Game Boy 009 – GameStruck4

“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.

After keeping my weekly rhythm constant for the first eight editions, it’s now been over a month since the last one, which was never my intention. It started because of my trip to San Francisco for GDC, but then I wanted to write up the experience I had, and there was so much that I wanted to share that I just ended up not getting anything done. So in the meantime, I’ll start up again with something else, and touch on GDC at a later date — I have finished the draft for a presentation/report I’ll be doing at our next team meeting, but it’s close to 50 slides long.

So what do I want to share? Following a recent Twitter meme that saw people share four films that had a strong impact on them, under the “FilmStruck4” hashtag, some people started sharing the same but for games using the “GameStruck4” hashtag. Below is what I shared, which I consider to be some of the first games (in alphabetical order) that had a huge impact on me.

King’s Quest (PC)
I’ve always had a lot of love for point-and-click adventure games, and yes, it would be easy to point to all of the fantastic LucasArts games I played and loved (and although I love me some Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle, Full Throttle, and Grim Fandango, one of my favorites was Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis), but if I’m to think back on my first memories of the genre, it’s hard to avoid naming the King’s Quest series (even if for this purpose, I just mentioned the first one). I loved these games to bits (as well as many other releases from Sierra), and have fond memories of playing them both alone, and with friends sitting next to me.

Phantasie III: The Wrath of Nicodemus (PC)
I’ve mentioned this game previously when talking about favorite games (here and here), but more than a just a favorite of mine, I think it led to my love of playing RPGs — and those Dungeons & Dragons games from SSI that I also played so much of really owed a lot to it. The other influential RPG from that era for me was the first Might & Magic game.

Pitfall (Atari VCS)
As repetitious as this game may be, this was always my favorite game to play on the Atari VCS (or 2600). Thinking back on this, it’s no surprise how platformers turned into a favorite genre for me — especially during the 80s and 90s (although it still is) — and I’d say it all goes back to this game. I’ll never forget that rudimentary sound effect (sorta like a Tarzan yell) that played while Pitfall Harry swings on a vine.

Zork 1 (PC)
I’d say Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was my favorite Infocom game, but there’s no denying that it all started with the first Zork game — from that point, I fell in love with all things Infocom. When it comes to text adventures, I never really played much of anything that wasn’t Infocom, I was just really in love with their style, the stories, and the fantastic boxes filled with “feelies.”

Here’s an extra 4 “honorable mentions“:

F-19 (PC)
I never was big into flight simulators, but the one I did get into was F-19 from MicroProse — probably because the box looked so cool (the F-19 was a “theoretical” stealth jet fighter). I still remember the gigantic manual that came with it, and I did play it a lot, so I imagine I probably got pretty good at it. Another MicroProse game from those days that I remember loving a lot was Airborne Ranger. It’s maybe why I love playing Tom Clancy games so much.

Gorf (VIC-20)
It’s probably not that great a game, but the VIC-20 was the first computer we had, and the first device we had that played electronic games (I had to go to my friends’ homes to play Atari, Intellivision, and ColecoVision games). Of all the games I played on the VIC-20, I’m sure I played Gorf the most.

Spy Hunter (Arcade)
We had a corner arcade, and the game I played the most had to be Spy Hunter. James Bond fan that I am, I loved driving my spy car while eliminating enemies, with that classic Peter Gunn music playing. While I was in San Francisco last month I went to the Musée Mécanique, and had a chance to play it again. It’s still just as fun.

Ultima VII: The Black Gate (PC)
Of all the Ultima games I played, this was my favorite, and I still have such vivid memories of starting to playing it, after opening that black and foreboding box, and embarking on a journey that was so, well, dark. And with the world now being presented full-screen, it all felt so incredibly immersive.

Spring 2018 Anime Season

After a few disappointing anime seasons, I found myself enjoying most of what I wanted to watch during this past winter season — I really liked Junji Ito Collection, thought Kokkoku was pretty good, as well as Devilman Crybaby (although I haven’t finished watching it), and I watched the first episode of B: The Beginning and will watch more. When I started looking into the new spring season — which I always do on AniChart — I found quite a few things I was interested in watching. Below are those series, and I’ve already started watching all of them, so I’ll indicate what I think so far, after 1-2 episodes.

FLCL Progressive
I’m a huge fan of the original FLCL (as is most everyone who’s watched it), and when a sequel series was announced, my first reaction was that I didn’t think it was a good idea. I still tried to keep hope alive that it would be good — and the fact that the original creators are back was a good sign — but I’m just shocked at how much I disliked the first episode. I’m going to watch the second episode when it’s out, just to make sure, but wow, I was bored to tears with what I saw in episode 1. I even rewatched the original series last year, and still loved it, so it’s not a case of me not being into this series/world anymore.

The Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These
I didn’t really know what to expect with this series, but figured I’d check it out because I liked the idea of galactic battles as a setting (I don’t feel like we get a lot of series like that anymore), and that it’s produced by Production I.G. I’ve watched the first 2 episodes, and I’m really digging it so far. It really is all about the space battles and the tactics used, and the first episode ends on a great cliffhanger. I’m pleasantly surprised by this.

Lupin III: Part V
I love Lupin, and have watched a lot of his series and movies, and so was pretty happy when I saw they were launching a new series this season. I’ve watched the first 2 episodes, and so far it’s really fun. It’s an interestingly modern setup (people are following Lupin — and getting in his way — through social media), and yet it feels like classic Lupin. I’m pretty sure I’ll be enjoying the rest of this.

Megalo Box
Despite the name, this is actually an Ashita no Joe series set in the future, in celebration of the series’ 50th anniversary. I’ve never read or watched anything that has to do with Ashita no Joe, but the description sounded interesting — a world where cybernetically-enhanced boxing matches take place — and I liked the first episode. The world looks very Akira-esque (if not of that quality), and this is probably the way to get me to watch a sports-themed series (I don’t tend to like watching sports-related anime).

Fist of the Blue Sky
This is a prequel series to First of the North Star. I know the basic setup of First of the North Star — and I can’t wait to play the game by the developers of the Yakuza series — but I’ve never read or watched any. I thought the first episode was pretty neat — its CG cel-shaded, like Knights of Sidonia and Ajin, and produced by that same studio — and it’s funny to see these ridiculously muscled-up characters interacting with crazy kung-fu-inspired moves. But by the second episode I was already growing bored with the story — and lack of action — and so I’m not especially excited to continue watching it. I might give it another episode.

Like it’s 1987

Well, my latest movie marathon, for the year 1987, definitely took the longest (starting in October of last year) — not because of the quality of the films, but probably more because I burned out a bit on watching so many 80s movies last year, and needed to take a break. When I kicked off 1987 and made up my list of potential movies to watch, it was actually looking like I could end up watching 40 or 50 movies. I decided to cap it at 30 because I wanted to move on, leaving a lot unwatched, like A Better Tomorrow II, Angel Heart, Dirty Dancing, Fatal Attraction, Hamburger Hill, La Bamba, hell, even Princess Bride! But as with the other years I’ve revisited (1967, 1977, 1985, 1986), I had a good time doing a deep dive into a year’s movie output. What’s next? Since it’s 2018, I now plan on revisiting movies that go back decades, and so I’ll kick it off with a marathon of films from 1968.

Below are all 30 films from 1987 that I watched (in alphabetical order), with links to my thoughts on each — or you can just click on the “1987” tag.

  1. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
  2. Beverly Hills Cop II
  3. City on Fire
  4. Creepshow 2
  5. Empire of the Sun
  6. Evil Dead II
  7. Full Metal Jacket
  8. Good Morning, Vietnam
  9. Hellraiser
  10. Innerspace
  11. Jaws: The Revenge
  12. Less Than Zero
  13. Lethal Weapon
  14. Mannequin
  15. No Way Out
  16. Planes, Trains and Automobiles
  17. Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrole
  18. Predator
  19. Prince of Darkness
  20. Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise
  21. Robocop
  22. Some Kind of Wonderful
  23. The Hidden
  24. The Last Emperor
  25. The Lost Boys
  26. The Monster Squad
  27. The Pick-up Artist
  28. The Running Man
  29. The Untouchables
  30. Wall Street

Game Boy 008 – Terrace

“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 now worked at Ubisoft Montréal for just over two years — my first day on the job was February 15, 2016, which is an easy date to remember since it was exactly a year before the release of the game I was hired to work on, For Honor (which released on the heart-filled February 14, 2017).

I quite enjoy working at the studio. After my first year on production, I moved over to a service team, which has also been a great experience — and it gives me a chance to work alongside a great many of our game projects, both in and out of Montreal. But the studio itself is also quite an interesting place to work in. Up until January of this year, I was working in the studio’s “main” building (yes, the studio is so big that it covers a collection of spaces in the Mile End neighborhood), called Peck. In January, our team moved over to one of the floors in a 12-story building on De Gaspé avenue.

One of my favorite things in this new space — apart from the great view we have of the city since we’re on the 12th floor — is the big open area that’s located near the location of my desk (and pictured above). With all those giant tables (and there’s another even larger one that you can’t see, in the foreground, along with a comfy couch and chairs), it’s just perfect for us to play various card games and board games either at lunch time or after work. I run a Magic: The Gathering league inside our team, and so most lunch times we’re using those long tables to play our matches. We also play other card games, as well as board games, like Gloomhaven, which I organize on a mostly weekly schedule. But I’m lucky not just for the nice space we’re afforded to play in, but also for the fact that I have so many colleagues I can convince to play with me — which I guess is not incredibly surprising when you consider that we work at a game studio.

But going back to Peck, the best feature of that 5-story building is the rooftop terrace. It’s open all summer (or rather from late spring to late fall), and on top of being a nice place to go hang out or to eat your lunch outside, the studio often organizes happy hours there — and for some of them, you can even bring a friend or family member along.

The reason I bring this up is because this week it was time for the annual winter happy hour, when they open the terrace for one special drink-up in the cold and snow. This was my third one, and although it was still pleasant — and I downed quite a few mugs of hot cider — I was a bit saddened by the lack of snow this year, although 0 degrees Celsius was definitely more agreeable than the -20 we got last year.

Game Boy 007 – Bond

“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.

One of the things I do at work is produce a weekly newsletter for the team I’m in. It’s something I started doing for the team I joined after leaving For Honor, as part of an effort to improve communication inside the team and to bring everyone closer (you know, team building). After 42 weekly editions (ending it at that number may or may not have something to do with the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), I thought I would hang my hat (in part due to a merging of teams, as well as changes to my role and responsibilities), but then I ended up starting a weekly “pirate” newsletter with a colleague (which I actually modelled after a VIC-20 aesthetic), and that seemed to be enjoyed just as much if not more than the old newsletter, and so we converted it to a new proper newsletter for this new team.

I have fun with these (it’s the reason I do it), and me and the two colleagues I do them with come up with themes each week, and they usually revolve around movies. A few weeks ago it was the 7th edition — since I number my newsletter like I number this column, it was in fact the “007” edition, and so you can imagine what we ended up doing with that one (I didn’t really leave my colleagues a choice).

And so this is where it ties into this edition of this column. For the newsletter, we did a bunch of fun Bond-related content, including my top (00)7 list of Bond films, and I wrote a little something about what I believe to be the best and hugely underrated Bond video game.

You ask anyone to name you a Bond game, and they’re likely to name GoldenEye. Whether its aged well or not, there’s no denying it was a groundbreaking game for the time — popularizing multiplayer FPS play on console, and with an insanely fun 4-way split-screen at that. But if you ask me what my favorite Bond game is, it’s James Bond 007: Blood Stone, which was released for the PS3 and Xbox 360 (I played it on the latter).

The studio behind the game was Bizarre Creations, better known for its racing game pedigree (Project Gotham Racing), and so as you can imagine, they injected an incredibly fun driving element to the game — and I’m already a big fan of driving cars in games, even outside of racing games (which probably explains why I like the Grand Theft Auto series so much). But on top of great driving levels, I loved that that they created a 3rd person action game instead of first-person — not only do I tend to prefer 3rd person action games, I’m also happier seeing Bond in action, rather than seeing things from his perspective.

I loved that game immensely, more than any Bond game that has come before or after (yes, even more than GoldenEye), and I do wish they would make another Bond game in that style. (I also think it would be interesting for Telltale to make a Bond game, in their adventure game style.)

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.