Pooch in the Media

My dog Confiture — who I always refer to as “pooch” on social media — has been getting quite a bit of media coverage in Montreal of late. It all relates to the fact that since early 2016, we’ve been basically crowdsourcing walks for him, using a private Facebook group we created that now has over 1000 members (with hundreds more still waiting for approval). It’s mostly done through McGill University students, and so he’s almost turned into an unofficial mascot on campus — if you walk him in the area, you’ll probably get a few people telling you, “hey, that’s Confiture!” A couple of weeks ago, the McGill Tribune, the university’s student newspaper, published this piece, and then this article was published this past Saturday in La Presse, Montreal’s biggest newspaper — I was also contacted by the CBC.

It’s a bit funny to see how much of a local celebrity he’s turned into — he’s certainly the happiest he’s ever been.

20 Years Ago

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 Years a Game Dev

Today marks two years since I became a game dev.

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

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

What an interesting journey it’s been so far.

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

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

The Dream of Working in Games

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

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

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

NES Classic Edition

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I’m not one to wait in line for things, but this morning I did it for the first time in Canada, in order to get an NES Classic Edition. I’ve covered plenty of console launches in Japan for game sites, but never actually waited overnight in line for one — the only time I did wait in line for something was for the first iPad, and I went to line up at around 4-5am at one of the Bic Camera stores in Ikebukuro (my neighborhood at the time), and was the first one there.

But yeah, I really wanted an NES Classic Edition, and from what I was seeing, it was looking like getting one online was going to be impossible. So this morning, as I was biking to work, I made a last-minute decision at the point where normally I would turn left to go to the studio to instead keep going and check out EB Games. As I got there, they said they had just given their last ticket to someone — they were now sold out of all 75 consoles they received. I decided I’d try my luck again and check out the Best Buy on Ste-Catherine, and that’s where I hit pay dirt.

As I got there, it looked like a line of about 30 people. I went to the back of the line, and asked the people in front if it looked like we were going to get one. There was still no confirmation, but they figured chances were good that the store would have gotten at least 30 consoles. A few minutes later (I got there at around 9:15), a staffer came out saying he would hand out tickets for the number of consoles they had. He had 48 tickets. I got number 34.

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Shinra Defeated

So yeah, this happened to me on Tuesday (or take your pick).

In the past I’ve started the year with a post that looks optimistically at what the coming year may bring – last year I was already starting to set my sights on moving back to North America, which I of course did. 

This year, well, 2016 has definitely kicked off with some big changes for me.

I should start by saying that the past year of work I’ve done as part of the Shinra Technologies team here in Montreal (as Production Coordinator) has been one of the most rewarding of my life. I was incredibly lucky to work with a team here in Montreal that was not only filled with some insanely talented people, but more importantly for me, it was a group of people that I truly enjoyed working with, every single one of them – and the same can be said for the interactions I had with our New York team (with an incredibly huge tip of the hat to my good friend, James Mielke, who helped me get my foot in the door, and then continued to support me throughout my year there). 

We’ve been through a lot over the past year, and although it’s sad to see a project like this come to an end, one that was initiated back in 2010, I still feel proud and honoured to have been part of the history of this company, and to have been able to work under an industry luminary like Yoichi Wada.

I’m of course sad that we didn’t get to launch the service we were working hard on launching, to see how it would have fared in the marketplace, but that’s how it goes.

So what next? I’m of course currently looking for opportunities elsewhere, and so don’t be shy if anyone reading this might come across something they think could be interesting for me – or if you yourself like the cut of my jib and would like me to work with you – whether it’s in Montreal or elsewhere.

And yes, I’m on LinkedIn.

Cutting Edge

The joys of losing posts.

Last night I wrote a long post about my recent frustrations with the digital edition of Edge magazine, as of the latest issue. I was even positioning it as a sort of return of The Magaziner (the site I used to run about magazine culture). But I somehow lost the post before I was able to post it, and I don’t feel like writing it again.

Oh well.

I think it may have been a sign that if I am to bring back The Magaziner, I should do it properly, with its own site, structure, etc. I’d been feeling the itch of late to bring it back, but had let the domain expire earlier this year, and when I checked recently, found that it was grabbed by someone who just wants to sell for a grand.

How grand.

Who needs domains anyway, in this day and age. It’s vanity more than anything else. And besides, I still have JeanSnow.net.

Knock on wood.

*JeanSnow.net is no longer available*

(That’s what I imagine happening any second now.)

So that’s that, The Magaziner will remain in hibernation for the time being, until I have a really good idea on what to do with it. And hey, PauseTalk isn’t dead.

Dead Collector: Bring out yer dead!
[A large man appears with a (seemingly) dead man over his shoulder]
Large Man: Here’s one.
Dead Collector: Nine pence.
“Dead” Man: I’m not dead.
Dead Collector: What?
Large Man: Nothing. [hands the collector his money] There’s your nine pence.
“Dead” Man: I’m not dead!
Dead Collector: ‘Ere, he says he’s not dead.
Large Man: Yes he is.
“Dead” Man: I’m not.
Dead Collector: He isn’t.
Large Man: Well, he will be soon, he’s very ill.
“Dead” Man: I’m getting better.
Large Man: No you’re not, you’ll be stone dead in a moment.

Hopefully I don’t need to explain where that comes from.

So yes, no big post about the incredibly horrible new digital edition of Edge (it’s basically a PDF now with a few links, and doesn’t remember your spot if you exit the app and come back), no return of The Magaziner (although if you like magazines, take note that the current issue of all Conde Nast titles on iPad are free right now, until November 30, and that includes Wired and The New Yorker), and I’ve probably rambled on enough.

Since we had our first big snow in Montreal yesterday, I’ll leave you with this image by one of my favorite illustrators, Yuko Shimizu (and you can go read this interview with her).

Game On, but Not for Everyone

I recently attended the “Game On” exhibition here in Montreal, and was disappointed by it.

I did have high expectations, as it promised the inclusion of 100 games that were all playable, and although presented here at the Montreal Science Centre, it was originally devised by the Barbican. 

So what’s wrong?

The biggest issue I could see is lack of context, and it became especially evident by the fact that my wife – who is not aversed to games and gaming – really didn’t enjoy her time there. She thought she was going to be presented by a proper history of gaming, but to her it just felt like a big arcade – and yes, one that I was partaking in.

But I also noticed this. As much as I had a lot of fun playing old classics like Pac-Man and Galaga on original arcade cabinets, and then revisiting a few old console games (I played quite a bit of Tempest 2000 on Jaguar), there really wasn’t much in terms of explaining why these consoles/games had been selected, and what they really represented to the medium. 

And some of the areas are even worse, like the sections that explain marketing (by sharing a small glass case of GTA merch) and game design (not much more than one wall of post-it notes showing the world building/mission structure of GTA).

Then, there was the fact that some of the things on show were broken, from some of the controllers, to 3 out of 4 music stations simply not working – and this is especially bad since each station is supposed to offer up a different selection of tracks, to illustrate a different aspect of music in games.

If you are an active player of games, then you will probably get a kick out of this exhibition if only from getting to play through a lot of old games you haven’t played in a while – and there’s definitely something satisfying to playing on original consoles, over emulation. But I think the goal of an exhibition like this should be to introduce the medium to people who aren’t already informed on it, and to give them proper historical context for everything, so that they can better appreciate the evolution of the medium, and to better understand why current games are they way they are.

Nice try, but let’s hope we get something better in the future.

Alive and Well

It’s been a while, but yes, I’m still here.

My last post was to announce that I was going to move to Montreal and start working as part of the Shinra Technologies team here in Montreal, where we work from the Square Enix Montréal studio (and are part of the Eidos Montréal family). That move happened at the start of May, my first day of work was on May 11, and as June comes to a close, I’m still here.

It’s been a bit less than 2 months since I started my new job, and I’m still so happy to have had the opportunity I’ve received to work with these people. We’ve got a great team here in Montreal, and we’ve got a great team in New York as well, which is were the business side of the company is located (in Montreal, it’s the technical team, where all the magic that is Shinra Technologies is getting developed). 

And although I still didn’t get to go to E3, it did feel a bit different to be watching it as an insider, instead of just as a fan (or as part of media). I got to cheer for all for all of the exciting things coming out of our great Square Enix umbrella – and there definitely was lots that I really am excited to play, including Lara Croft Go, which is being made in the studio where I work.

In terms of life in Montreal, I’m sure it’ll come as no surprise if I say that it’s been taking time for us to get settled – after 15 years in Japan, re-adapting to North America, and more specifically Canada (and on top of that, to Montreal, with its own idiosyncrasies), is taking time. 

I am incredibly happy to be able to eat Lebanese food again – shish-taouks are definitely my jam. And poutine. And club sandwiches. And bagels.

And root beer.

I’ll try to start writing here again – I don’t want this blog to die. I also started updating my media consumption diary again.