Winter Update

It's been quite some time since I've posted here. It certainly isn't for a lack of things to talk about or of desire to do so. In fact I have several posts I've been meaning to put up. However, life has kept me busy on most days and exhausted on others. It's left me in a state where I've been so preoccupied with clearing up the various items on my to-do list that sitting down to focus on a single item seems inefficient. But, for the most part that's been addressed, so I'll gradually start bringing myself back into a state of normalcy, at which point I'll eventually get around to writing out more of my thoughts in a formalised manner. For now, this will be a brief summary of how things have been going since my post in November.

Travel

The primary reason my backlog became so full had to do with the fact that I spent the bulk of December out of town. For most of that, I was in Florida visiting my parents (who now habitually spend winter there). I have to admit that while it was very jarring to be so warm at that time of the year, it was even stranger when I went back to Montreal to find that there still wasn't any snow. As for my actual time spent there, a lot of it was trying to mitigate the aforementioned backlog with my mom's laptop, but I was also working on several projects for this very site, which I'll get to later in this post.

I had all of one evening at home before heading off to Ottawa for New Years. It's become tradition that I spend that evening at my grandmothers. This however was the first year she was not there to spend it with us. However, I also found myself in a bit of a dilemma, since I was invited to meet up with some of my old high school friends for a New Years party. I ended up making a compromise and calling in to my aunt and uncle at midnight. The party itself was fairly fun, though admittedly most of us were far too inebriated to have any business going out into town as we did. Without getting too detailed, I spent the last half hour of 2015 cleaning up a friend's rather unfortunate mess. Still a fun night though.

Employment/Education

Sadly, I've yet to snag a job. It certainly isn't for lack of trying, but some of the conversations I had at and following MIGS made it pretty clear that I had my work cut out for me. One factor I had considered but largely ignored was that apparently there's a preference towards hiring from the local schools. It's understandable and very logical: there's a certain familiarity that breeds trust in reliable candidates. It also means that they're already somewhat attuned to the culture.

Let me be clear I'm not stating in an accusatory manner, nor am I blaming hiring bias for my lack of employment. Primarily I believe the main factor against me right now is the fact that my portfolio is for the most part mediocre. I know I could do better than a lot of what my projects show. But I cannot expect others to assume my competence. I directly plan on addressing that with some of my plans for the site (I'll get to that), but there is one other venue I am attempting.

While in Florida, I made the unfortunate discovery that Ubisoft's Graduate program, which I was hoping might serve as a good chance to get into the company, would not work. It didn't include design positions, and the domains it required education for were not those that I had studied in. But the mention of master's degrees made me think about additional studies.

I'll readily admit that I am not a fan of school. It lacks the consistent directed structure and "real life impact" factors that I really enjoy when doing work. However, I can't deny that it's a great venue through which to practice your skills and make connections. I had looked for game design post-grad studies in the past and found none, but this time I did find a single one at the University of Montréal. The single year duration was icing on the cake. I've sent in the application in the hopes that this might be the foot in the door I so clearly need, but it will be some time before I know what is to become of that.

There is one last thing to mention on the subject of employment. Though I'm still looking for a job to at the very least sustain me for the summer, in the meantime I've joined into a crowdtesting service. I've done plenty of testing in the past, and unlike some people I don't mind the challenge and monotony it involves. I'm hoping it will give me a chance to keep my skills in that domain sharp and provide at least some income while I continue my job hunt.

Tabletop Gaming

One thing that I have been engaged in since last year is tabletop gaming. Specifically Pathfinder. However, as of late it's taken up much more of my time. A big reason for this is that I took the leap and actually started running a game myself. I'll be reserving most of my thoughts on the subject in another post, but the short of it is that I've come to greatly appreciate the value that running a tabletop RPG has to a game designer.

Website

So after all that, what about this website? The truth is, while there are several things I would like to put on the site, I feel as though I have to clean them up further before I can justify doing so. However, I am also self conscious enough to realise that if I submit to my perfectionist tendencies then I'll never put up anything and as a result none of that content will ever be seen. So, I'm going to steadily resume working on some new content I have in mind for the site.

The biggest additions I have planned are documentation and more blog posts. I have a lot of documentation templates I've created over the years that I think show my skills at organising as well as my initiative when it comes to doing so. The blog posts (though I know they are likely not going to be read for the most part), I hope to use as a way of further communicating myself as an individual. They serve as a record in the event that I am scrutinised, and also give me a way to flesh out the thoughts in my head. Who knows, someday maybe one of them will actually be useful to someone.

Aside from these, I do have some more minor things I might add, such as some photography and other projects I do for recreational purposes. They likely won't show off my professional skills much (I'm not a bad photographer, but most of the shots I take are spur of the moment shots with no consideration for composition or quality; rather, just the subject).

As soon as I post this, I'll be starting on my post about tabletop, after which I'll be looking over a draft I had done for a post about my French heritage. There should be several additions to the site in the next little while.

MIGS15 And Future Plans

MIGS

I spent the last three days at MIGS, the Montreal International Games Summit. It was my first time at the conference, though from my four times at OIGC (the much newer Ottawa equivalent), the whole thing felt fairly familiar.

Admittedly, MIGS was not nearly as impressive as I expected it to be. Perhaps that was simply an effect of my expectations being that it would be proportionally larger than OIGC based on their respective industry presence (with Ottawa being minuscule compared to the juggernaut that is Montreal in the game industry). It might have also had to do with the fact that I attended at the lowest tier, and therefore didn't have access to the master classes. I think a lot of my impression simply had to do with the fact that so little of the event was geared towards design. There were plenty of talks about business, audio, and mobile development, but I didn't see all that much that really prompted me to think about video game design itself. I had also been told by some friends that had attended previous years that it felt more sparse and less organised this time around (and also more expensive; I won't deny that was a big hit to my funds, especially without a steady income as of yet), but I have no direct experience to gauge that myself.

That said however, it was still a very worthwhile experience. I did learn a few things from some of the talks, and others were just interesting to attend. The recruitment zone was also very useful to me, seeing as I'm still looking for a job. Several notable companies were there and I did manage to make some connections. I've been spending the last couple days following up, so hopefully it will result in something. As much as I've loved all this time for myself, I would really like to actually get into the workforce. I feel like a bit of routine and direction could go a long way towards motivating me, not to mention I've been eager for a very long time to get real industry experience.

Besides the job search, MIGS also turned out to be a great socialising event. I ran into several people I knew, including friends I had made at OIGC and other events. I even ran into some folks from the old Ottawa gaming scene as well as some old classmates. Later on during the after party I got to catch up with some of them which was nice. Additionally I got to see a fairly prominent figure in gaming slap his drinking buddy (who was also a significant figure in gaming) for fun. I get the impression that witnessing that taught me something profound about our industry, but I'm not sure what that is as of yet...

There was one last thing I found very worthwhile about this whole thing, and that can be encompassed in this photograph:

That right there is me awkwardly standing in between Amy Hennig and Warren Spector. Their names are easy enough to look up, but Hennig is of Jak and Daxter, Uncharted, and Last of Us fame, while Spector is known for the original Deus Ex. They are respectively icons of the cinematic and choice schools of games. They are also two of my personal idols as a game designer. It is my dream to some day achieve their caliber. My own ideas and aspirations for what I would like to make draw heavily from them. In fact, my ideal game would build off of the work both of them have done. Later on in the day, I was able to speak to Mr. Spector briefly and bounce one of my ideas off of him, and he gave me some brief but compelling advice. That alone made this entire thing worth it in my opinion...

What Now?

MIGS is done, and I must get back to my "work". In the last few months, things have been pretty crazy for me. The move, reorienting myself in a new city, my grandmother's passing, and the frequent visits to Ottawa that resulted in have all eaten away at my time. I haven't had all that much of a chance to build up from where I left off with my studies. My backlogs of to do lists swelled pretty intensely, and they're only now starting to get back down to modest levels.

Making Games

Aside from actively applying to jobs, the first and most important thing for me to do (at least according to the various professionals I've spoken to) is to start making games. Admittedly while I do have the skills to make games on my own, and with enough work I know I could make things that are superior to what I have in my portfolio right now, the truth is I prefer not doing everything on my own. Honestly it just feels incredibly lonely doing so. That, and it takes time to make games. It could be a while before I really have something polished to show off.

However, one thing I know I can do well is documentation. I'll be doing a lot of writing. Concepts, design documents, design experiments... I'll be writing all of them and putting them on this site. I have at least one game concept I'm prepared to create on my own, and a design doc will be the place to start with it anyway. Who knows, if my ideas are particularly compelling I might be able to attract someone to come and collaborate with me on a project. Time will tell, I suppose.

Playing Games

I've got a lot of games on my (mostly digital) shelf that have yet to be touched. I recently beat Undertale, but Dragon Age 2 and Metal Gear Solid 5 have been sitting in my "In Progress" section for quite some time, not to mention the scores of other games still waiting. I consider each game I play to be both for fun and education, so I tend to take my time on them, but now that I have a stretch of uninterrupted time, I think I'll be able to actually make some progress there. It would be nice to be up to speed with current gaming culture.

Aside from video games, I've also recently starting running a Pathfinder tabletop game over the internet with some friends of mine. I've been playing a lot of tabletop in the past year and I've really taken a liking to it. Running this game (Hell's Rebels is the campaign) is something I've wanted to do for quite some time now, and it strikes me as an excellent practice in game design (especially when I've been making my own campaign separately). Already my little party of murder-hobos have subverted expectations laid out by the book, and I've had to find ways to adapt it to them, which is proving to be really challenging, but also really fun. I'll likely do a post mortem of my experience on this blog eventually.

Tl;dr

So, in short, MIGS was fun and I got to meet a lot of really swell people, and now I'll be spending the next several weeks working on building up my portfolio and playing some games. I'm eager to get started!

Starting Content Complete

I'm proud to say that as of now, I've added all the content I can think to add at the moment for this site. Barring a couple small exceptions, I've included just about every worthwhile piece of content I've produced in recent memory. Those few exceptions I'll be looking into at a later date. For all intents and purposes, this site is on its gold release.

Now I can go back to making new things to add to it. Or at least, I will after my trip to Montreal.

New Beginnings

As of yesterday, I have officially graduated from BIT (the Bachelor of Information Technology, more specifically, the Interactive Multimedia and Design stream). It was five years of difficult work and many challenging projects, but it was greatly valuable for me as a designer. I left high school with very little design training; all I had was some artistic skill and a whole lot of ideas. Now I've also come to appreciate how difficult bringing ideas into reality can be. That said, I also know that it's well within my ability.

And so, with school done, I can begin the pursuit of my dream: to become a video game designer. I've already begun the job hunt, and am seriously pursuing a move to Montreal. As much as I love Ottawa, it's much too quiet for my tastes, and Montreal has the big studios and international recognition I want to tap into as I start making a name for myself in the industry. I have the skills and the knowledge, so now it's just a matter of getting the experience.

That makes this the perfect time for me to start this site. It will serve as a record of my quest. I have no illusions that it won't be difficult, and I can't pretend to know where it might take me. Will I achieve the dream of becoming the creative director for a major franchise I came up with? Will my ideas be the source of inspiration for future generations? Will I make games that people around the world enjoy? Or will my life take me somewhere else? Perhaps I'll find fulfillment in something I've never considered. Who knows. But some day, I'll be able to look back through this site and be able to answer those questions.

I invite you to follow me on that journey. As I go, I'll update this site with my work, the major events of my life, and whatever thoughts I might think pertinent enough to write about. Hopefully, it will be inspirational, thought-provoking, and entertaining. With any luck, all three at once. But, as with everything else in life, only time will tell.