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Personal

To Move or Not to Move

Weren’t you supposed to move to Shanghai?

I sure was, and I still am, but since accepting my new role at Ubisoft Shanghai back in May (and then starting to work for the studio at the start of July), we finally (hopefully) have more of an idea of when that’s going to happen.

Indeed, ever since the start of summer, we have been without news on when we would be able to apply for visas (for both my wife and I) to make the move. When I accepted the role, the thought was that things were going to start re-opening towards the end of summer, but then the world didn’t suddenly start getting better as many of us thought. Enter the delta (and more).

That meant that things were getting trickier and trickier for us here in Montreal. Apartment leases here are for 1 year, and you are unable to break them, and so are responsible for that rent until it’s over (you can try and sublease, but that can be challenging as well). My latest lease was over at the end of May, and I of course didn’t want to renew for another year, and so managed to negotiate with my apartment building administration to stay a few more months (until we could move). That was great for the summer, but I was recently informed that this was no longer possible, and would have to now commit for a longer period. What to do?

Luckily, 2 weeks later we got news that China was re-opening the visa process — as well as the news that China would now recognize WHO-approved vaccines — and so we’re up and running again in terms of the application process. Before that, we were even floating the idea of moving to Japan for a while (as a call to the Japanese embassy had revealed that I am currently able to apply for a spouse visa), to then move to China when things would open up again. It would at least have put me in the same timezone, making it easier to connect with my colleagues.

So when are we moving? It’s still not a given, and there are multiple parts to the process that are estimated to take at least 2-3 months. This means that if everything goes well, we could look at a move towards the end of the year — January being the most likely.

This is all incredible news for us, because it finally gives us a tentative timeline on when we might finally be able to make this move happen.

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Personal

To Shanghai

I’m moving to Shanghai.

Well that’s something. After six years here in Montreal, we’ve (my wife and I) decided to embark on a new adventure, and one that involves a return to Asia. It’s not a return to Japan, that I think many would have expected, but rather a return to China, which is how I started my Asia adventure in the first place.

May has turned out to be a defining month in my life — on top of the fact that it’s my birth month. It was in May 1997 that I first went to China, to the city of Tianjin for what was supposed to be a 10-week study program (an exchange program between my university in Montreal and Nankai University), and saw me changing my plans and remaining there until the end of the year. It was in May 1998 that I moved to Tokyo, which would become my home for over 15 years. It was then in May 2015 that I moved to Montreal to embark on a new journey working in the games industry (first at Eidos/Square Enix, then at Ubisoft).

And now, in 2021, it’s in May that I’ve accepted an offer to take on a new role at the Ubisoft Shanghai studio — I’ll start this new role in the summer, with the move happening when our visas our sorted, which we expect will be towards the end of summer, maybe September. After two years working in esports, this will also mark my return to game production — my new role, Production Services Manager, is a transverse role within the studio, working closely with all of the production services teams that support all of the production teams at the studio.

Why this move? After six years in Montreal, we felt like it was time to move on and experience something new. I’m incredibly thankful for the time I was able to spend at both Eidos Montreal and Ubisoft Montreal to “level up” this new career in games I embarked on not that long ago, but at the same time it hasn’t been as productive a time for my wife, in good part due to language issues, but we’ve had other challenges to deal with in our time here, and so we decided it was time for a new adventure in another city.

Why China? As I mentioned earlier, my first stop in Asia was in fact in China, as part of the East-Asian Studies program I was enrolled in at my university, which focused on the Chinese language and culture — and my time at Nankai University in Tianjin was spent studying Mandarin. It’s also where I met my wife, who was also studying Mandarin at the same university — and who, unlike me, continued to use it as part of her studies in the years following our move to Japan. So even though I have never been to Shanghai, I am excited at the prospect of rebuilding my Mandarin skills, and for my wife it means a chance to explore new opportunities in a language and setting that she knows very well. I’m also thankful to work in an expansive global company like Ubisoft, that let me find an opportunity like this, and that allows me to continue to build on the years of experience and contacts I’ve accumulated over my five years here.

So there it is, 2021 is turning out to be a big year for me, as I was hoping it would — it’s maybe a good sign that we’re in the Year of the Ox, which is my Chinese Zodiac.

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Personal

PauseTalk, Five Years Later

It just hit me today that five years ago this month I held what I then called the “final” edition of PauseTalk (Vol. 85) in Tokyo — here’s the post I wrote to mark that end. That event took place on March 2, 2015, and a few weeks later (on March 31) I would be leaving the city I called home for over 15 years.

Hey, do you miss running PauseTalk?

Of course I do. Not only was it a fantastic way for me to meet so many creative people over the years, it also made for a very fun and inspirational monthly outing. Imagine hanging out at a nice cafe, enjoying a few drinks, and chatting with an interesting bunch of people — how could I not miss it?

So then why, you may ask, have I never done something similar here in Montreal? There are definitely a bunch of different factors that make me feel like it wouldn’t really work here like it did in Tokyo. I’d say at the top of the list is that, because it was mostly attended by foreigners, it acted as a sort of support group for creatives based in or passing through Tokyo. But there’s also a more personal reason. For me, the events were a way to connect around and celebrate a city that inspired me and that I loved so much. I loved chatting about what was happening in Tokyo — on the cultural front — and to hear opinions from others, either as fellow residents, or through the fresh eyes of visitors. That passion for a city is just not something I feel I have here, and so organizing a PauseTalk makes no sense to me.

So, we’re never going to see another PauseTalk event?

As I wrote in that farewell post, I know better than to ever firmly close the door on anything. I was happy to “press pause” on the series when I left, as I still think it was the right thing to do — and the thing I was hoping would happen, to see others take up the mantle through creative/culture event series of their own, did in fact happen. Last year I did have the thought that on my next return to the city I would have liked to organize an edition, but that return (which happened in November of last year, as part of a business trip to attend our Rainbow Six Siege Pro League Finals) was a bit too short to be able to do something. But as Connery ended up doing in 1983, it’s usually best to never say never.

Oh, and there is a reason that I’ve kept the PauseTalk web domain alive all these years.

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Personal

4 Years at Ubi

I mentioned it on the day of on Twitter/Facebook, but this past weekend — specifically February 15 — marked my 4th anniversary of working at Ubisoft here in Montreal. I’ve written in the past about how I ended up here, so what I’ll say now is that I’m just as happy working here as I was when I started. And what better way to mark this anniversary than at the Six Invitational, the culmination of all of Rainbow Six Siege‘s competitive programs — and even better the fact that it was an electrifying event.

The view from above at this past weekend’s Six Invitational event in Montreal.

I think the best part of my “life at Ubi” has been the opportunities I’ve been given to explore so many aspects of this industry I love so much, through the shifting roles I’ve had — from Production Coordination to Project Manager to Senior Manager, from the For Honor production team to company-wide online/live operations teams to esports. Everything I’ve experienced on all of these projects and teams has given me insights that has always translated into the next project/team I’ve embarked on, and that’s what career growth is all about.

The most important part of all this though is of course all of the amazing colleagues and teams I’ve been able to collaborate with over these four years — big hugs all around.

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Personal

Happy 2020

Back 10-15 years ago when I was the most active on this blog — and was mostly working as a freelancer — I used to kick off each year with a bit of a manifesto, laying out a bunch of new projects I wanted to attack that year. I haven’t done that in quite a long time — my days of organizing independent events, websites, and more are long behind me — but I’m feeling so optimistic about this year that I felt like I wanted to write something.

In terms of work, this past year was an exciting one for me, with my move mid-year to a new position (Senior Manager) and team (Esports) within the company (Ubisoft). Half a year later, I couldn’t be more excited about what I get to work on, and more importantly, everything that we want to accomplish this coming year (I of course can’t talk about it yet, but I can share my excitement).

This new role is not only in a world that I now find myself fascinated with, but it’s given me the opportunity to travel more for work, which so far as meant a few trips to San Francisco (where my boss is based), Las Vegas (for the Rainbow Six US Nationals Finals), and Japan (for the Rainbow Six Season 10 Pro League Finals in Tokoname). And this should continue in the coming year.

Outside of work, this blog continues to be a place to chronicle my silly movie marathons (the latest ones were for 1989 and this year’s October horrorfest), and who knows, I might suddenly have something else I want to chronicle or write about.

So goodbye 2019, thanks for the career level up, and here’s to an even more exciting 2020 and beyond!

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Games Personal

Senior Manager, Esports

Back in May I was very happy to note that it had been four years since I started working in the games industry, and that month also marked the start of a process that has led to today, which is my first day in a brand new role: Senior Manager, Esports.

Yes, I’m still at Ubisoft, and still based in Montreal, but after about three and a half years with the company (going from Production Coordinator to Project Manager to this) and close to three years on the same team, this marks a big turning point for me, and it’s a role I’m incredibly excited to take on.

Another big change is that although I’ll continue to be based in Montreal, I’ll now be reporting directly to our NCSA (a designation that refers to the Americas) Director of Esports in San Francisco. I’m also excited that the person in question is Che Chou, who joined us in January, after years at Blizzard, 343 Industries, and Microsoft (here’s an interview he did with Polygon back in May). Also important for me is that I initially know him from his years in games media, and especially The 1UP Show, a web series about games I used to watch avidly and admiringly.

(Also, this is now the third 1UP Show alum I’ll have worked with, following Mark Macdonald and James Mielke.)

What does the role entail? I won’t be organizing or running events — we already have amazing people doing that — but instead will be working with Che on growing our esports activities at Ubisoft, and working with productions on making that happen. It may sound like it’s a big change from what I’ve been doing so far, but it actually builds nicely on the various roles I’ve had so far within Ubi, and my interactions with all of our teams. It also means I’ll get to travel a bit more, which I’m excited about.

So yeah, electronic sports, here we go!

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Events Games Personal

Friday Fluke

Pretty much ever since I’ve worked at Ubisoft Montréal, I’ve sent out an email at 16:oo on Fridays to invite everyone on the team to take it easy as we head into the weekend. It started out as a pretty typical “beer mail” — as Production Coordinator on For Honor, one of the things I did was order and stock up the beer fridge (along with soft drinks) — and over time I started having a bit of fun with the email. When I changed teams (the Game Operations Online team), I kept doing it, even though it wasn’t really a habit the team had — I remember the first one I sent, grabbing a beer and then standing alone, with no one else drinking. Eventually they caught on, and on top of sharing a drink and chatting, it turned into playing games and the like.

Last year I decided I didn’t want to call it the “beer time” anymore — because of the alcohol connotation that could make non-beer drinkers feel uninvited (even if we stock up on other things, like sodas, juices, kombuchas, etc.) — and decided to brand it as the “Friday Fluke.” I’m part of a team called Harbour (offering online solutions for all of Ubisoft), and the “fluke” is a part of an anchor, and so I saw this as an “anchor” for the week — and I also liked the other connotation that the word has (an unexpected piece of good luck).

With that change, I’ve been turning that end-of-week time into more of an event, and the latest thing I’ve introduced (as of a few weeks ago) is that we kick it off with someone doing a presentation about something personal using the PechaKucha format (20 images/slides x 20 seconds), in order to get to know each other a bit better. It’s been great so far, with everyone doing a fantastic job with what they shared, even if they were a bit nervous about trying out the format. I myself did a couple (to get people used to it), first a rundown of my 10 favorite anime series, and then for the second one I broke the format a bit, giving my 20-second thoughts on all 25 James Bond movies (I included Bond 25).

After that we usually end up playing games in a large group, usually of the social deduction variety, things like Werewolf, Secret Hitler, Deception: Murder in Hong Kong, The Resistance, Coup, etc. For Werewolf, after playing through two copies of Werewolf Legacy, I’ve now started creating my own scenarios, but that’s for another post.

I’m sharing this just to put it out there that the end-of-week “beer time” that is not uncommon in game studios (we used to do it during my time at Eidos Montréal, in the Square Enix Montréal studio, as well) doesn’t have to be just that, and can be turned into more of a social event, in which everyone can feel like they can be part of it, and contribute.

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Personal

Four Years a Game Dev

It was four years ago on this day (Monday, May 11, 2015) that I started my first day as a game developer. After leaving our life in Tokyo at the end of March (on the 31st) and spending a month in my hometown while I continued to look for work, we moved to Montreal during the first week of May so I could start the following week at Eidos Montréal.

Thinking back, it was a bit of a crazy idea to suddenly do a career change and make the decision to find work in the games industry. As I’ve written before, it wasn’t easy, but I’m glad I persevered, and I find myself still incredibly thankful to be working in this industry (now at Ubisoft Montréal, for just over 3 years).

Sure, I do miss my life in Tokyo, all of my friends there and all the amazing people I worked with, hung out with, and shared fun times with, but I have no regrets. Four years a game dev.

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Meta Personal

May 2019 Writing Challenge

I’ve been feeling a bit bad lately that I haven’t been writing much here — something that I like doing for myself, as a continuation of what I started way, way back in 1998. So just like I gave myself a challenge to get back into reading books in a bit of an agressive way (2 books a month, which I’m still pretty much on track with), I’m giving myself a writing challenge as well, and that’s to write at least five posts a week — long and short — until the end of May. I’ll be off from work for the next six Mondays in a row (something I did in August of last year, that I found to be quite enjoyable), starting this week, and so hopefully that’ll help give me more time to write.

Here goes.

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Meta Personal

Twenty Nineteen

Changing the look of my blog used to be something I loved to do, whether it was creating a new look from scratch or heavily customizing themes and templates I would find online. I’d do it on an almost seasonal basis. This “design” aspect of blogging is something I’ve lost interest in along the way, with the only thing keeping me going being the desire to write. For that reason, when I started blogging more heavily again a few years ago, I was fine with using the default “Twenty Fifteen” WordPress theme.

This past weekend when I went into the back-end to write a couple of posts, I saw I could upgrade to version 5 of WordPress — which I did — and with it came a brand new default theme, “Twenty Nineteen,” which is what you’re seeing now if you’re reading this post on my website. It’s simple and minimalist, which is how I like my design, with some nice typography, and so I’m happy to switch to it. I still want to customize it a bit more (just tweaks that are baked into the customization options), and will add a few new pages to flesh things out (like an “About” page, which I haven’t had for years).

Part of the customizable aspects of the new theme that I liked was to have a little tagline at the top, following the site’s title.

Blogging since 1998.

Writing that, I realized that I didn’t really commemorate the fact that as of last year, I have been blogging pretty regularly for over 20 years. The archives on this site go back to 2002 (this is the first post), but that just marks my start of using Blogger as a proper engine for my blog (which later changed to Movable Type, and then to WordPress).

My origins of writing regularly on the web started in 1998 (in the summer I think) when I launched a site to celebrate Acadian culture (the French-speaking culture from where I grew up), and as part of the content for the site I wrote a weekly column about my life in Japan (I had moved there in May of that year). That site lasted about 3 years, and since I wanted to continue writing regularly about my life in Tokyo, I launched my own site, jeansnow.net. For at least a year, I continued to write and code everything in HTML, until I came across this thing called Blogger that looked like a pretty great way to automate a lot of what I was doing.

And now, over 20 years later, here I am writing this post.