Montreal is one of the biggest cities for game development. EA, Bethesda, NetEase, Ubisoft, Warner Bros., Epic, Gameloft, and Amazon are just a few of the huge names with offices in Montreal. Many of those offices employ international workers who moved to Canada to break into the industry, but a new Quebec language law threatens to upend everything.
Bill 96 allows the provincial government of Quebec to "reinforce the use of French in all areas of Quebec life." It ammends the Quebec constitution to make French "the only official language of Quebec," and it essentially provides new immigrants with six months to learn the French language. For the first six months, immigrants will receive communications in English, but after that, everything switches to French.
That's a problem for many industries in Quebec, but it's especially problematic for the games industry. Speaking to the CBC, a game developer named Remy said that English is the default language of the games industry and being forced to learn French has made both himself and others consider jobs in other Canadian provinces.
"You already see it, with some people who are looking at Bill 96 and saying: 'OK, it's time for me to pack up and leave,'" said Remy, who is using an alias to avoid retaliation. "People are going to move here, they're going to get stressed and they're going to think it's just not worth staying here."
Osama Dorias, a game designer in Montreal who also teaches at Dawson College, also criticized Bill 96 and warned that the exodus of Montreal game developers has only just begun.
"Now [those job seekers] are just looking elsewhere, and I don't blame them," he said. "It's going to be very hard for us to compete on a global level."
Dorias told the CBC he used to recommend his city for graduates and international students looking to get into the games industry, but not anymore. Many international students already learn English as a second language, as noted in an open letter from 138 Quebec tech leaders, and learning French in just six months is likely to dissuade job applicants from even considering the province.
"We actually have a presence, a global presence as a leader in video games," Dorias added, "and we're throwing all of that away."
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