal (where I was studying in their East Asian Studies program). The first day I was in China, I would meet the Japanese woman who is now my wife (it took a few weeks before we actually got together though). At the end of the 10 weeks, the entire group returned to Montreal, but I decided to stay — yeah, because of the girl — and so enrolled at the university there to continue my Chinese studies.

During that summer, my wife had returned to Japan (it was the university’s summer break) and I decided to go visit her for two weeks. That would be my first visit to Japan, a place I would later call home for over 15 years.

My wife is originally from Kobe, and so that’s where I went. By boat. It was a two-day journey from the port of Tianjin to the port of Kobe, and it was an amazing way to slowly take in Japan, small island by small island, until we reached the port. I still have vivid memories of listening to Fugazi’s Repeater on my walkman, while taking in the sight of Kobe as we approached.

I stayed a couple of days in Kobe, but for the majority of the trip we were in Tokyo, staying at one of my wife’s friends. It’s during that trip that I got to go see The End of Evangelion, which was my introduction to the series — I knew zero Japanese, and considering how, ahem, narratively adventurous that movie is (especially the ending), you can imagine what a trip it was to take in. That July also marked the release of Ghibli’s Princess Mononoke, which I also went to see at the theater (and as I mentioned recently, it may have been my first taste of Ghibli).

I still have quite a few vivid memories from that trip — like the first time I watched Mecha Mecha Iketeru, a comedy series on TV starring the comedy duo of 99, who I’ve continued to love for 20 years. I also bought a PlayStation while I was there to bring back with me to China, and the first words of Japanese I really learned where while playing Tomb Raider and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night in Japanese.

After the trip, we both returned together to Tianjin by boat (this time taking 4 days because of a tsunami), and would end up staying in China until the end of that year — at which point we went to Montreal for one semester so I could get the missing credits I needed for the program I was doing, before moving to Tokyo at the start of May 1998.

I’m certainly thankful for the interesting journey my life has taken, as well as for all of the unexpected swerves I’ve decided to take a chance on and follow.

Interview with Shigeru Miyamoto and Yves Guillemot

The moment I saw Shigeru Miyamoto walk out on stage at Ubisoft’s E3 press conference, I was ecstatic. It’s no secret that I have quite a bit of fondness for Nintendo, and so to not only see the company I work for collaborate with them, but then to also see Miyamoto himself help with the promotion, it was awesome. The game itself, Mario + Rabbids Battle Kingdom, looks super fun and I can’t wait to play it. Here’s a Eurogamer interview with both Miyamoto and Yves Guillemot talking about the collaboration.

Yesterday was Ubisoft Montréal’s annual assembly, and not only did Yves show up to talk at the assembly, but I also had a chance to take a photo with him (below), and at the same time tell him how happy I was that we were collaborating with Nintendo like that, and how excited I was when I saw Miyamoto on stage at our press conference.

2 Years a Game Dev

Today marks two years since I became a game dev.

After leaving Tokyo on March 31, 2015 and then spending a month in my hometown of Moncton, New Brunswick, we moved to Montreal on May 5, with my first day as an employee at Eidos Montréal — part of the Shinra Technologies team, based in the Square Enix Montréal studio — on Monday, May 11.

A lot has happened in these two years. After the Shinra adventure ended in January 2016 (due to the unfortunate cancellation of the project), I started at Ubisoft Montréal the following month — on February 15, to be exact — happy to join the For Honor team to experience the final year of development of this new franchise for the studio (the game came out on February 14 of this year, almost exactly a year after I started). For the past six months I’ve had the great joy of working as part of the studio’s Game Operations Online team (or GO-2, as we call ourselves), a service team that supports the live aspects of the studio’s various productions via operational guidance and tools.

What an interesting journey it’s been so far.

I have a ton of people to thank for helping me along the way, whether it’s through guidance, support, or plain ol’ friendship, and instead of going through a long list of names, I’ll give you all a big collective hug.

I’ve had a lifelong passion for games, and it became my dream to work as a game dev. Here’s to many more wonderful years in this industry.

The Dream of Working in Games

Shortly after the release of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, there was a story that came out about a non-Japanese programmer appearing in the game’s credits, Corey Bunnell (pictured), who it was later discovered had a long time ago written in a forum about his dream of working for Nintendo — read this Kotaku piece. I find this to be such an inspiring story, and it reminded me of how lucky I find myself to have been able to also follow a dream of working in games, and making it happen.

Yesterday (March 31) marked exactly 2 years since we left Tokyo, heading to Canada to spend time with my parents in my hometown, with still no job in sight (or any idea of what city I would end up in). It was a scary move to make, but I had faith that I could make something happen eventually. Just over a month later we were moving to Montreal, and on May 11 I started work at Eidos Montreal as a Production Coordinator for the Shinra Technologies team there (under the Square Enix umbrella). Two years later, and I’ve continued my games journey by moving to Ubisoft and experiencing the launch of a new franchise for the company (For Honor), and now I get to work with yet another terrific team of people as part of the studio’s “Game Operations Online” team.

Without wanting to sound too cheesy, if you have a dream of doing something, sometimes you just gotta have faith that you can make it happen if you try hard enough (and being surrounded by awesome people who can support you in different ways doesn’t hurt either). I decided to do this at a point in my life (i.e. age) when most people are content to simply continue to coast on the path they’re already on. I still have other goals I’d like to achieve, but I can say that what I did was well worth all the effort — and yes, all the stress too.

Charisma Blogger

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My buddy CheapyD uncovered this old photo of us, posing with Danny Choo and Andrew Shuttleworth, at an event in Tokyo back in 2009 (CGM Night, which had to do with online content creation, but I can’t remember what the “CGM” stood for). I just find it funny to be described as a “Charisma blogger.”

Update: Found my original post about the event.

2008 and Down

In my continuing archival work on this site, I hit a big milestone last night, in that I finished April 2008, which is pretty much the last time I regularly hit a month with 80+ posts — it only happens again a couple of times in November/December of 2009 for some reason.

I think the reason for the reduction in posts was that it was around the time I started contributing regularly to Wired‘s Game|Life blog, for which I was doing around 5 posts daily.

This means I should hopefully be speeding up as I go through the rest of the archives, getting it all finished in the weeks to come. That won’t be the end of it all though, as there are a few other things I’d like to do, like going through the first few years again to improve tags on posts, and also incorporating my early moblog posts, which used to be done as a separate blog.

For Honor Alpha in Japan

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It’s been incredibly exciting for me this week to see our game, For Honor, get a live debut in Japan through our Alpha event that kicked off yesterday — following a similar event in North America and Europe last month.

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To all my friends in Japan, if you’d like to play the game, it’s available now as a download on the Japanese PSN Store, and the event runs until Monday. You’ll need a credit card for the download, due to the game being rated “Z” (for age verification).

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It’s been pretty neat seeing the game featured on the front page of the Japanese PSN Store on the web, as well as on the console (see images in this post).

Back to the 70s

Well, it’s now October, and as you can tell, I’m still blogging quite regularly here. What started off as a throwback to what this site was like before has now awakened a muscle I hadn’t used in ages — that’s the blogging muscle — and it’s getting pumped and enjoying being in use again.

In terms of volume, following the 53 posts I wrote in August (which was done over 2 weeks), I ended up writing 72 in September. Although it doesn’t seem to reach the heights this site has seen — during its heydays of the mid to late 2000s, it would hover at around 80-100 posts per month, with an absolute peak of 138 — but considering that in those days a lot of the posts were made up of my TB.Grafico photolog and then my TB.Movel moblog (if you click on these links, you’ll find that the latest posts haven’t yet been fixed), it’s quite possible that this last month saw more actual written content than back in those days. At this point in my life, I’m probably more at ease with writing a post quickly.

I’m curious to see what October will bring.

2005

This weekend I managed to finish going through the posts of 2005 (all 1063 of them). As I was going through these posts, I could see that it was a really important year for me. My first professional writing work started in 2004 as I became editor of MoCo Tokyo (a spinoff site to MoCo Loco, where I was also a contributor), and then at the very end of that year I started my monthly anime and design columns for Tokyo Q, but it was in 2005 that I started my monthly “On Design” column for The Japan Times, wrote for Gawker’s Gizmodo and Gridskipper, and also wrote some other freelance pieces. I’d definitely point to that year as the start of my writing career.

It was also the year I started writing almost weekly round-ups of Japanese magazines — which years later led to me starting the now-defunct The Magaziner website. It was also the year of me and Jesper’s first big collaboration together, in the form of our “Mamma Gun” exhibition/event at Cafe Pause, part of Swedish Style/Tokyo Design Week.

I’m pretty thankful that I can go through archives of my life like this, and see exactly how things happened and evolved.

The New 52

No, I’m not referring to the “New 52” revamp that DC Comics launched in 2011, but rather to the fact that as we close off the month of August (it’s just past 23:00 as I write this), I’ve written 52 posts on the blog this month (this will be post 53).

The last time the site had over 50 posts in a month was in December 2009 (89), and that was truly when my activity started reducing drastically, as it then hovered around 10-20 until the summer of 2012, and then down to barely 1-2 per month in the years that followed until now. You can easily see this by looking at the monthly archive list in the sidebar of the site, which I have active right now.

The desire to start blogging again was sparked when I started work on rescuing the archives of the site earlier this month. After the initial repopulation of posts (the text at least), it’s been a long process of going through each post, trying to find the original images, either through the Wayback Machine, or through some image archives I found on my laptop. I’m up to March 2005, and counting.

Seeing what I was doing and how much fun I was having (and how I gradually went from amateur blogger to published writer) has been a blast, and it put me in the mood to try and do it again for a bit. I’m especially surprised that I got to 50, considering I started doing it in the middle of the month, with this post. As I wrote at the time, I’m still considering it nostalgia blogging, and I’m still having a lot of fun doing it.

So for the first time in about 6-7 years, the blog is active again, and that makes me happy.

FROM_TOKYO_TO_NEW_YORKI noticed that back in the day I used to finish long update posts with a note on what I was listening while I wrote it. I’ve been in a retro groove of late, and am currently listening to a compilation produced by Fantastic Plastic Machine for Uniqlo in 2005 called Synchro: From Tokyo to New York.