State of the Blog

Back when this blog was the most active, I liked to kick off the new year with a post that shared some of my intentions for the coming year. Although it included things I wanted to do with the blog, it went beyond that, and would lay out projects that I was hoping to make happen. As 2018 comes to an end, I’ve been feeling like it’s time to do something similar, focusing on this site.

As I’ve written before, after this site was on what amounted to “life support” for quite a few years, I started writing again regulary a couple of years ago. In part it was by merging my media consumption diary with this site (it used to live on Tumblr), and then it was by blogging about Japan-related happenings again. I eventually tired of the latter — it just wasn’t the same when not there, and made me miss my life in Japan more than anything else — so I stopped, and tried to focus on things that touched my current reality, i.e. being a game developer here in Montreal. I launched what was to be a weekly column called “Game Boy,” but as much as I enjoyed writing those posts, I started feeling like I needed to write something “proper” (meaning more thought out), and then I started procrastinating a bit, which led to no new posts. At the same time, my media consumption diary (called “Debaser“) started building a huge backlog, to a point where I just stopped updating it, other than adding the movies that make up my movie marathons (as I like collecting them in a post when I’m done said marathon).

What to do?

For the foreseeable future, I’m doing two main changes. First is that I’m no longer going to log all of my media viewings like in the past, and instead will just continue to write-up the movies I watch as part of my various marathons (or whatever content fits the bill, as I did for my October horror marathon). I’ll also keep doing my seasonal anime posts, which I started doing again last year (here are this year’s winter, spring, summer, and fall posts).

As for the rest, I’m going to combine my old blogging style — quickly written short posts — with my current gaming interests and life. I’ll still tag them in the “Game Boy” category, which will make them all easy to find.

I do still like the exercise of writing regularly — whether anyone is reading or not — and so I just want to find a way to do so that is interesting and fun for me, and doesn’t feel like something I need to do or that I’m behind on.

In the meantime, I invite you to check out my “Favorite Media” list for the year, an annual post I quite enjoy putting together, and that I’ve done for 9 years now (20102011201220132014201520162017, 2018).

Favorite Media of 2018

Yes, it’s finally that time of the year (see 201020112012201320142015, 2016, and 2017) when I take a look back at my favorite media from the past 12 months. As always, this is not a “best” list, but instead a survey of some of my favorite media that released in 2018 that I consumed over the past year. I don’t take in everything, so there’s absolutely tons of things that I haven’t gotten to experience yet that I might like even more than what I have listed here (and I might even make some updates over the coming weeks). The purpose in me doing this is to take some time to look back at the year, and remember all the great games, shows, movies, etc. that I really enjoyed. Each category is made up of an alphabetical top 5 (a “favorite 5” if you will), followed by a few honorable mentions.

Favorite Games
I think more than any other year, I had a bit more trouble putting this list together — and it has nothing to with the quality of releases this year. It’s in part because I didn’t play that many 2018 releases, which is partly explained by the fact that I got a PlayStation VR in the summer, and so spent a while playing a lot of older VR games on that platform. It also doesn’t help that Nintendo didn’t release much that I was particularly excited about this year. And of course, as always, there’s still loads I need to play. And where’s God of War? I really enjoyed it when I started playing it, but never got around to finishing it (got to about 10 hours), and I haven’t felt the urge to return and finish it — I think it’s a good game, but it just didn’t excite me as much as it did others. Also, I’m sure that if I would have played Yakuza Kiwami 2 it would be included, but after already playing Yakuza 0, Kiwami, and 6 this year, I wanted to take a break (but as you can tell, I love that series so much). Super Smash Brothers Ultimate makes my top 5 because I have so much fun bringing my Switch to work every day to play a few rounds with colleagues at the end of the day (I don’t particularly want to play it alone at home).

  • Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (PS4)
  • Dragon Quest XI (PS4)
  • Red Dead Redemption 2 (PS4)
  • Super Smash Brothers Ultimate (Switch)
  • Yakuza 6 (PS4)

Honorable Mentions: A Way Out (PS4), Far Cry 5 (PS4), Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition (Switch), Hollow Knight (Switch), Into the Breach (Switch), Lightfingers (Switch), Magic: The Gathering Arena (PC), Onrush (PS4), Quarantine Circular (PC), Shadow of the Tomb Raider (PS4), Spider-Man (PS4), Starlink: Battle for Atlas (Switch), The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit (PS4), Yoku’s Island Express (Switch)

Favorite Mobile Games
I don’t play a lot of mobile games these days, and it all happens on my iPad (except for Pocket-Run Pool, which I did play a lot on my phone), but I still had a lot of fun with these games. To be honest, my top game would be Gorogoa, but it officially released in mid-December of last year, so I don’t include it. For Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition, I only played the first few chapters on mobile, but ended up buying it on Switch and continuing there.

  • Alto’s Odyssey
  • Donut County
  • Florence
  • Hidden My Game by Mom 3
  • Pocket-Run Pool

Honorable Mentions: Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition, Reigns: GoT

Favorite Board Games
This is a new category, and the only one where I’ve decided to cheat a bit in terms of time of release. After getting rid of my entire card/board game collection when I left Japan, this is the year that I finally got back into playing regularly and building up a new collection. I feel like I didn’t buy enough games that were released in 2018 proper to just share that, so I’m sharing favorites that were released in 2017 as well. There’s tons more I’d like to play from this year though, and I expect them to hit my table in the coming months.

  • Breaking Bad: The Board Game
  • Detective: A Modern Crime Board Game
  • Gloomhaven
  • The Quest for El Dorado
  • Ultimate Werewolf Legacy

Honorable Mentions: Deadwood 1876, Founders of Gloomhaven, Keyforge: Call of the Archons, Kingdomino: Age of Giants (expansion), Magic: The Gathering, The Legend of the Cherry Tree That Blossoms Every Ten Years

Favorite Movies
As with last year, with all of the old movie marathons I do, I tend not to spend that much time watching new movies, and so my list isn’t as fleshed out or exhaustive as it could be — going through what came out this year, I already have an incredibly long list of things I want to watch (and I expect I’m going to love Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse when I see it). But in terms of what I did watch that came out this year, here are my faves.

  • Mandy
  • Mary and the Witch’s Flower
  • Mission: Impossible – Fallout
  • The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
  • The Night Is Short, Walk on Girl

Honorable Mentions: Apostle, Annihilation, A Quiet Place, Batman NinjaBird Box, Black PantherDeadpool 2, Flavors of Youth, HalloweenHereditary, Incredibles 2Ready Player One, Sicario: Day of the SoldadoSolo: A Star Wars Story, Summer of 84, Teen Titans Go! to the MoviesWon’t You Be My Neighbor

Favorite Movies of the 1980s
Last year I watched a crazy amount of movies from the 80s (from 1985 to 1987), and so thought it would be fun to list top 5s for each of those years. This year, I only recently started marathoning films from 1988, but here are my 5 faves for the year.

  • Akira
  • Coming to America
  • Die Hard
  • Heathers
  • They Live

Favorite TV
I think my biggest discovery and love this year was the treasure trove of international crime dramas on Netflix (like The Break, The Chalet, The Forest, and Trapped, among others). Although not included in my top 5, they made up a lot of my favorite viewing this year, but I still enjoyed a lot of other things.

  • Cobra Kai
  • Everything Sucks
  • Jack Ryan
  • Killing Eve
  • The Terror

Honorable Mentions: Altered Carbon, Better Call Saul, Black Mirror: BandersnatchBodyguard, Castle Rock, GameCenter-CXGLOWHannah Gadsby: Nanette, Lost in Space, Norm Macdonald Has a ShowSaturday Night Live, Star Trek Discovery, The Break, The Chalet, The ForestThe End of the Fucking World, The Good Place, TrappedUnbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Westworld

Favorite Anime Series
I definitely watched less anime this year than last year, and it was pretty easy to come up with a top 5 — but these really are all series that I highly enjoyed.

  • Devilman Crybaby
  • High Score Girl
  • Ito Junji: Collection
  • Lupin III: Part V
  • The Legend of the Galactic Heroes: Die Neue These

Favorite Web Series
Not much changed since last year, I still enjoy the same series, although I’m now including the Nintendo-produced “Let’s Play” series featuring comedy duo Yoiko (GameCenter-CX‘s Arino and his partner, Hamaguchi).

Honorable Mentions: People Make GamesShut Up & Sit Down

Favorite Music
As the years go by, so does the reduction in new music that I end up spending a lot of time listening to, to a point where I have more trouble filling up this category. There is a lot that comes out that I enjoy, but I just listen to the albums a few times, and then never end up revisiting them, which makes it hard to say that they’re favorites. I do listen to music constantly (“no music, no life”), but it’s very eclectic, spans decades, and I’d say this year I’ve developed more of an obsession for classic jazz (hard bop). But here are albums that came out this year that I did really like.

  • Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album (John Coltrane)
  • DJ-Kicks (Mount Kimbie)
  • Strangers in Dub (Burt Kaempfert Meets De-Phazz) (De-Phazz)
  • The Beatles (White Album) [Super Deluxe] (The Beatles)
  • The Pool (Instrumentals & Remixes) (Jazzanova)

Honorable Mentions: All Nerve (The Breeders), Do the Get Along (Holly Golightly), MassEducation (St. Vincent), Sparkle Hard (Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks), The Pool (Jazzanova), The Sunshine Beat, Vol. 1 (Tahiti 80), Time ‘n’ Place (Kero Kero Bonito), Woman Worldwide (Justice)

Favorite Comics
Each year I feel bad that I’m not reading more independents when it comes to English-language comics, but yeah, what I read regularly is the super-hero stuff. And this year again, the majority of my sequential art reading happened more on the French-language side, as I continue my weekly (sometimes more) visits to the library to pick up books new and old.

  • Action Comics/Superman
  • Batman
  • Doomsday Clock
  • Mister Miracle
  • The Green Lantern

Honorable Mentions: Dark Nights: MetalG.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, HawkmanHeroes in Crisis, Justice League (as well as Justice League Dark and Justice League Odyssey), The Punisher

Favorite BDs
As mentioned above, my comics love these days continues to be on the French side (bandes-dessinées), as I continue to catch up on releases, reading through series. So because of that, I’m not reading as many new releases as I normally would, but these are still all books that came out this year that I really enjoyed. (The series name is followed by the book’s title or number.)

  • CentaurusTerre d’angoisse
  • Il faut flinguer Ramirez – Acte 1
  • La jeunesse de ThorgaleLe drakkar des glaces
  • Retour sur Aldébaran – Épisode 1
  • Tyler CrossMiami

Honorable Mentions: Alix SenatorLa Puissance et l’Éternité, Amazonie – Épisode 3, CarthagoLéviathan, Journal d’Italie – Hong Kong 2 OsakaI.R.$Les seigneurs financiersMutations – Épisode 1

Favorite Podcasts
My list of podcasts has changed a bit this year, with my top 5 now including two new gaming-related shows I started listening to this year (Kinda Funny Games Daily and Kotaku Splitscreen). After skipping the second season of Serial, I quite enjoyed this year’s 3rd one. For Retronauts and What a Cartoon, these I don’t listen to regularly, but instead check for episodes with a topic I’m interested in. And I really do wish Noclip would release more episodes of its excellent podcast (just as good as its video documentaries).

  • 8-4 Play
  • All Songs Considered
  • Kinda Funny Games Daily
  • Kotaku Splitscreen
  • Pop Culture Happy Hour

Honorable Mentions: Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend, Monocle 24: The Stack, Noclip, On Margins, Retronauts, Serial, The AIAS Game Maker’s Notebook, What a Cartoon

Like it’s 1978

There goes another year-based movie marathon done and dusted (following: 1967, 1968197719851986, 1987). I was pretty excited to jump into 1978, as a lot of the movies I watched were pretty nostalgic for me. I ended up watching nine films (listed below), which I think acted as a good round-up of the type of popular films we saw that year — on the cusp of the blockbuster era, following 1977’s Star Wars).

You can take a look at all my short write-ups for each film by clicking below, or simply find them through the “1978” category. Next up: 1988.

  1. Animal House
  2. Damien: Omen II
  3. Death on the Nile
  4. Game of Death
  5. Grease
  6. Halloween (1978)
  7. Jaws 2
  8. Superman: The Movie
  9. The Lord of the Rings

Thrillin’ and Chillin’ in October

Over the past month I did something a bit different from the recent movie marathons I’ve been doing. Instead of focusing on a year or a particular creator, I did an all-out horror fest, mixing movies with TV series (I didn’t necessarily watch all of the episodes yet, but I did for most of them). With 27 titles, it made for the most intense October viewing experience I’ve probably ever had, and it was fun too — I can definitely see myself doing this again next year.

Below, a list of all the horror content I took in throughout the month — you can also find all the posts under the “October 2018” category.

  1. 1922
  2. Apostle
  3. Ash vs Evil Dead (Season 2)
  4. Bone Tomahawk
  5. Castlevania (Season 2)
  6. Channel Zero (Season 3)
  7. Down a Dark Hall
  8. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter
  9. Ghoul
  10. Halloween III: Season of the Witch
  11. Hereditary
  12. Hold the Dark
  13. Into the Dark: The Body
  14. It Comes at Night
  15. Malevolent
  16. Oculus
  17. Pride & Prejudice & Zombies
  18. Summer of ’84
  19. Terrifier
  20. The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina
  21. The Endless
  22. The First Purge
  23. The Haunting of Hill House
  24. The Purge (TV series)
  25. The Purge: Election Year
  26. The Ritual
  27. Winchester

Fall 2018 Anime Season

Coming off a relatively quiet summer season, I’m facing a fall season that has nothing I’m really interested in watching. The only thing on the list that I’m mildly interested is Ingress, and the continuation of Banana Fish, but even that, I only watched 5-6 episodes of the first season, and although I liked it fine, it never really grabbed me — I keep saying to myself that I’ll continue watching it, but I never do. Last season’s High Score Girl was fantastic though, and I still really enjoyed watching more Lupin the III Part V. There is more anime I’m interested in watching though, and that’s the stuff that gets added to Netflix. They recently added two new series I’m interested in watching: Last Hope (I watched the first episode and liked it) and Dragon Pilot — and I really liked the second Godzilla anime film as well.

Game Boy 013 – Rejection

“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.

About a month ago there was another game dev hashtag making the rounds, in this case, #ShareYourRejection (or rather, it wasn’t just tied to the games industry, but the examples I saw in my timeline were game dev-related).

I make no secret that it wasn’t an easy process for me to get a job in the games industry, once I decided I wanted to return to North America and work in games. I applied to countless companies — through their website — and would never hear anything back other than a confirmation of receipt, and then sometimes a notification that the position was filled, and that I would continue to be “considered” for future openings.

(There’s one company in particular — you can probably guess if you know my tastes in games — to which I applied for quite a few positions, with that type of response every time.)

Yes, at times it was feeling like nothing would happen, and that maybe my dream of working in games was a futile one. Despite that, I still left Tokyo without a job lined up, hoping that things would work out. My wife and I stayed at my parent’s home (in the province of New Brunswick) for just over a month while I continued to apply for positions — and at that point, I finally got some phone interviews happening.

How did I finally break through? I got so tired of applying through websites and nothing happening that I figured that I would need to try and get in touch with a recruiter directly, and that’s what I did. There was something that looked interesting at Eidos Montréal, and so I reached out to a friend who had ties to them, asking if he could get me the name of someone I could email directly. 

Following that first email, I got a reply that they’d be interested in talking to me, asking me what role I’d be interested in (they had a few they thought would fit my profile), and then I did a call with the recruiter, and then a call with the person who would become my manager.

The whole point of this post is to say that, yes, rejection happens, but if it’s something you really want and that you think you could really do, then you need to persevere and figure out ways to get through. And yes, getting in touch with a human being — instead of just a contact email or upload link on a website for your CV — has a much better chance of getting the attention of the company.

(Let me add that I did the same thing for Ubisoft, once I got laid off from Eidos Montréal, and that also worked out.)

I’m still a newbie in the industry — I’m at about 3 and a half years now, 2 and a half at Ubisoft, with a trajectory that went from Production Coordinator to Project Manager — but I’m always happy to share anything I can share with anyone who is also interested in doing the same. I have in fact already been contacted a few times by people asking me for advice, and I’m always happy to help out any way I can.

It’s maybe also worth noting that I did all of this once I was already in my 40s, and so it’s never too late. 

Alfred Hitchcock

On top of my year-based movie watching — I’m currently still in 1978 — I enjoy watching through other series of films as a Sunday night tradition. Following Bond and Indiana Jones, over the summer I decided to revisit a large chunk of Alfred Hitchcock’s work. I stuck to his color output (with the exception of Psycho of course), which starts in the late 40s. I’ve always been a big fan of his films — and his TV series, and even the Three Investigators book series that I loved as a kid — and it was really fun to do this, since I hadn’t re-watched most of them in probably a couple of decades. You’ll find below the full list of what I watched (and under this category).

Like it’s 1968

The latest movie marathon I was doing was for 1968, and although I had initially told myself I’d do 10 movies, I’ve decided to stop after 7, which are all listed below (and can found collected here). There were still a few movies I would have watched, like Bullit (which I admittedly had already re-visited a few years ago), Yellow Submarine, and Barbarella, but I’ve had a hard time getting in the mood to watch them, so I think it’s better that I just move on to something else. Next stop: 1978.

Game Boy 012 – Newcastle

“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.

Following my first business trip with Ubisoft earlier this year in order to attend GDC, I was pretty excited this month for my second one, which gave me a chance to visit England for the first time (I almost visited over 20 years ago when I was backpacking across Europe, but it was the year the UK left the Eurail pass, and I was too cheap to pay the extra money to get there).

This trip was more of a traditional “business trip,” in that it wasn’t to attend a conference, but rather to join meetings with our worldwide customer services teams, as part of their annual summit — the European CS team is based in Newcastle. My team at the Montreal studio builds the main tool that our CS agents use to interact with customers — a tool that interacts with pretty much all of our games — and so every year we are invited to participate in this summit with them, to get a better understanding of their reality, and to discuss how to improve the tool.

But more than just having meetings, the real “gold” of these trips is to get to spend time with all of these people you work with — people you interact with on a daily/weekly basis, but always through emails and calls. There’s no denying just how much a “real” chat with people can incredibly strengthen these relationships, and that goes doubly when you get to share a meal with them, some drinks, and even a dance floor (we enjoyed an epic dance-a-thon on the night of the office’s annual summer party — and those sandals you see pictured in this post acted as the invitation “tickets”).

Those few days of interactions were probably more valuable than months of calls, and it gave us a chance to all get a better feel and realization of things we’re each dealing with.

But outside of work, it was also a fantastic trip. My wife came along with me, and she thoroughly enjoyed day-tripping in Newcastle — a beautiful city — and the surrounding areas. I had an extra day and a half to spend with her, and so we made it out to the also beautiful town of Durham, and visited Edinburgh for a day. We both loved what we saw of England, and can’t wait to get a chance to visit again — my wife was so infatuated that she mentioned wanting to live there, but then again, she said the same thing after our trip to San Francisco.

We arrived back home last night after an intensively long day of travel, that followed barely 3 hours of sleep, and included a 7-hour layover at the Amsterdam airport, and today I took the day off to recuperate a bit — and to try and get around the jet lag.

Travel can be taxing, but the experience in between makes it all worth it.

Summer 2018 Anime Season

Coming off a season where I ended up watching quite a few things that I liked — especially Lupin the III: Part V and Legend of the Galactic Heroes, but also Megalobox (which I haven’t finished), and to a lesser extent Layton Mystery Tanteisha: Katori no Nazotoki File, that I watch with my wife — looks like it’s going to be a slow summer for me. But that’s fine, just gives me time to watch stuff from my backlog. Here’s what I will check out (taken from this list) — and to that you can include Lupin III and Layton, that are both still ongoing.

Banana Fish
I feel a lot of nostalgia for the original manga, which I remember reading in the old PULP magazine. I don’t really remember much about the story, so looking forward to watching this anime adaptation.

High Score Girl
The main reason I want to check this out is because in the trailer you see them play actual video games from the early 90s (which is the setting of the series), and that sounds like it could be fun.