Interview with Fawzi and Victor, Economic Design students at ISART Montreal

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After studying Game Design at ISART Paris, Fawzi and Victor decided to head over to ISART Montreal: they are now studying Economic Design in the very heart of Montreal, which is one of the biggest video game hubs in the world.

ISART blog: Why did you decide to leave for Montreal?

Victor: The main reason is the course ISART Digital has on offer here. I see Economic Design as another feather in my cap. And what a feather! Economic Design is a new line of work and knowledge of it is very much in demand among studios that want to start developing Free-to-Play games. Given that I have a background in Economics, I thought it would be interesting to combine this knowledge with what I know of Game Design. Secondly, I decided to leave for Montreal because I love travelling. I was lucky enough to spend 2 years of my life in Tunisia, where I met some extraordinary people and I couldn’t wait to start again. Travel, for me, is a way to reinvent yourself and acquire new knowledge.

Fawzi: Like Victor, I decided to continue my studies in Canada for several reasons: the Economic Design course, the trip itself and the chance to discover a new culture and a new environment. Plus the fact that Canada is a key destination for video game designers!

IB: How did you prepare for your departure?

Victor: It was intense, but everything went well overall. To start with, we went to a conference about Canada given by David Blanchard (Director of ISART Montreal) as well as somebody from the Canadian Embassy. They explained the different procedures to follow in order to get a student permit and a work permit.

Fawzi: We only had 3 months to get everything ready: our banking paperwork, our study permit and our letter of acceptance for Quebec. Luckily, we had a lot of help from the team at ISART Digital Paris. A wiki was set up to help us with these procedures.

Victor: All we had to do then was buy some warm clothes and a plane ticket.

IB: You arrived not long ago in Montreal. What surprised you when you got there?

Victor: Apart from the fact that people speak French, everything is different here! The city of Montreal is strikingly similar to any big American city. The city centre is made up of a lot of big buildings. All the streets run parallel to each other and they go on forever. As far as the climate is concerned, it’s pretty simple: in January-February, either it’s sunny, or it snows! The cold can be quite intense (-20, -30°) but it’s different to the cold in France (the air is dryer). The locals are very welcoming and have a good sense of humour, which makes life over here very pleasant. As far as the food is concerned, you have to forget typical French cuisine. Here, everything is American, but it’s quite nice, all things considered.

FFawzi: The Canadians have a very optimistic view of life; they’re very respectful and more open. The streets are very clean and there seem to be fewer security issues (even when there are a lot of people). And it’s very important to pay attention to traffic lights and pedestrian crossings when you drive, otherwise you get a big fine!

IB: Can you briefly describe your course?

Fawzi: Economic Design is a new career choice which has developed alongside the Free-to-Play market. The number of people specialized in this field is relatively limited and they have often studied Economics. The strength of this course lies in the students’ past history, since they all have firm groundings in Game Design. This allows us to make a direct link between Game Design and Economic Design. We mainly take classes in Economic Design, Business Intelligence, Game Design, English and Unity prototyping. We also have a few hours of classes on some very interesting topics (Behavioural Economics, Level Design, Google Analytics, Scrum, Serious Games). A few studio visits have been planned, as well as in-class discussions with some of them.

Victor : Nous faisons beaucoup plus de pratique que de théorie. Nous analysons l’économie de gros Free-To-Play à l’aide d’Excel. Le fait d’avoir des connaissances en Game ictor: We do way more practical exercises than theoretical. We analyze the mass economics of Free-to-Play games using Excel. The fact that we studied Game Design allows us to easily understand where games can make money. With a little practice, it’s possible to understand the game as a whole, simply from looking at an Excel spreadsheet. ? All the classes take place on the top floor of a beautiful old building. It’s like being in a loft! Most of the classes are taught by professionals (Ubisoft, Exostatic, Illogikia etc.) For now, there are 8 of us on the course. We all come from ISART Digital Paris. But we were in different years. There’s a nice atmosphere; it’s like a family here ?


IB: Are you enjoying life in general in Montreal?

Victor: I try to go out as much as I can at the weekend to attend the various events organized in Quebec. People in Montreal and in Quebec in general are very welcoming. Quebec is a region full of history and unusual places. It really makes a change.

Fawzi: We have a lot of work to do after class, and tight deadlines to respect. So we only go out one evening per week. It was during our first few days here that we played at being tourists (especially in the city centre for now). Now we’re waiting for the summer to see Montreal in a new light!

IB: Are you planning to work in Canada in the long term?

Victor: I would sincerely love to stay here. Life is less stressful than in France and there are plenty of opportunities in the video game sector. Anybody can fit in here. I’m planning to do my work placement with Gameloft or Ubisoft if I can. But I’m not counting out other companies. The most important thing for me is to get a foothold in the market. Then I’ll do what it takes to work my way up and progress.

Fawzi: As far as I’m concerned, I’m going to do everything I can to join Ubisoft or Gameloft… I plan to stay in Canada if I can. There are lots of job offers in video games and Free-to-Play is much better developed here.

IB: What advice would you give to a student who wants to continue their studies by taking Economic Design in Quebec?

Victor: First, they should get familiar with tools like Excel or Tableau Software and analyze the economics of Free-to-Play type games to understand how they make and spend money. That’s an excellent basis for the course. Then, they shouldn’t hesitate: they should come over with 25 kg of motivation in their luggage and take an interest in everything which is even vaguely connected to game economics.

Fawzi: They should also take an interest in basic economics and statistics and try not to totally reject mathematics! And to prepare for their stay, they should get kitted out for winter Our shoes and jackets aren’t warm enough for winter temperatures. A lot of events take place outdoors. It would be a shame to miss them!

They should also try to minimize the administrative procedures they need to do on site (like bank paperwork). It’s very complicated in a country where you have no reference points and no telephone. And our classroom schedule doesn’t really allow time for us to go to appointments during the week.

IB: What are your plans once you graduate?

Victor: I plan to stay two or three years in Montreal to get a solid foundation in Economic Design. After that, I’ll try and work in various studios abroad. The world is too small not to try and explore the whole thing.

Fawzi: I’d like to join a studio where I can build on my experience and work on real issues. And take violin lessons!

IB: Do you have any messages for the Isartians who have stayed in France?

Victor: I miss them so much and they are welcome in Montreal. We send them news regularly and I know we’ll see each other again soon. In the meantime, I send them my love and wish them good luck for their end-of-year projects.

Fawzi: Montreal is a beautiful city with tons of opportunities. Our course in Economic Design is really teaching us a lot and it’s the perfect complement to what we learnt in Game Design. If you have the chance to come to Montreal, go for it!