If you ever doubted the size and quality of Montreal’s game development culture, allow me to point you towards just a few of many, many events that should put your weary mind at ease. First of all, there is TAG (Technoculture, Art, and Games), which has near-daily gaming events of all kinds at the University of Concordia, and a weekly Thursday gathering open to all. Or, if you are allergic to academic institutions, surely you can be convinced by the sheer number and size of game studios based right here, including behemoths like Ubisoft and small teams like Hololabs. Or perhaps you would prefer a twelve-day, annual festival celebrating games and carefully timed to match local schools’ spring break schedules? No? None of this convinces you? That’s okay. I was holding back, anyway. All you need to hear to know that Montreal is a gaming force to be reckoned with is one acronym: MIGS.
MIGS, the Montreal International Game Summit, is a yearly conference held in Montreal and available to the public. It’s mostly targeted at game developers rather than game consumers, but it is a ton of fun! Developers with all levels of experience are welcome and are sure to get something out of their time at MIGS. The summit itself has a very simple set up, typical of most conventions: it has one room filled with booths from industry giants as well as industry newcomers. Even some academic institutions, such as our very own Champlain College, have booths there. Point being, it’s a great place to meet people from all across the spectrum, and from many different countries.
But maybe you’re employed at your dream job and you’re a complete recluse. Or, maybe you already personally know 100% of the people in the games industry. Even still, MIGS has quite a bit to offer you. There are constant educational panels going on throughout both days. Every hour, they have talks about game design, game programming, business, production, art, audio, and sponsored technologies. I spent the majority of my time at MIGS sitting in various panels, learning about current programming techniques in the industry, as well as experimental new techniques. I learned crazy stuff I thought wasn’t even possible! Not every talk was a slam dunk, mind you – with that many talks, you’re bound to get one or two less-than-stellar presentations. Oddly, some talks that I expected to be riveting turned out to be somewhat directionless, and other talks that I expected to be dull turned out to be completely mind-blowing. Still, they were all worth a visit.
MIGS is a total blast, and there’s a whole atmosphere of positive energy and collaboration. Not only that, but being in a place with that many important people, you never know when you might get a chance encounter with someone you’d like to know. I actually had just such an experience.
I was at a panel on CPU optimization, and my eyes were glued to the presentation. I know that sounds extremely boring to some of you, and perhaps that sentence put you to sleep immediately, but this stuff really excites me, so just sit tight. The presenter was a guru of all things CPU related, and his job sounded like something that was too hard for it to even exist. In spite of all this, he was a very calm, informal guy, and his presentation was as pleasant as it was neuron-frying. It was one of the most fascinating lessons I’d ever heard. His talk was actually rather short, so roughly half of the time was used as a Q&A session. I couldn’t help myself, so I asked him about some of the things he had mentioned in his talk that piqued my interest. He answered helpfully and with a matter-of-fact tone that can only come from intimate familiarity. I asked more than one question, but so did many others and I was hardly hogging the floor. I also did my best not to ask questions that would be boring to him or to some of the more experienced people in the room. “Enlightening” is the best word to describe the experience.
However, after the talk, I was approached by two really nice guys from a game company in Montreal that I have a lot of respect for. They told me that I asked some canny questions, and that I should get in touch with them about an internship at the company they work for, if I was so interested. It turned out they had been sitting behind me the whole presentation.
This was a fantastic experience for me all the way along, and the end was probably the best part. But, of course, I can’t guarantee that it will be this good for everyone. If you decide to head to MIGS, you may or may not have a similar story to tell at the end. However, I will say this: a lot of important events in life can seem like just crazy luck. But it’s not always so simple. If you’re in the games industry, or want to be, and you don’t go to MIGS or GDC or some other gathering for any number of perfectly legitimate reasons, just keep in mind that important events do happen somewhat by chance, but that that chance can be influenced. If there is a room full of interesting people who want to meet you and have important things to say to you, and you aren’t in that room, you’re not doing yourself any favors. Not every outing or event or gathering is going to yield positive results, but you won’t know until you go. I know it can sound like a huge gathering of people is just going to be too busy, too noisy, too whatever, but some of the people there may be you’re future best friends and you just haven’t met them yet, so please don’t dismiss them too soon.
– Scott Barrett, Game Programming Major, Official Blogger, Fall 2014