By Kyle Mays (California Lutheran University ’18)
When it comes to what my goals in life have been, the opportunities I’ve found often presented themselves to me in ways I wouldn’t have particularly chosen. In that way, I have chosen to take that as a lesson to be more excited for the times in my life that I didn’t plan for: Where things don’t go according to plan, and seeing how I am able to get to the same place I was going from where I ended up, or for finding a new place to go to with what I learned. For better or worse, I feel like this way I learn a greater amount about the world and myself. With all the highs and lows unexpected experiences that stem from the mystery of the unplanned unknown might bring me to, it all leads to me being whoever I become, wherever it ends up leaving me. I’ve accepted this as an inherent good aspect of life, even if it takes for some struggles to find the good it brought me.
That was my roundabout way of saying numerous unforeseen circumstances led to me taking on a less conventional approach to working in the game industry during my semester abroad in Montreal: as a second-party coordinator between Champlain and local Montreal game developers.
For those who might not know, while the main Champlain College campus in Burlington was founded in 1878, the Montreal campus officially opened its doors in 2007, just celebrating its 10th year anniversary. The academic center here is always open and available to students to work on projects. The main focus of the programs here are related to numerous forms of multimedia, including numerous facets of game development including art, design, and programming, but also to other artistic mediums like film!
As Champlain Montreal’s Industry Coordinator Intern, I worked right in the Champlain Montreal academic center three days a week. Before I started, I had a discussion with the On-Site Director Genevieve and the Student Life Manager Hannah about what my skill set consisted of and which abilities I have that I was looking to improve, mainly in communication in the industry environment. They made it a point to not focus my roles primarily on busywork I won’t really be able to apply to my main professional aspirations, and worked with me to create tasks that were applicable and related to the game industry in Montreal.
My tasks each day wildly varied based around whatever had been most pressing at the time. Early in February, my tasks involved going to Montreal game development events (such as Montreal Demo Night at the GamePlay Space here, where multiple Canadian indie studios got together to demonstrate their latest projects) and writing blogs like this one for the Champlain site about my experiences. Then, my focus shifted to my main coordinator duties, involving me contacting nearly every single developer and studio that attended the event and setting up studio visits/playtests, developer talks being hosted at the academic center, among other small events. I was able to connect with and help organize events with local studios and developers such as Double Stallion, Kitfox Games, Spearhead Games, Philip Buchannan, Osama Dorias, along with many others that we couldn’t fit in this semester since we got so many studios that were open to set up great visit experiences with us!
I also handled a bunch of other miscellaneous duties the Champlain staff found for me to do based on my aforementioned talk, including making updates to the company spreadsheet, a large scale coordination project with previous alumni for a new set of sections on the Champlain Montreal website in the works, video editing in Adobe Premiere, among other duties of varying types I’ve done these past couple months. Not everything could be game industry related for my duties, but even then the tasks were not so unrelated to a professional working environment that I can’t utilize in a future studio atmosphere. The coordination and other administrative skills I’ve built on I believe will also help me fare much better in my efforts to lead my own game projects and taking on a number of different roles I’ll have to fill as a solo developer or as part of a small team I’ll be organizing myself after I finish the program here.
I feel I learned a lot about communication within the game development industry, both independent as well as triple-A. Throughout my whole experience studying and working for Champlain, I was exposed to so many opportunities to meet with and speak to developers of all backgrounds. Whether they were fellow students and student alumni, local developers and the indie production experts they work with, the triple-A designers in the Montreal campus faculty, and everyone else in-between, I got to reach out to so many people in the industry and get a feel how to communicate with every type of person in the community.
As somewhat of an introvert who has trouble articulating what I am thinking properly and reaching out to others, it was really great to see that everyone I came into contact with as part of my internship were incredibly kind, helpful, and casual. It was refreshing and reassuring to me how approachable everyone I met in the industry along the way had been, and that the workplace culture is not really that far away (possibly even more laid back and friendly) than my past interactions. While this developer culture might potentially be exclusive to Montreal, I do feel that I would love to be able to try and make my own studio back home in California with the same or similar working environments and spirit of creativity and comradery between developers regardless of studio affiliation. I would really like to thank everyone who worked with me along the way that I worked with, including Hannah, Geneviève, and Ryan for all their hard work and for giving me these numerous opportunities to grow.
It wasn’t the end of the world that my ideal roadmap fell through, as it always sort of does no matter what to some small extent, and to embrace taking chances. It just meant that I had to find another interesting way to go where I was heading.