Canada Day: Hockey, Beer, and Videogames

The streets are going to be packed on Canada Day. Rather than having to go outside and try to navigate through the mass of people or heading up to the cottage and being eaten alive by bugs after sitting in traffic for five hours, why not enjoy some videogames instead? After all, some of your favourite titles were probably developed here.

Canada has a solid videogame industry. It’s known as the third largest producer of videogames in the world, behind the USA and Japan. There are over 300 companies, the majority of which are small indie companies, but there are big names can be found here too, eh? In 2013, there was $2.3 billion contributed to Canada’s GDP and 16,000 people employed. While Ontario and Quebec are both very popular places to develop, the industry boom in Canada began in Vancouver.

The first successful videogame in Canada is said to be either Evolution or B.C.’s Quest for Tires.

B.C.’s Quest for Tires
B.C.’s Quest for Tires

Evolution consisted of a series of mini games, starting off with playing as an amoeba. The amoeba would eat bacteria while germs tried to stop it. If enough bacteria was eaten, the amoeba would evolve into a frog that ate flies. The game progressed as “evolution” took place.

B.C.’s Quest for Tires was about Thor the caveman trying to rescue his girlfriend “Cute Chick” who had been captured by a dinosaur. To do this, he would navigate levels on a stone unicycle while jumping over potholes or ducking under tree branches and avoiding other objects.

Both were published by Vancouver’s Sydney Development Corporation in 1983. Both games were developed by different teams that sought out the company because it was one of the very few around. It wasn’t until EA Canada was established in 1991 that things really began in earnest for the Canadian videogame industry.

Boulder Dash
Boulder Dash

Gray Matter made it big for Ontario with the game Boulder Dash, which was published in 1984 by In Home Entertainment, a company from the US. It followed the character Rockford who dug through caves while looking for diamonds and treasure. Gray Matter did well until 1995 when it burnt out due to funding shortages.

While big companies like Edmonton’s BioWare and Other Ocean Games in P.E.I. are popular, names like Ubisoft, EA Mobile, and Eidos can be found in Quebec. There are even foreign companies like Funcom NV from the Netherlands and Japan’s Square Enix that can be found in Quebec.

The reason a lot of companies are settling in Canada has to do with the tax grant the government offers. While B.C. offers 17.5% Ontario offers 35-40% to eligible companies and Quebec also offers 40%. It doesn’t matter the size of the company, and Quebec has offered major companies like Ubisoft big bucks to develop in Montreal. But big companies only make up 9% of those in Quebec, and even fewer in other provinces.

LOUD on Planet X
LOUD on Planet X

With micro companies make up 54% of the developers and small companies at 34%, there are lots of indie games to choose from. If your Canada Day is going to be spent playing videogames, check out FEZ, developed by Polytron, Pop Sandbox’s LOUD on Planet X, and Guacamelee! by DrinkBox Studios. They’re colourful, bright, unlike those Prime Minister campaign attack ads, and not nearly as scary as being chased by geese.

FEZ is about a 2D character who lives in what he believes to be a 2D world. It isn’t until he discovers a magical fez that he learns the world is actually 3D. He then must travel through the puzzle platformer and explore this new dimension.

LOUD on Planet X is like guitar hero, except it features indie artists and stage equipment like fog machines and amps that are used as weapons to defend the stage from aliens. It’s a combination of tower defense, shooter, and rhythm game.

Guacamelee!
Guacamelee!

The award-winning platformer Guacamelee! takes place in a Mexican village where Juan must save El Presidente’s daughter from an evil charro skeleton named Carlos Calaca. When Calaca kidnapped El Presidente’s daughter he killed Juan, who is brought back to life by a luchador’s mask in order to prevent Calaca from sacrificing the daughter.

With the global videogame industry going strong, you can expect Canada to stay high in the rankings. 84% of Canadian companies are developing for mobile while on 48% are working on console games, and with the industry headed towards mobile games, it’s little wonder why. Mobile games are on the rise and are expected to overtake consoles within the next few years. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, it just means more options when riding transit - especially the TTC.

FEZ
FEZ

Since it’s expected to rain this Canada Day, why not sit back, relax, and enjoy some home-grown games with a warm cup of coffee from Tim Hortons while watching polar bears roam around the winter wonderland from the window of your igloo.