Montréal is a world leader in the video game industry

published on February 19, 2019
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This week, Montréal played host to the Six Invitational, the world championship playoffs of the hit Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege game produced by local big-hitter Ubisoft Montréal. By now a cornerstone event of the annual esports calendar, the Six Invitational brings together the top 16 teams in the world to duke it out at Place Bell arena – streamed live to thousands of video game fans internationally.

The Montréal advantage

Montréal’s place at the forefront of tech, neuroscience and AI all adds up into a rapidly growing sector responsible for major discoveries and trend setting research. We spoke with Rainbow Six Siege’s director Leroy Athanassoff, a transplant to the city from Paris, about Montréal’s place in the gaming and tech worlds amidst a backdrop of cheering fans and explosive gaming action.

“To me it’s very striking how Montréal has such a nice quality of life and huge opportunities to work with world-class companies,” he says. “It’s this insane combination here unlike anywhere else in the world. When I first came, it was for one month as an intern in 2007, and right away it was home.”

A Montréal resident since 2013, Athanassoff has kept his finger on the pulse as to what makes Montréal unique, and one of the biggest plusses he’s experienced is the city’s focus on higher learning. (And with that in mind, it comes as no surprise that Montréal is also ranked as the best city for students in North America, and 4th overall internationally).

“There’s a huge connectivity of the universities here,” he says. “And when you have great schools like McGill and UQAM, you can attract students from all over the world that come to study in Montréal, fall in love with the city, and then want to come back to the city. Looking at the size of the city and the number of inhabitants, there is a lot of education here.”

A place of diversity and inclusivity

Montréal is also a hotspot of diversity and inclusivity in the tech sectors, home base to vibrant organizations like Queer Tech MTL and a strong presence of women playing an important role in these fields. For Athanassoff, it’s a no-brainer that also adds to Montréal’s allure as a tech capital.

“The subject is super important for us as a company, and also as a developer, the more we have diversity and the more everyone is connected, the closer we are to solutions,” he says. “There’s this one-liner for Microsoft’s Adaptive Controller that says, ‘When everybody plays, we all win’ and to me that’s exactly it. We are supporting a lot of initiatives at Ubisoft and programs we’re supporting towards diversity, and it’s very important to present inclusive games that demonstrate diversity and parity. I’ve had conversations with younger designers who question why there’s female characters in combat games or western-setting games, and the answer is that we are the game designers. We are making the games, and we can change those things and it’s our duty to change that. We can change and affect society, and it’s up to us to fix what is wrong.”

A cornerstone of video game development

While Japan’s Nora-rengo team wins their first semi-final in the stadium, Athanassoff reflects on what makes Montréal a city unlike any other – and why it’s taken on such an important role in the world of gaming.

“In my perspective, it feels like there’s been an explosion in tech and video games. When I first arrived, when people were talking about video games in Montréal, Ubisoft was it. But now, every major player of the video game industry is here,” Athanassoff says. “Before I thought it was the town of Ubisoft, but now it’s the town of video games. And with EA, Epic, Google and other companies active here, you have people coming from all over the world and it’s very international. I’m very into history, and to me it feels like Constantinople where everyone from all the world gathers, and I feel that’s really specific to Montréal. To me it’s the cultural capital of the world.”

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