Game Boy 006 – Learning

“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’ve got “learning” on the mind.

First off, as I wrote a few weeks ago, I’ll be attending the Game Developers Conference (GDC) next month, which is going to be an incredible week of learning from my peers.

But last week I also started the following course by Ian Schreiber about game design (called “Game Design Concepts”), that accompanies the book Challenges for Game Designers: Non-digital Exercises for video Game Designers.

I learned about the book following a tweet by designer and educator Brenda Romero, who co-authored it, and after looking into it, quickly ordered it because it sounded like the type of exercises I’d been wanting to do. A few months ago I had discussed with a colleague about us trying to create some sort of board game together, and although we never got around to getting started on that, I figured I’d start by doing something a bit more guided, and as more of a learning process.

As for the online course, it was in fact created to accompany the book — it was initially done week by week, but all of the content is still archived and readily available for everyone to follow. It points to other readings to do along with the chapters from the Challenges book.

Even though my work at Ubisoft is on the project management side of things, I am still very much interested in knowing more about the art of designing games, and I’m looking forward to working on little non-digital game prototypes.

While I was still in Tokyo, I had launched a workshop called PressPause (pictured), to teach creatives who have no video game making experience to use Unity to produce little games. We unfortunately failed to complete our little games, but what we did accomplish was still fun and interesting, and so I’m glad to be trying to educate myself on the making of games again.

I expect future editions of this column will touch on some of the things I learn and make.

Game Boy 005 – Faves (Part 2)

“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.

Game Boy 004 – Faves (Part 1)

“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.

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.

Winter 2018 Anime Season

After rekindling my enjoyment of watching anime on a regular basis in 2016, 2017 ended up being a huge bust for me — most seasons had little if nothing I wanted to watch, and the shows that did look interesting to me didn’t keep me watching for more than an episode or two. This last season sounded promising, and again, I was disappointed by everything, including Inuyashiki, which may be fine, but after one episode I didn’t really feel the urge to continue (even though I really enjoyed the manga series). But I haven’t given up yet, and although I’ll again say that I’m actually excited by a few series for the winter season, I’ve already watched the first episode for three of them, and it’s off to a good start. Here’s what I want to check out this season (as always, I get my info from AniChart).

Kokkoku
I watched the first episode of this today, and really loved where it ended. We’re presented with a family that is entangled in a kidnapping, and to address this, the grandfather manages to stop time — and that’s just the start of how interesting things get, when everything doesn’t go according to plan. I’m definitely looking forward to watching the second episode.

Ito Junji: Collection
I absolutely adore the horror manga of Junji Ito, and was so excited when they announced this anthology series — each episode is based on a short story by Ito. I watched the first episode, and it was fantastic. This was a safe bet for me, but I’m still glad it delivered.

Devilman Crybaby
This is a Netflix original that launched this past Friday. I’ve never watched any Devilman series (or read any of the manga), but as soon as I saw that Masaaki Yuasa was directing it, I got excited. I watched the first episode, and it definitely feels like something that is straight out of the mind of Yuasa (especially in style) — I’ll admit that it was quite a bit more sexualized than I was expecting. I’m looking forward to watching the rest.

B: The Beginning
This is another Netflix original, and it’s only set to come out in March. Sounds like a mystery/thriller — chasing a serial killer — in a high-tech setting. Definitely the sort of thing I might like, and it’s by Production I.G, so will check it out.

 

Analoging Into 2018

The start of a new year is a fun time to lay down some new initiatives. Call them resolutions, call them whatever you like, but I find that writing down something like this in the new year helps to focus on what you want to prioritize.

The biggest thing for me is something that I began doing in recent weeks. Over the past few years, I’ve found myself trying to digitize most of my media consumption. Leaving Japan marked the biggest push in that I got rid of most of my belongings — meaning all my books, games, CDs, etc. — and since being back in Canada I’ve felt like keeping that “luggage-less train” going.

I don’t want to suddenly start buying lots of physical goods, but I have been wanting to start rebuilding my board game collection — I’ve bought a few things here in Montreal, but mostly small 2-player card games — and in terms of books, I’d like to start building a nice reference collection of game-related books (like the nice coffee table style retrospective books I’ve drooled over in recent years).

I also want to write more. With a pen. On top of taking lots of notes in a notebook/notepad again — something I used to do a lot, but did digitally instead in recent years — I picked up a paper agenda for the year, something I haven’t done in years (I got this one).

I also want to get back into doing personal projects. It’s something that was a big part of my life in Tokyo, but then with the big move and change in career, it was put aside to better concentrate on this new personal journey. But as I wrote recently, attending a few events have rekindled my interest in being part of that sort of thing, and so we’ll see what happens — among other things, fingers crossed on a relaunch of the PechaKucha Night series in Montreal happening.

As for this site, following my return to blogging in 2016, I think it’s time to find a new thematic focus for the coming year. As much as I still love so many aspects of Japanese design and culture, it’s no longer my everyday reality, and I’d like to write a bit more about things that are part of my current “world.” I’m not quite sure what that’s going to look like, but it’s something I’ll be exploring over the coming weeks and months.

After living/studying in China in 1997, I moved to Tokyo in 1998, which impacted the following 15+ years of my life. Twenty years later, in 2018, I’m in a very interesting place professionally (I can’t wait to get back to work tomorrow to continue on the various initiatives I’m involved in there, and seeing what else I can do to shake things up), and I’m excited to push myself even further on various fronts.

Favorite Media of 2017

Just like I’ve done for the past 7 years (201020112012201320142015, and 2016), I like to end the year with a gigantic list of my favorite media that I consumed throughout the year. As I warn each year, this is not a “best of” list, but rather a highly subjective list of the stuff I really liked this year — I like the exercise of it all, because it gives me a chance to look back at what I took in during that year, and hopefully it can act as a list of recommendations for others. I stick to stuff that was released this year, and so there’s always stuff that falls through the crack (for example, all the 2016 releases that I only watched this year). For each category, I offer up an alphabetical top 5, and then include a few honorable mentions.

Favorite Games
Not only did we get an awesome new console from Nintendo this year, but three of my favorite games of the year were released on it — yeah, Mario Kart is pretty much the same game we got on Wii U, but it doesn’t change that I played it again just as much, and I still play it regularly. I’d say the two games that just missed my top 5 were Untold Stories and Uncharted: Lost Legacy (my favorite entry in the Uncharted series). I don’t include For Honor because I was too close to it, I include Destiny 2 for the campaign (I haven’t really played much post-campaign), and I do have a copy of Yakuza Kiwami but I haven’t played it yet.

  • Assassin’s Creed Origins (PS4)
  • Super Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Switch)
  • Super Mario Odyssey (Switch)
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Switch)
  • Yakuza 0 (PS4)

Honorable Mentions: Arms (Switch), Bound (PS4), Destiny 2 (PS4), Fast RMX (Switch), Ghost Recon Wildlands (PS4), Graceful Explosion Machine (Switch), Mario + Rabbits Battle Kingdom (Switch), Nier: Automata (PS4), Skyrim (Switch), Subsurface Circular (PC), The Fidelio Incident (PC), Uncharted: Lost Legacy (PS4), Untold Stories (PC)

Favorite Mobile Games
Let me start by saying that all these are played on iPad — I very rarely play games on my iPhone. I also include games like Super Mario Run that weren’t released this year, but still released new content this year (I love the “Remix 10” mode, which I still play). I included the Animal Crossing game because I played a lot of it when it was released, and was quite enjoying it at first, but I eventually tired of it.

  • Fire Emblem Heroes
  • Gorogoa
  • Monument Valley 2
  • Reigns: Her Majesty
  • Super Mario Run

Honorable Mentions: Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, Card Thief, Old Man’s JourneyPhoenix II, The Elder Scrolls: Legends

Favorite Movies
I spent most of the year watching older movies, and so still have a lot of catching up to do with this year’s releases, but here’s what I liked from what I watched. And yes, Valerian is a deeply flawed movie mostly ruined by the casting of the leads, but I was wowed throughout by the visuals.

  • Atomic Blonde
  • Baby Driver
  • Blade Runner 2049
  • The Last Jedi
  • Thor: Ragnarok

Honorable Mentions: Alien: Covenant, DunkirkGet Out, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, LoganNapping Princess, T2 Trainspotting, The Incredible Jessica James, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, Wonder Woman

Favorite Movies of the 1980s
To anyone who follows my media consumption, you’ll be aware that this year saw me invest the majority of my movie-watching time looking back at films (one hundred in fact) from the 80s, specifically for the years 1985, 1986, and 1987 (I also dipped into 1967 and 1977). Since that was such a big part of what I watched this year, I thought it would be fun to list my fave 5 of the 80s for each year that I revisited.

1985

  • Back to the Future
  • Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome
  • Ran
  • The Breakfast Club
  • Weird Science

1986

  • Aliens
  • Blue Velvet
  • Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
  • Pretty in Pink
  • Stand By Me

1987

  • Evil Dead II
  • Full Metal Jacket
  • Good Morning, Vietnam
  • The Last Emperor
  • The Lost Boys

Favorite TV
Even though I list a lot of series below, this year saw me enjoying movies more than I have in years, which meant watching a lot less TV shows — or maybe it’s more a case that I ended up only watching stuff I really enjoyed. My absolute favorite TV series of the year was Twin Peaks — during the 16 weeks it aired, there was nothing I looked forward to more than Sunday nights for new episodes.

  • Game of Thrones
  • Halt and Catch Fire
  • Samurai Jack
  • Star Trek: Discovery
  • Twin Peaks: A Limited Event Series

Honorable Mentions: Abstract: The Art of Design, Better Call Saul, Big Mouth, GameCenter-CX, GLOW, Master of None, Mindhunter, Million Yen Women, Mr. Robot, Samurai Gourmet, Santa Clarita Diet, She’s Gotta Have It, Stranger Things 2, The Get Down, The Good Place, The Toys That Made Us, Wet Hot American Summer: 10 Years Later

Favorite Web Series
This is a new category, as I’ve noticed that I now watch and enjoy quite a bit of video content that’s produced directly for the web. For Jeremy Parish, it covers all of the amazing videos that he produces, from the various “Works” series to his enjoyable gin-soaked “let’s plays.”

Honorable Mentions: Jeremy Parish, New Territories, Screenland, The Manga Concierge

Favorite Music
Again this year, I only list my favorite albums, as I didn’t really pay much attention to singles. I will say that I feel like I didn’t spend a lot of time discovering new music this year, spending more time listening to older records, thanks to the “For You” section of Apple Music — and I did this happily, because I’ve always found that I spend too much time listening exclusively to new stuff, quickly forgetting older albums that I’ve enjoyed a lot.

  • Colors (Beck)
  • Drunk (Thundercat)
  • Django (Chip Tanaka)
  • Masseduction (St. Vincent)
  • Onism (Photay)

Honorable Mentions: Ash (Ibeyi), Halo (Juana Molina), I See You (The XX), New Energy (Four Tet), Rest (Charlotte Gainsbourg)

Favorite Comics
As with each year, my list tends to focus more on series, which is what I tend to read the most throughout the year, and then at the end of the year I check out the “best of” lists and catch up on all the great graphic novels that came out (which I’ll do again this year). I’ll also say that my American comics reading took a bit of a dive this year once I discovered my local library, and started binging on French-Belgian comics (bandes-dessinées, or BD) again.

  • Aliens: Dead Orbit
  • Batman
  • Mister Miracle
  • Shaolin Cowboy: Who’ll Stop the Reign?
  • The Black Monday Murders

Honorable Mentions: Britannia: We Who Are About to Die, Dark Nights: Metal (and various one-shots), Doomsday Clock, Extremity, Generation Gone, Groo (various mini-series), James Bond (various mini-series), Loose Ends, Magnus, Moonshine, Motro, Royal City, Savage, Secret Weapons, Southern Bastards, The Dying and the Dead, The Goddamned, The Wild Storm

Favorite BDs
What has excited me the most in the world of sequential art this year is that after an incredibly long hiatus (of practically two decades) I’ve gotten back intro reading French-Belgian comics since discovering my local library (or rather the one near the studio where I work, as well as access to the entire Montreal library network). I’ve been reading tons of books since the summer, but the majority has been older stuff, as I’ve been catching up on series I used to enjoy, and new ones that I’m discovering. But below are some highlights of what I’ve read that came out this year — I think that by next year I should be more up-to-date on my reading. Series title is followed by book title.

  • Carthago AdventuresZana
  • I.R.$.Kate’s Hell
  • KatangaDiamants
  • Soleil FroidL.N.
  • UndertakerL’ogre de Sutter Camp

Honorable Mentions: Lady S.Crimes de guerreLe Lucky Luke deJolly Jumper ne répond plusLe Spirou deLe Maître des hosties noires, Tebori (Tome 3)

Favorite Podcasts
For this category, the most captivating podcast for me this year was S-Town, and I couldn’t wait to listen to each new episode of A Twin Peaks Podcast (by editors at Entertainment Weekly) while the series was airing.

  • 8-4 Play
  • A Twin Peaks Podcast
  • Pop Culture Happy Hour
  • S-Town
  • Waypoint Radio

Honorable Mentions: All Songs Considered, Designer Notes, Kotaku Splitscreen, The AIAS Game Maker’s Note Book, The Stack

GameLoop & GCX

Today was an enjoyable day, taking in Montreal’s annual GameLoop “unconference” — “unconference” in the sense that as a group we crowdsource the sessions for the day, with each session then acting as a salon-type discussion.

After leaving Japan and moving to Montreal, it’s taken a while for me to decide to start attending this sort of event again. It was a big part of my life in Tokyo — from running the PechaKucha Night series there, my PauseTalk series, and then other types of talk events and workshops I organized throughout the years (and then there are all the events that I attended as part of the audience).

But after the move, my new goal was to concentrate on my new career path (working in the games industry) — you could also add to that the lack of knowledge I had about the creative scene here in Montreal. Then, a couple of months ago I finally decided to check out one of the events organized by the Mount-Royal Gaming Society, Art-UP (also prompted by the fact that my friend Renaud Bédard was one of the presenters), and it not only scratched the itch I had to experience this sort of event, it also made me want more, both in terms of attending and in terms of organizing.

It prompted me to reach out to the person (Nicolas Marier) who was organizing the long-in-hiatus PechaKucha Night series in Montreal, and not only did we hit it off on our first meeting, but it looks like things are brewing in a positive way to reactivate the series.

I then attended the Canadian Gaming Expo, with a day of talks that I found to be hugely inspiring (mostly revolving around indie game studios) — and it was nice to see a few of those presenters as participants in today’s GameLoop event.

It’s good to be bathing myself again in this sort of knowledge sharing — something I try to participate in and push at work as well — and I’m hoping that I’ll get to have a hand in organizing and supporting more events here too.