First Montreal Expo Gaming Arcade launched at Bonsecours Market

A model dressed as a video game character at the first Montreal Expo Game Arcade event held Nov. 18 and 19, 2017.
A model dressed as a video game character at the first Montreal Expo Game Arcade event held Nov. 18 and 19, 2017. Global News

For some fans, video games are everything. Just ask 10-year-old Joseph Valliers, who loves to play with his father.

“I’m [currently] playing Super Mario Odyssey with my dad — it’s not going that well,” he quipped, while playing a version of the game PewDiePie at the Expo. “We just keep on fighting with each other!”

The Montreal Expo Gaming Arcade was created just for fans like Valliers. The two-day event at Bonsecours Market was open to the public and organized by independent game developer Louis-Félix Cauchon.

The expo, which organizers hope will become an annual event, attracted 55 game developers, mostly from Montreal.

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Montreal is currently the third biggest city in the video gaming business, after Los Angeles and Tokyo. But even though smaller players like Boston already had gaming festivals like Pax East, Montreal lacked a similar event despite an industry five times bigger.

The Montreal video game scene kicked off with innovators Ubisoft in 1997, but since then, the local industry has exploded.

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“With the employees at Ubisoft, it created an expertise, and those guys started their own companies after that,” explained Cauchon.

Another reason for the boom is the Quebec multimedia tax credit, which pays 37.5 per cent of salaries back to employers.

Cauchon notes that since 2010, the number of developers has jumped by five times. Of the 240 studios currently in Quebec, just under 200 are located in Montreal.

One of those studios was co-founded by Guiz de Pessemier three years ago, and is known for the PewDiePie games, based on the Swedish YouTube personality.

“Outerminds is a small studio that is celebrating its third anniversary today,” de Pessemier said proudly.

The studio began with just four people, but now has 25 employees and three games on the market.  de Pessemier says the scene’s local success can also be credited to a mutually supportive developer community.

“What I love about Montreal is that we’re not in competition — everyone is helping each other,” he said.

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Given the popularity of video games and the growth of the local industry, it came as little surprise the weekend expo attracted a capacity crowd of 1,500.

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The organizers already plan to collaborate next year with the Montreal International Gaming Summit, an industry convention that has been around for 14 years but isn’t usually open to the public.

“Next year, we already agree [that] both organizations [will] be next to each other,” Cauchon said. “So it’ll be a five-day event, with three days open to the public.”

That kind of experience will no doubt thrill young fans like Valliers, who was impressed by the games he saw at Sunday’s expo.

“There were lots of indie developers showing off their games, and you know what? Their games are pretty good,” he said.