i’ll admit i was pretty excited to receive an invitation to Revenge of the Nerds, the grand opening office-warming party for the new Ubi Soft Toronto studio that took place last weekend. i’m not a very big Ubi fan (nothing against them – i just rarely play M-rated games), but i was kind of tickled that someone at Ubi actually knew who i was … and despite that, decided to invite me.
i pose with Frozen North CEO Julian Spillane, wearing Ubi-issued nerd specs.
That person turned out to be Lesley Phord-Toy, an Ubi Soft producer, who we recently voted in as the new IGDA Toronto Chapter Prez. i knew Lesley from the chapter committee meetings and the Fan Expo panel we attended together. She invited everyone on the IGDA committee. Was the invite a crafty campaign tactic? Not sure. Invite notwithstanding, i think the chapter is well-served to have Lesley heading it up.
We brought along my daughter’s stuffed horse to make a fun photo album for her. Horse loves Heineken.
The Ubi party was very reminiscent of an E3 shindig, and felt oddly transplanted from La-La-Land to the Great White North. That makes sense – Ubi’s no doubt thrown their fair share of E3 parties, and this one hit all the prereqs:
- Coloured tube lighting – check
- Very loud music – check
- Smoke machine – check
- Free booze – check
- Games projected on walls – check
- Horse doovers – check
- A lounge area with two chocolate fountains that nobody friggin’ told me about until two days later so thanks for nothing – check
Since this is Canada, what was largely missing from the party was that L.A. attitude – everyone acting too awesome to talk to each other. The atmosphere was much more friendly, convivial, and … Canadian, really. Everyone was approachable. No one was off-limits. It was a nice change from the cold pricklies you get at E3.
Through the studio’s main corrider, there were these little plexiglass cases housing game and technology throwbacks, like little museum pieces. They prompted me to write a Very Special LinkBait Tuesdays article on some of lesser-known or oft-forgotten aspects of retro gaming.
Tickets to the Gun Show
One big surprise is that Ubi Soft is working on a Laser Tag-like toy (no relation to Lesley Phord-Toy). They had a full course set up, replete with (inexplicably American) mailbox props, park benches and garbage cans.
It took a little effort to pull off a full guns-blazing action hero cartwheel in my suit jacket, but i managed it. Shame that nobody grabbed a picture of it. Hmm. You’ll have to take my word for it.
i can haz layzors?
Many people have expressed concern about the Ubi move into Toronto. i can see their point – it was extremely costly, and i wonder if that money wouldn’t be better spent building up small local developers until they’re Ubi-sized. Let’s face it: Ontario can’t lay any claim to the success of Ubi Soft, and Ubi’s really only here as long as the tax incentives are here. There’s no kinship, no loyalty, no local pride or deep Toronto roots – it’s all about the green. It’s almost like when you went to high school prom and paid that super-pretty girl to be your date. The moment she went off the clock, you found her making out with that guy from metal shop who had his own car.
Still, now that they’re here and the money’s spent, i want to see what good can come of it. The Ubi folks have made appearances at the recent IGDA and Hand Eye Society meetings, which i think is great. i hope Ubi’s presence will, at the very least, endow us with a certain professionalism and standard of excellence that can often be overlooked when smaller groups run events. At the very least, Ubi Soft has taught us a few new party tricks.