Why I Made the Move to Quebec City – A Senior Producer’s Story

skalski_jeff_mug“Not Possible!” That’s what I would have said if you had told me three or 20 years ago that, one day, I would be working with some of the biggest brands in the industry and creating video games in Quebec City, Canada. Just prior to Quebec, I was building PC MMORPGS and exploring the mobile market, very far from the reality of working on the latest Assassin’s Creed. My wife is from the Mediterranean, and even the concept of moving to the cold north was just too foreign for us both to imagine.

However, on November 1, 2014, I followed a call from an old friend and landed at Jean-Lesage Airport in Quebec City with a few suitcases and a snowboard. With absolutely zero understanding of French, I picked up a rental car and drove to my new city apartment. While I was busy moving in, an officer was writing up my first parking ticket a block away for not being able to read the signs.

The next day, I learned my days of the week.

learning-french

What convinced me to take this leap of faith? It started with the people I met at, and the potential I saw in Ubisoft Quebec City. At the time, the studio was approaching its 10-year anniversary, and Assassin’s Creed Syndicate was under way, marking the first time the studio took the lead on a new title in the series. I was blown away by the talent I saw and how grounded everyone was. No massive egos bumped into each other. There was a true focus not just on making something great, but also making sure the creative process was balanced and fun.

ice-hotelThis was just the beginning. While I was fortunate to have the opportunity to help ship Assassins’ Creed Syndicate, I was really hired to grow a second core team in Quebec, which is what I am doing now. From the studio’s experience and ambition to the city itself, all the right conditions were in place.

Even more importantly for me, Quebec City is a great place for families and those looking for a good quality of life, with plenty of activities for kids and new things to experience. The downtown has a nice European charm to it. The microbrew scene is strong, there’s plenty of tasty food and amazing coffee, and the Canadian love for hockey is in the air year-round.

Even more impressive to me is Quebecers’ passion for the outdoors, regardless of the climate. It’s no secret the winters here are long. First snow typically hits in October, and patches of snow are often still melting come June. At first, I wasn’t sure my family and I would be able to adjust, coming from Washington D.C., but we’ve found the winters to be magical. From the snow-covered evergreens lining rural areas to the Christmas-card scenes in Quebec City’s little alley streets, it’s just beautiful to see.

My first winter was the mother of all winters, and the coldest recorded in 125 years in Quebec City. This meant that each day set a record for being the coldest day of my life as we eventually broke past -35 degrees, but I adjusted. Good gear goes a long way when you’re living in a scene from Hoth. I even went snowboarding one night at -37 degrees, and to my surprise, I was hot and had to remove a few layers. They know how to have fun here in the snow. Snowshoeing, sledding, snowmobiling, ice canoeing (yep, that exists!), winter carnivals, the list goes on. So while on one hand, I’ve learned that it’s possible for your windshield to ice over from the inside of your car, on the other it doesn’t get much better than occasionally kicking back for a day at a Nordic spa.

valcatier

While the winters can be a blast, the summers here are amazing as well. People here love to soak in the sun, and kayaking, canoeing, and hiking are all popular pursuits. (And for someone from the south, like me, there’s no humidity in Quebec.) Concerts are nonstop all summer long, with one of the biggest being the Summer Music Festival, which tallies 10 stages, 11 days, and 300-plus shows. It’s something to experience. There’s a vibrant local farmer’s market scene, and hopping from vineyard to vineyard on the nearby island of Orleans is a great way to spend an afternoon with friends. There really is no shortage of places to explore.

unis-par-le-jeu

So there you have it: the people, the studio, and the city were the trifecta of evidence I needed to make the change. Our studio is moving forward to bigger and better things, with a strong long-term goal in place, new projects under way, and a shiny new studio to help us get there. Our talent is growing, and you can be a part of it. New challenges are on the horizon, and I can’t think of a better place to create genre-defining games. If you’re up for an adventure, our party is open to new members, so come join us in Quebec City and become part of the Ubisoft family!

fellow-assassins