The Lodgge Podcast Episode 9

Meet Renee Wong, Communications Specialist at Gameloft Toronto.

Published On: 5 August 2022Categories: The Lodgge PodcastTags:

Meet Renee Wong, Communications Specialist at Gameloft Toronto. She joins The Lodgge this week to discuss Disney Magic Kingdoms, Gameloft’s prolific work with renowned IP, her storied career in the Ontario industry and so much more.

Scott  0:00  

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the lodgge podcast. I’m your host Scott Milley, and we are so excited to be back for episode nine, the start of a brand new season for the lodgge podcast Season Two. Joining me today is my uniquely talented guest, Renee Wong, Renee, how are you doing today?

Renee  0:16  

Good, how are you?

Scott  0:18  

Fantastic, just excited to be back making content to be honest. Renee is a communications specialist at Gameloft Toronto with a background in marketing, communications, branding, PR, and so much more. Today we’re going to be talking about her impressive career, mobile gaming, gameloft Toronto’s place in the industry, Pocket Gamer Connects Toronto where a bunch of us got to go recently, and so much more. So without further ado, let’s get into the conversation.

Scott  0:57  

So before we get too far into it, I want to make sure that I get to introduce our new producer for the show Natalie Doherty. Natalie has been working with the lodgge and interactive Ontario for almost two months now, and has already made a huge impact on the brand and the team as a whole. She will be Off mic for this particular episode, but look forward to Natalie contributing and being a big part of our future episodes down the road. So, Renee, let’s kick it off, shall we? So the first thing I wanted to do I always ask a guest a gaming related question. For Season One, we were asking about people’s prime gaming conditions. Do you play in the morning, do you like playing at night, quiet with friends, things like that. For Season Two, though, I wanted to kind of switch it up a bit. What served as the catalyst for your current career in the video game industry? Was it your first game experience, a conference, a brand? What was it that hooked you and said I need to work in video games?

Renee 1:54  

Oh, gosh, I feel like I guess I’ve had always had a long history with gaming. Starting from when I was really young. My dad was actually one who got me my n64. That’s the first system that I got. And even before then I play, you know, my cousin’s Gameboy and things like that. So I was just always really into gaming. And then I think the first game that really, really hooked me on gaming, and that made me continue gaming was Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time. I think that’s a, that’s a pretty big game for a lot of people especially. Yeah, so it continues to be my favorite game of all time, just because, you know, it has such fond memories for me. But I guess since then, I’ve just always wanted to be in gaming. And I went through, I think a lot to kind of get where I am. And to be like, Okay, maybe communications is what I want to do. Because at first I was like, you know, I went to an art high school. So I always wanted to be an artist. And then I was like, Maybe I want to do programming instead. So I kind of switched back and forth a lot during my educational years, I guess. And then I finally was like, You know what, like, maybe I want to be a bit more on the business side of things, or on the administrative side of things. I mean, you yourself, Scott, your communications, lead, as well as interactive Ontario. And I find, it’s so neat to be able to like kind of get the messages that you need to across to people, but then also to work in an industry that is exciting for you and that you’re really passionate about. So I was very fortunate to find the opportunity that I have right now at Gameloft Toronto.

Scott  3:26  

That’s one thing I definitely want to get into, we are going to get a little more into your career because you started as a brand ambassador was one of the first things you got to do. So I don’t really want to talk about that. But yeah, that’s same same kind of thing for me, Ocarina of Time was yeah, like, monumental. But I think that’s really interesting. Because most people that I talk to are either they got into programming, and they stuck in programming, or they, you know, want to get communication started communications, I’ve kind of been the same way where it’s like I want to get in the video game industry. Where do I fit? Where do my like talents and skills align with the industry? I just know where I want to be. And it seems like you’ve kind of had a similar journey where it’s do we start with art? Or do we start with programming and communication just seems to be the perfect role for you? 

Renee  4:09  

Yeah, absolutely. 

Scott 4:12

So one thing I do want to ask is we didn’t get to see each other, which is very unfortunate. But I want to ask about Pocket Gamer connects Toronto. So the Lodgge actually has a partnership with Nordicity coming up starting next week called Nordicity Recaps where we’re going to be kind of hosting a live podcast and doing a short form video on the event itself. But I wanted to talk to you a little bit about Gameloft’s experience, because Gameloft was a sponsor. Yes?

Unknown Speaker  4:33  

Yeah, yeah, we were one of the track sponsors. We were sponsoring the art of publishing, for pocket gamers connects and for us, honestly, it was great. It was, you know, after such a long two years of having literally no events because of COVID-19 and everything right. It was very exciting for the team to kind of get back together. We had a pretty good turnout, I would say about like 10 or so of Gameloft Toronto employees were there. And it was it was always kind of funny because the venue if you You, if anyone else went, they would know it’s it’s not huge, but it’s not small either. But you know, there’s, it’s in a hotel. So there’s like hallways and whatnot. And sometimes we could kind of we would kind of gather at one place. And we were always welcome to chat, I got to meet so many great people, like a lot of new faces a lot of old faces. And then so did my colleagues as well. Mostly because, you know, they were like, oh, it’s like, You’re from gameloft. I didn’t know that, you know, you guys were in Toronto. So that was really great for us as an opportunity to put ourselves out there. And we did also have two talks or a panel and a talk. So we had our studio manager, Mike do a talk about that. And development. So how you can turn kind of the data that you get into sort of like a plan to move forward with a game that you know will be successful, especially in a saturated market such as mobile gaming, right? And then we also had our monetization and marketing director Flavio, do a panel about essentially like ads in gaming, and how you can make that seamless and essential for, you know, obviously, making sure that your game is profitable moving forward.

Scottr  6:04  

That was a really interesting talk. That was one that I made sure to go to, obviously, one gameloft, too, because I found that that conversation really interesting because mobile gaming, and that side of the industry, I’m pretty alien to I do have the few mobile games that I get into, but being an IO and having, you know, numerous high profile like high level companies that are mobile gaming centric, like we had a big blue bubble on, you know, a few episodes ago. And obviously, with game lock coming on, it was something I’m trying to familiarize myself with a little bit more. And I thought like Flavio touched on like a lot of like, really interesting points of that. Obviously, with mobile being like monetization based, but it’s doing it in organic way and doing it in a not such a in your face type of way. Like there’s an art to it. Right? There’s an art to the advertising side of things. And I thought like, he really spoke well to that. So no, the game needs to be great. But the quality needs to be there. Like that’s first and foremost. If that’s not there, nothing else works. So the first thing was working with the brand and really building that up and building out the mechanics and then his team kind of coming in and like how do we do this in an organic and find way without you’re getting in the way of people’s enjoyment of it?

Renee 7:15  

Yeah, and I think that’s something that people don’t always think about, like mobile gaming is so different from making like a console game or a PC game. Like there’s, there’s a lot of things you have to think about, like, even just the model of the game, right? Like, are you doing free to play? Are you doing like, you know, like, like peace and cultural games? Do you just pay one time and you get all these things? Are there DLCs? Like, there’s all these things that you need to consider. And then, of course, Game of being a mobile game, a majority company, right? A lot of our games are free to play. But then you have to think about, you know, of course, on a business side of things, how do we kind of continue, right? How do we make money so that we can keep making great games that keep paying our employees fairly, so that they can continue doing what they do and what they love?

Scott  7:58  

So it’s a tricky thing to in the gaming industry of all things because I people look at games and look at like monetization. Like there’s some people that are just like hard out on mobile, because they just they aren’t interested in in that type of like revenue model. But like, it’s, you have what 2 billion people in the world that are mobile, like consider themself mobile gamers like it’s such a vast, vast, vast market, especially with all the IPs that game law has. But I think you can, like, there’s so many different sectors and so many different like groups of people that you can connect with, which I definitely want to get into a little bit a little bit more in a bit when we start talking a little bit more of the mobile industry and some of the wonderful IPs that game while Toronto we’re currently working on. But the first thing I wanted to get into is your career. So like I teased before, there was a time where you are a brand ambassador for Sony. So I thought very interesting. Can you tell me a little bit about that experience about working with Sony in that type of capacity?

Renee  8:54  

Yeah. So I want to first say that it sounds more impressive than it is. But I did actually, I was a brand ambassador for both Sony as well as Nintendo for a period of time. And that mostly was, I would say, it entailed kind of being the public face. For those companies. Obviously, it was a lot more of a sales sort of role, where I got out to mostly to public places to like Mall. So um, I was at the airport at one point. And then I wouldn’t either show people or like educate them about the games that were being released at the time, or whatever newest hardware that they had. So like for Sony, most of my time was trying to advertise the PSVR right and showing people how it works showing the capabilities of it. And it’s still something that I actually ended up getting one myself after that. So I think it clearly worked on me right was a role that I really appreciated in terms of working with people who don’t necessarily play games are considered the same as hardcore gamers, right? So it’s another way of kind of building my skill I feel at the end of and getting me where I was because it was like, How do I work with people who game but how do I work with people who also don’t game but who want to start? Right? So that was really cool.

Scott  10:09  

And now that kind of almost like a trial by fire, right, you’re having to do that in person face to face. Yeah, like a lot of communications can be behind a screen where you can take some time to write up a press release. But then when you’re doing actual, like customer facing, like, you know, like, I feel like you’d like kind of like sharpening blade with a whetstone, right? Like you’re being put in that situation. So now when you’re in like talks and stuff like that, you’re like, prepared for all kinds of questions. And I feel like it’d be a VR would be the most important thing to be showing people. Right? Because that’s like, something that most people have no idea or like, you really, truly need to experience it. To understand it, you can’t really show it through a commercial. It’s like, No, you need to put the headset on. So was that was that something that you found interesting was actually having to like, set people up with VR for the first time and be like, kind of coach them through it? Because I feel like that’d be really off putting for people the first time they do it.

Renee  11:00  

Yeah, no, absolutely. Even when I tried it myself, right? Like you don’t, I feel like you don’t really know what you expect, until you actually use the system. So like, you know, you’re kind of like, oh, I put something on and I’m supposed to be in this virtual world or something like that. Right. But then it’s like, what is that virtual world capable of? And like, you know, that’s a conversation that the gaming industry has currently with a bunch of different things, right? Like, you know, just what, what exactly are we capable of producing in the future? So, for me, it was definitely interesting, especially because at the time, like, the PlayStation VR system was one of the few as like, commercial besides like, the Oculus and things, right, that was the one that was produced by the big three, you know, what I mean? Like Nintendo, Sony PlayStation, or sorry, PlayStation, and Xbox. So having people kind of recognize the brand and be like, Oh, Sony, does that or like, what, what is Sony doing with that specific tech? That was pretty interesting. And then yeah, getting people’s reactions, especially when it was their first time, we had like, kind of simulations where you go into the sea, we had, you know, obviously, some, like flying games and stuff, too. And based on what people wanted to play out, we kind of run that game for them. And then some people just got so into it, like in the in the kind of ocean simulation, there’s, you know, there’s fish and stuff. Of course, we had to put it on a shark. So some people, you know, they really jumped from their seats when they saw that. So, yeah, that was really fun,

Scott  12:23  

or cool experience, though. Like we like, we mean, the team at the lodge, we went to VR to recently a couple of weeks ago. And that was a whole different type of experience, right? Like, I’ve done VR before in the past, but like, where this medium is going and where the future is going. And with companies like secret location in Ontario that are doing like dark slope, right with their hyperreality TV coming up, like the stuff that they’re working on is just so it’s such a cliche term, but like next level, right? Like it, there’s, it’s such an interesting side of the industry that some people will never even look at. Right, something like some people are so console focused on PC focus, mobile focused, but like, we look at all the different sections throughout gaming, and it’s it truly does, like, cover billions and billions of people, which is why I’ve loved the industry so much, because it’s the things you can be in the industry, your whole life, just like me, and then still have an entire section of the industry that you have no exposure to. And that is still so there’s always so much to learn, and everything’s changing so rapidly.

Renee  13:24  

But yeah, like, like you were saying, I think it’s great, especially for Ontario. And I’m mentioning, of course, because we are interactive Ontario, and we’re on the podcast, but there’s just so many great game companies here that deal in so many specific, like fields, right? Like you have people who are focused more on mobile, like gain loft, and you have people who, you know, they strictly make, let’s say PC or console game. And then like you were saying, there’s some students as well, they’re focused on, like, you know, VR, kind of, like, I guess, next gen, sort of entertainment. And that’s always really cool to see. And it’s really cool to be able to gather in places, like a common place to be able to be like, Hey, what are you guys working on? And like, Oh, that’s really cool. And then as opposed to I feel some places may be a bit more competitive in Toronto, I feel or in Ontario’s more generally, it’s, it’s more of a, you know, we’re just looking out and seeing what other people are doing. And we’re, we’re just kind of supporting each other and saying, like, yeah, that’s, that’s neat. And like, I, I look forward to seeing what you guys come up with.

Scott 14:21  

That’s something I brag about constantly. It’s like always like talking to like the team, like out of St. Catharines. Like there’s a bunch of wonderful studios there. And I watch every once in Toronto that there doesn’t seem to be that head to head like, Oh, we don’t want you to see what we’re doing. It’s like, Hey, this is what we’re doing this what you’re doing. Let’s talk about it. Let’s LIKE SHARE war stories. And like kind of collaborate, right? And like we can talk about ideas and talk about how you got through certain situations. So I love going to talk. So that’s why I thought Pocket Gamer was fantastic. I’m really glad that they’re coming back, because I think that’s something that Ontario needs and especially now, post COVID We’re starting to see those type of events coming back and those talks and really See the talent be able to speak so it was great to see Flavio at Pocket Gamer get to get to talk about that stuff. One thing I did also want to talk about because it’s close to my heart is you went got yourself a degree in PR it Yes. After all that prior experience what was it that wanted like that made you want to go and do public relations at Seneca?

Renee  15:23  

Honestly, I think I guess it kind of goes back to what I was telling you about before where I did kind of find a passion after sort of numerous career changes and numerous like testing out like what fields I wanted to do and stuff. Like I said before, I actually I went to a high school for were majoring in visual arts and I was really set on I think it’s like the obvious choices, right? Like, how do I get into the game industry, it’s you work on making the game. So that’s, you know, artists, which I ended up just thinking art I felt was a bit more of a hobby for me, and then I went to the programming figure out just those it was to mafi murmee I don’t think I could have done it long term at all, even though I did try and it was great. And kudos, you know, obviously to all the artists and programmers and everyone who ends up making the games, you know that that kind of game? Yeah, that that’s that we all kind of get together for for those right for the game, so why not? Yeah. And then I ended up in a variety of places while I was doing the brand new ambassador English usually sort of thing for me, and no matter what I was doing, but then I went to the banking, I went to an engineering, I went into, like you said, like public relations and investor relations. And it all kind of boiled down to at the end of the day, I ended up doing my job. It wasn’t as passionate for me as I wanted to be, I always I feel like I always I never could let go of the idea of you know, man, it just, it would be really cool working in gaming kind of thing. And then every sort of part of my job, I always found that I ended up being some sort of communicator being someone who was facilitating, like some sort of relationship between departments or even like my team members, or things like that. So it almost felt like natural for me to think like, Okay, I think my skills right now are too varied. And I wanted to get a certificate just to kind of cement like, Communications and Public Relations is something that I actually know something that I’m an expert at, you know, obviously a certificate to show that I went to school for it right to kind of help me kind of build my career. And then it just so happened after that. You know, I worked at an investor relations company, and then game off Toronto posted their position for communication specialists. So I was like, Well, I got, I gotta at least try. Right? So luckily, I did, because now I’m here.

Scott  17:47  

That actually leads in perfectly to the next question. Also my love for PRs, because that’s also my background. But that’s what got me into the gaming industry as well. So I saw that I was gonna have to bring that up. Because most of the cases people I talk to don’t really have that PR background. So I really love being able to talk to you about that. Now that your game law, Toronto, as you said, as a communication specialist, what attracted you there in the first place, and what makes what makes the right fit for you, and where you are in your current current career.

Renee  18:15  

So that’s actually a funny story, I have to start a little bit even further in the beginning than I think I already had. But when I graduated, yeah, when I graduated university the first time I actually this was back. So I’m aging myself a little bit. But this was back when people were handing out resumes door to door and you would meet people face to face, right. So I was doing that. And then of course, I was still kind of like, I want to work for gaming. And they so I looked out. I looked at every single gaming studio at the time, and there wasn’t as many as there is now. Right? So the industry is definitely grown. But I kind of wrote down every single address and I spent just like a whole day going to each one hand on my resume saying like, Oh, I’m, I can basically do anything like anything you want me to try? And do. You know, I just started I don’t really have like expert skills, but like I’m willing to, you know, be an admin assistant be, you know, obviously, you know, you like someone who gets you coffee every day, I think so, that’s kind of what I was doing. And then I went to game loft, and then I handed in my resume didn’t expect like, and I hadn’t gotten like an interview straight up, since like, that whole day of me doing like resume handing outs and things. So I had it on my resume. And I was like, hey, you know, I was just hoping, perhaps like, you could consider me for something, you know, kind of got ready to be like, okay, you know, I’m going to turn out head out the door. But then the person who was there at the time, they’re like, Wait, actually, let me get my HR manager and I was like, oh, shoot, it’s now like, am I getting interviewed now? So his name and he’s still here, but his name is Chris, our HR manager. He is now my manager. But he gave it he gave me an interview on the spot. Unfortunately, at the time, I didn’t get the position because you know, I was new right? And I didn’t really I No, or at least I feel like maybe I at the time, I didn’t have much offer because I was like, literally newly graduated from university didn’t know like my skills at all at the time.

Scott 20:10  

So that’s just situation to be known. On the spot, you’re ready to go and drop it and leave.

Renee  20:16  

Yeah. And then, you know, I was in my like, blazer, I looked very, like, professional. I was like, oh, geez, I don’t know what I’m doing. But he ended up connecting with me on LinkedIn. And you know, it’s one of those things where you kind of connect with someone, you may or may not talk again in the future. But last year, when they had the communications roll up, and I was like, Okay, I need to try. And then I saw Chris was still at the, at the studio. So I reached out to him, and I was like, Hey, I don’t know if you remember me. But I applied ages ago, like at this point, I guess it was like seven years ago or something? Would you like to give me another interview, and now that I have skills to kind of offer you? And then he actually said that? He did remember me? He was kind of like, oh, yeah, I vaguely remember. I think it was because it was such a specific circumstance. And he was like, I don’t normally do interviews on the spot. But I do remember something like that. So like, perhaps that was you? Perhaps it wasn’t, but I do think I kind of remember it. So then that was kind of our starting point to like, okay, yeah, let’s go and do an interview. Let’s see, like, you know, what’s happened since then? And then I guess that’s, that’s pretty much what ended up landing me here is that initial conversation that kind of attracted me to gameloft. And since then, like, since I’ve kind of gone into the studio and everything like that everyone’s here think grades super friendly, as you can see, like, some people have stayed here for years and years, right? Yeah. Because they love the culture here. And I can see why. And you know, especially when someone like remember is such a small incident, like that small meeting like that, like it makes me feel really cared for.

Scott  21:49  

That means so much to people, right when you can remember stuff like that. And that also speaks a lot to the importance of networking, which is exhausting and stressful for a lot of people. But you can see the benefits of it. That’s why like, we’re trying to make more of a point of being at a lot of these events. And like, I’m trying to talk to everyone that I possibly can. It’s like I’m, I’ve said this before on the podcast, like, I’m a pretty introverted person, for the most part. But I love, love, love the gaming industry. And I love the people that make these games. It’s wizardry to me, right? That’s why I went to the communication side, because programming art wasn’t for me. But it’s that that networking side of things that’s so important. And just like you said, like, that’s how you one of the reasons why you landed that role. So it’s fantastic that you’re able to do that. What was one challenge that you weren’t prepared for when you went into the role? Or you weren’t expecting? 

Renee  22:41  

Ah, you see, I actually am not sure, I think perhaps the one thing that I wasn’t expecting and prior to you know, of course, getting into game loft, like you said, I did have a gaming experience, even though it wasn’t full time. But I did also do a little bit like once I got my certificate in PR and communications, I did a little bit of, I guess, like consulting work. So like set things like social media strategies, and whatnot for any studios around the city. So I was kind of a bit more familiar with that kind of thing, like how to work quickly for indies and like, kind of how to attract attention and stuff, especially when the games that they make are typically for themselves, like, it’s typically their own IP or their own, like original creation. When I went into game loft, you know, obviously, we do a lot of games that are IPs, right? One of the games that we deal with is Disney Magic Kingdoms. And I would say it was just a different experience to you know, be working with a partner like and being able to collaborate and have a relationship with a big brand. So that was something that I was like, oh, that’s like, I didn’t know what I expected. But like, definitely, like, you know, it was it’s been a ride since then. But it’s been good. I’ve learned so much. And it’s just kind of like, there are different things that you have to consider, right, compared to an indie game, where, you know, there’s there’s a lot of I guess, like liberties in terms of like things that you can showcase or like, just like, you know, even like the works in progress and things like that, right. Like, that’s always interesting to see. And then with like IPs, they things have to be a bit more planned out and a bit more thought through. Before you know, it kind of goes anywhere. So that was something that especially in communications, right when you want to like talk about things and stuff. So having messages that are more thoroughly, I guess, thought out before they’re sent out and things like that.

Scott  24:46  

That PR experience I feel it’s come in Oh yeah. It comes to working with IPS of this magnitude. So the last thing I do want to ask about on the career side is obviously one of the reasons why we do this podcast in the first place. For me, personally, I want students to be able to point or even highschool school to be able to point to talent in the, in the province, right and say, Hey, some parents still don’t think that video games is a viable career path, right, even though it’s the most profitable entertainment industry in the world. But I want people to be able to point to them. So what’s one piece of advice you would give someone at that stage that is looking to get into communications and kind of use those those skills that they they’ve already kind of naturally developed on their own? That you weren’t prepared for that you weren’t you wish you had done maybe a little bit differently during that time of your life?

Renee  25:36  

So in terms of, I guess, like communications, and gaming is what you’re asking?

Scott  25:42  

Yeah, yeah, people were looking to get into the gaming industry, what’s something that you would say like, this might not be something you’re gonna have your first job, but this is something you should sharpen up on, or this is something you should be paying attention to, or a skill, you should, you should learn that, that will benefit you in the future.

Renee  25:57  

Um, I guess a skill that I always tell people to kind of keep with them is being flexible, right, be able to kind of work on the spot, especially because things are changing all the time. Like, you know, there, there’ll be one day where I’m kind of doing my own thing, I have my whole day planned out. And then someone will come to me and say, like, hey, actually, like, you know, this has happened or like, we got a notification about, like, something that’s happening somewhere else. And like, you know, now you kind of have to fit that in, or, you know, like, a big thing about PR is sometimes crisis management. And, you know, as much as we want things to always be working well and like going smoothly. There are things that happened, where you, you got to happen, you kind of have to drop everything and be like, Okay, this has to be addressed, right? At the same time. There’s always like, so many fun things to work on. Like my role is kind of new to game off, especially game of Toronto. So I am the only communications person here at the moment. So involves really, yeah, it’s just me right now. So that’s why sometimes you don’t always get me on this call, because I’m a little bit busy.

Scott  26:59  

Which is totally understandable. I had no idea. That’s impressive.

Renee  27:03  

Yeah. But I mean, you were still growing. And that’s the thing, right? As we’re, we’re working on new projects, at gameloft Toronto, we’re growing our team, we’re hoping to grow by the end of this year to 180 people, I think, and we just broke 100. So, you know, it’s, it’s a pretty big milestone for us. And then obviously, every single role I think, in the company will grow with it as well. So a communications team may grow HMR may grow artists and tech, like, they’re always going to be growing, especially to kind of handle all of those new projects coming in. But yeah, like being flexible, being able to have a bunch of skills, that’s kind of like, you know, I don’t want to be like one of those, like, people are gonna like, you have to wear many hats and things like that. That’s not necessarily true. But you have to be you have to be able to be flexible, be able to learn on the fly and do things that are unexpected sometimes so that we can assess, like, Oh, this is something that no we can we can get more people for this is something that we can grow a bit more and then have more hope for or have more support for like, you know, what do you need, right? And then at this kind of time, in our growing stage, you know, this, we can handle this for now until it gets to that point kind of thing? Hopefully.

Scott  28:16  

No, absolutely. It’s not, it’s not as structured as part of our brains would like it to be right. Right. Yeah.

Renee  28:21  

Like you wish, like, you know, everyone kind of had their thing. And every day was 100%. Good. And by like, it’s, it’s not always like that. And I think especially in the PR world, people know that. Like, there’s always something happening that you need to be prepared for. And I guess like being flexible and being prepared, right to be able to do what needs to be done at the time is a very important skill. I feel never boring. Yeah, definitely never boring, especially when you’re doing mobile, because I do think that it is, in a way kind of more quick than, like console or PC, because those have their, you know, their years of planning involved, but a mobile game to turn them around for that could be like, you know, like, maybe a year, maybe even less sometimes, depending on the game scope, right? So you always have to be like, okay, like, you know, we’re cut, we’re coming up really quickly. It’s like, oh, gosh, the year has already gone by and you have to keep planning things and whatnot.

Scott  29:13  

Wow, I didn’t even I didn’t really think about that. Because you have like, the dev cycle for like a normal console game is, you know, a couple years, maybe three, you know, big triple A’s 456 But like, mobile, I guess that turned around that you’re getting all that information, and having to plan out a whole strategy and having to get those things rolled out in such a such a short amount of time and get like part of the mindshare of the industry. Like in that, like such a short amount of time. So that’s really interesting to me. I mean, I never really thought about that.

Renee  29:41  

Yeah, yeah. And I it goes back to what I was saying before, right. Mobile gaming is such even though it’s still gaming, it’s such a different beast when it comes to planning and strategy than like other gaming and I’m sure it would be the same as well. Or, you know, VR or something, right? Like the what you think is the traditional way of kind of maybe Promoting a game or announcing game and strategizing how you’re going to, you know, kind of market it or like, just like the production timeline, it’s all it’s so different because of just a different way it’s being made or being like played with right like more hyper casual people as opposed to like, perhaps hardcore gamers or people who are like, you know, who who have less accessibility to consoles and more accessibility to mobiles. And those are such a different audience sometimes.

Scott 30:27  

Alright, so it’s like different like, even like sections of the world, right? Like there are so like, a variety of demographics. So I was actually one thing that I did want to mention, we’ve already started talking about little about game while Toronto but also wanted to say that the lodge is run by the team at interactive Ontario. It’s not for profit trade association, based out of Ontario, Canada. We’re a membership based organization with one of our prominent members being game loft Toronto. So one of the things I wanted to get into is obviously some of the projects so de ma Toronto as a whole or sorry, game loft as a whole is a fairly large company with it’s what about 18 studios around the world now?

Renee  31:05  

I should I don’t even to be honest, if you asked me what do you I guess, but I don’t even know the number but we definitely have studios across the world. And then Europe, I think would have host most of our studios but even in Canada alone, we have Gameloft toronto and gameloft Montreal. So that’s that’s two right there, right compared to the rest of them. 

Scott  31:27  

which is crazy to me. But that’s one thing that like, obviously like since you never really started talking is that gameloft, Toronto was looking to kind of cement its reputation, right like it’s looking to grow into to reach out to more and more people. With all of the incredible IP that game loft gets to work with, like has licensing deals with like Disney minions, My Little Pony all kinds of things. What IP does gameloft Toronto work on prominently? I know obviously Disney Magic Kingdom which we’re going to get into in a moment, but is there anything else or any other IP that are game? Well, Toronto is also working with.

Renee 32:00  

So right now our current project and our project is Disney’s magic. kingdom’s can talk to a few of our previous games, which was we had CSI slots, we had black list we had Lego legacy heroes on boss, though, that game I think you can actually still download on Apple arcade if people want to. Then we also had like Uno. So we’ve worked with Mattel, Hasbro, a bunch of other IPS as well. But yeah, currently, it’s just Disney Magic Kingdoms for us.

Scott  32:27  

So one question I definitely want to ask before we actually get into Disney Magic Kingdoms have all of the IP that Gameloft works with which one do you yourself want to work on the most personally,

Renee  32:40  

like that we currently have and that we could have in the future? Well, I gotta say Disney because I think it’s, it’s always fun to work, you know, to work on a Disney game and to work with IPs that you’re familiar with, right? And that you kind of grown up with and love. So, you know, anytime I see the team giving, like a new update, I think like, like, I guess like maybe a little bit biased, but like my favorite character, personally, is Mulan right from Disney one of my favorite characters, and you know, when they had like, kind of the Lunar New Year festival, and that was obviously a character that they released for it. That was really exciting for me. So yeah, like just seeing those IPs that you know, and love kind of grew up with you and now, like still be in your life in a in a small sort of way. That’s really cool. And I guess like, IP that I would love to work for. And I don’t you know, this is this is sort of more of a dream. This is very, like my own personal opinion. I have, I have no idea how it will work on like, kind of the game production side of things. But I guess like I would love to, I would love if game off could maybe do a partnership with Nintendo. If we could do like, you know, Nintendo does have a few mobile games, but maybe if they’ve ever wanted to outsource to someone like 100% would be down for that.

Scott  33:57  

That’s a good answer. And I think a very fair answer. I would Nintendo if you’re listening, you know where to go. Yeah, move on. He just like spoke to my heart. Like I listen to that soundtrack like probably once a week. Still. It’s a good soundtrack. Oh, yeah, run a regular basis. So Disney Magic Kingdom has been around for about six years now. And it still continues to see like such a great success in the mobile space. What do you think is one of the secrets to its longevity? It’s not a short amount of time for a mobile games to be around? And to be sure, yeah, you’re really growing and being added to

Renee  34:35  

like, I think a lot of it is the dedication that our team has to the game and trying to bring the Disney characters that you know and love to life in the way that they remember them. Right. So one of the things that you know, like, like the art style of Disney magic kingdom’s is we bring all of the 2d into sort of like a 3d format. But then you you still want to keep the way that That looks right, the way that people remember it, you don’t want to alter it in any way that looks unfamiliar, right. So I think a lot of it is that a lot of it is just the fans themselves are so enthusiastic about it, and there’s just like a certain light, you know, you don’t want to let them down. So you always want to keep making like new content and like just new new ways for them to enjoy the game. Recently, actually, we launched our latest update was kind of like, I’d say they like a reorganization almost of how you can play the game in a way that is actually fun for both new and old players. Because, you know, sometimes you get into a mobile game. And I feel like this is something that any long lasting game deals with. And there’s so much content from years and years ago, you don’t even know where to start, right? And then for obviously, older players, like you know, they always want something new, right? They want something to kind of keep themselves entertained. So like the fact that we’re always thinking about, like, how do we make it so that we’re still attracting new people, but we’re still making sure that all of our older players and our loyal players right are having, like, they’re getting something out of the game while they’re still playing. Because at the end of the game, you want to enjoy it, right? You don’t want it to be kind of a chore, like, you don’t want to log in for your dailies all the time and things like that. And that’s kind of it that’s just feel like you have an obligation to it. So yeah, I think that’s, that’s probably what I think, makes this game such a successful aim for us. And it is, you know, one of our top games like gameloft, next to ashphalt, actually, which is a game that game of Barcelona produces. So yeah, like just able to listen to our players and like giving them an experience that they want. 

Renee 36:46  

That’s like, ultimate live ops, right? Like, you’re actually able to like kind of like reinvent yourselves in a way. But still keep the like, core of the game there and trying to it’s a tricky balance, right of like keeping your current players happy, but also being welcoming to new players. But yeah, like, obviously, I put a little bit of time into it in preparation for the show. And I just went through, I spent like five minutes going through all of the characters.

Scott  37:12  

You know, there is a lot like you everyone knows how big Disney is, but like, it’s still easy to forget, like how many actual like beloved, like not even just like characters you forget about, like, people’s favorites all the way through. And I was like, Star Wars and that’s the like Lilo and Stitch, like my favorite and like just kind of going through all of those. And like, I can’t believe how much you can actually put into a game like that. And like they can speak to so many different people that are like, Oh, I’m going to play because I want to get this person I’m going to play until I can finally get this person and keeping them like entertained, like get more and more and more. That was really interesting being able to jump in. So again, like I’m not a big mobile person. And it was like very friendly. Right? It was very, like a tutorial that holds your hand but doesn’t force you. Right? And it’s very, like welcoming and like a little bit of narrative, which I always appreciate, which is why kind of fall off most mobile games, because the narrative is just like it’s very very text based. There’s no nothing really like grabbed your attention. So that was something that just kept me playing and I will continue to play

Renee 38:12  

Well, I’m glad we got a new fan.

Scott  38:15  

Yeah, like honestly, like I’m not not a mobile person in any way shape, or form. As of maybe two or three games I’ve played for a long time. I Fire Emblem Heroes is one of them just because Fire Emblem is one of the greats. But ya know you you’ve succeeded I’m not sure saying that because you’re here I feel like gameloft is so well known in the in the mobile space, but not as well known of course in console and PC like we’ve discussed, is it something that you think is like the company might view as a an issue or something that they’re trying to work on? Or do you think sticking with over 2 billion people have a player base is is enough for them?

Renee  38:51  

But this is definitely something that the analyst is working on? So even for Disney magic kingdom’s that’s a game that is primarily mobile Oh, and of course it started as mobile but you can also play it now on your PC if you want on the Windows app on Facebook as well. So it is like it yeah, in a sense it’s it’s we’re trying to make it a bit more cross platform and a more a bit more accessible for people but a lot of the new games that we’re coming out with so if I can plug a gameloft Montreal is dreamlike Valley isn’t the dream like valley that one is for console and PC even like one say like I think some versions fastball you see them on the switch now as well. So you can play that Disney speed storm another another Disney game that we’re working on that is also going to be on the switch on Steam. You know, there’s early access for those as well. The beta i think is still ongoing at this time. I could be wrong. But yeah, like the those are all games that we are trying to make cross platform in as many ways as we can. So I think it is it’s not so much of an issue with for us it Well, it’s where the game works the best. And then that’s where we want to be Switch.

Scott  40:06  

This feels like the natural successor. Natural place like it just it seems to be the easiest, or maybe not the easiest, like technical wise, but like, it seems to be the place that like most mobile games are able to kind of find a second home. Because like PC, right, like they seem, seems to push away most mobile titles. And then the consoles, it’s obviously a little bit different switch, I just feel as that switch effect, right, where it’s like things just succeed, things just sell. And people are able to have those maybe more a little casual experiences are kind of to be expected as well on the switch as well as you know, their giant JRPGs and deltas and marrows. Yeah. One thing I did want to talk about since gameloft Toronto is how to make flex, it’s more of a bigger presence in Ontario, is Ontario itself. So you’ve worked ontario for quite a while now. So like right now we have like a big Steam sale coming up in September, September 7 to the 14th. I want to plug that now. We also have just talked about Pocket Gamer we had XP Canadian Game Awards, Game slides coming up, plus a couple of To Be Announced events coming up this fall. And I’m not just saying that I like this because I’m part of an Ontario based podcast. But there is a lot of really exciting things happening in the industry in the province as someone who’s been working in IT for such a long period of time. Do you feel like it’s growing? Do you feel like it’s the same? Or what’s what’s something that you’ve really noticed that you enjoy? of where the industry has gone over your tenure here?

Renee 41:37  

I would say it’s definitely growing. You know, like I said, like, I started applying real early for any kind of like game position in Toronto, specifically, because that’s where I live. Yeah, even like you said, there’s a lot of studios popping up in Ontario in general, right? Like we have, you know, London, Ontario with Warframe. Yeah, like, we’ve gotten a bunch of bigger names to have throughout the years, like certain affinity. You know, I think there’s like a few, it’s escaping my mind right now. But I think like Snowden studio and Ottawa, and there’s just all these, all these studios that I’ve been, you know, passing by, and like seeing them grow and stuff like that. And even like, I think with the pandemic, right, in a sense, we’ve kind of grown because of that, as well. I know, a lot of people are saying, you know, there’s there’s so many things shifting in terms of like jobs, right? Gaming, or otherwise, because of the pandemic, because like people are offering remote interviews, some people are not, and some people are, like, you know, return to work hybrid, like, there’s so many options now. So, you know, I think the gaming industry as a whole is growing. Because of that, because we are now able to find talent, you know, within our city, but also outside of it. So even in Gameloft Toronto, we do hire remotely. So we do have a lot of hiring positions if people want to check those out later on. But yeah, like we have people from all over the world working for us. And you know, that’s just helping us grow, right. And that, in a sense, is helping Ontario itself grow. And of course, like I was saying, like even game of Toronto itself, we’re trying to grow to be a much bigger studio with a lot more projects that we can work on, as opposed to our one act of one Disney Magic Kingdom. So I think it can only get better from here and like, you know, grow more exponentially, and like, you know, will attract more bigger name studios, as well as like bigger talent that will come here.

Scott  43:33  

Like you’re, you’re absolutely right, when it comes to like, people may be getting priced out of Toronto, right, I think has always been like a major concern of like, we do have so many prevalent and great studios in the Toronto core. But especially people trying to get into the industry, or maybe people are like a mid level, I feel like they can get maybe get priced out of some of the areas. But now with everything kind of being moved to hybrid is just I think it’s just helping a lot of the studios now, because a lot of lot of times for tax reasons people have to be in Ontario, which is of course what we want. We want people to be hiring local. But I think yeah, really benefits the studios like Gameloft Toronto, where if you have someone, even in the GTA area, or people out of Ottawa, or London or St Catharines, or wherever, like they are able to join some of these other studios without having to maybe pick up their life and move until they get to a certain point in their career because it can be scary for a lot of people. You’re in Ottawa and you want to move and work for a studio in Toronto, starting remote, making sure that that connection works. And then moving right instead of that leap of faith. I feel it can be very, like anxiety inducing for a lot of people.

Scott  44:40  

Yeah, and yeah, we definitely certainly have people who are in Ottawa. Fort Erie I think is one of our further ones as well. Kingston or I think close to Kingston. So yeah, there’s definitely a bunch of people. And I think one of the things that you know, is both a challenge as well as kind of like a like an experience Is that I greatly enjoy kind of working on is, as a communications person is just making sure that everyone is included, right and making sure that the culture remains the same. Whether or not it’s online or in person. But for example, our studio though we welcome people to so come in, we are like voluntary returning to work. So if people want to come in sometimes and work, and sometimes it makes more sense for them to stay home, then like, you know, by all means, right, and I think that is sort of the model that you will start seeing in a lot of different places. And that’s, you know, like we were saying that’s kind of helping Ontario grow is giving people the options to do things like that.

Scott  45:40  

100% That’s definitely one of like the the silver linings of all of this, right, like, obviously, we have you mutable talks about it, I’m like plenty of other shows, and like other conversations with people, but like, that’s starting to become a cliche, but it is something that’s like, a huge benefit is I would love to be able to do both, right? Like, for me, like interactive, Ontario was fully remote, even before the pandemic, so something that you continue to do in the future. But I love to see that in studios where there are certain specific days that people will come in, that’s when you have your all hands on meeting, that’s when you have your, your community things that need to be dealt with. And like I can help people work on certain group projects together. But then you have those Mondays and Fridays, and whatever other days where it’s like, it just makes sense for people to be able to kind of heads down and do their work, and live their life. Something that we’re focusing more on now is quality of life, which is fantastic to see. And work life balance, which I think has really come to the forefront after these last couple of years is it’s not the easiest thing in the world to juggle and especially for, like communications and a studio like that, making sure that everybody’s good emails aren’t getting sent out at 10 o’clock at night. Yeah, right. And like, that’s also another issue that I keep hearing from Studios is that it’s not so many people would think that working remotely, people aren’t working. The problem is people are working too much, or people were you know, you’re seeing people doing things at 678 o’clock at night. And it’s like you need to as a manager, right? You need to like ran like no, because that that becomes a problem. You don’t want people to get burnt out when people do enjoy themselves.

Renee 47:09  

So I’ve definitely been guilty of that as well.

Scott  47:12  

Yeah, I do. Is I more of do as I say not as I do kind of feeling.

Unknown Speaker  47:17  

Yeah, for sure. But until sometimes, you know, you’re like, oh, just like this one more thing. I’ll have less to do tomorrow. And then you know, it’s 10pm or something. And it’s like, what are you doing? Like, you know, which I think also shows the passion that people have for the game industry, right? It’s, it’s always really cool to see. But it’s definitely important as well, to kind of disconnect and just, you know, take time for yourself, just, you know, kind of get your energy back so that you can keep working and keep being passionate without being burnt out. Whatever it is that you’re doing.

Scott  47:46  

I agree. I absolutely agree that this as a corporate, we can talk about this for an hour.

Renee  47:51  

I know this is another topic altogether.

Scott  47:54  

One of the last things I do want to ask you about I wanted to ask what is your favorite part about working in the province? So like you’ve worked in Ontario, the whole time you’ve been in the in your video game career, what has made you not want to go somewhere else? Is it family? Is it something that you’re comfortable with? Or what about Ontario still speaks to you to this day, that makes you want to be more and more part of the industry?

Renee  48:15  

Right? Um, I guess like, you kind of hit most of the points, I would say, I was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario. But Toronto, and Ontario in general, like all gaming events are here, right? It’s kind of like all the things that are kind of, like, obviously, there’s exciting things everywhere. But I think like, you know, all the big events, right? And all those like huge exciting, like fan expos and like EPLS XP, like Pocket Gamer, they all come to Toronto. So even if I was still in at least the province of Ontario, it’s a lot easier for me to go over there and work right or like, you know, kind of do the due to partnerships due to events and whatnot. And even just for myself, right, as someone personally who wants to visit all of those things. That’s kind of I think one of the biggest thing that makes me stays besides the fact that yes, because I am, you know, born and raised here, that does mean that a lot of my friends and families are here. So I do want to stay close to them as well. That’s,

Scott  49:15  

that’s a good answer. That’s totally fair. It’s like it’s yeah, it’s something that you’re comfortable with. But it’s exciting to see that it’s growing, right? Because there are some places maybe not the videogame industry, but like some industries that where you’re born and raised may not be a hotspot for it or may not be a viable place where you have to travel to go to a place like that. But I think we’re pretty lucky that it’s like no Ontario is just growing and growing and growing. So it’s actually like kind of going with your career trajectory. Right?

Renee  49:39  

Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. And I mean, like you know, there there’s obviously other video game hubs in Canada as well right like of course Montreal, British Columbia and Vancouver and whatnot. But like you’re saying I do see like Toronto is kind of always been hotspot for events in general, of course. But we are growing and I do see more gaming events. happening. And it is it’s exciting, I think, is the is the gist of it to be part of that growth as well.

Scott  50:06  

Last thing I want to ask you today, what are you playing right now? Doesn’t have to be Ontario doesn’t have to be anything to do with podcasts or anything to do with game loft. I just want to ask, what are you currently working with playing on? Right?

Renee  50:18  

All right, playing right now. Um, so I have been playing. I started this during the pandemic with my partner. But we’ve been playing a lot of Final Fantasy 14. I know a lot of people have started that during the pandemic as well. Yes, me too. Yeah. So we’re, we’re currently right now we’re actually on a, on a break, we’re unsubscribed from it. But like I always go back to it. And I have a bunch of friends, we basically have a community right. And that was kind of the way that me and my friends that I could see in person, like, that’s how we would connect during the pandemic, because, you know, we not too many people are going out and meeting each other and whatnot. So that’s kind of what I’ve been playing recently. And also, and this, this just happens to be gameloft. I’m not trying to promote game off, but it is. But I have been, I’ve been playing Oregon Trail. And this is a game from game off Brisbane, but it’s like kind of a recreation of the old Oregon Trail game, right. And the way they do it, I was just really interested because I was a huge fan of Oregon Trail when I was younger, but they kind of recreated it to be just a bit more sort of appropriate. They’ve included, you know, a lot more narrative from people of the time, right. So indigenous people, as well as, you know, people who are African American and things like that. They’ve given a lot of people a bit more storylines. And they’ve kind of had it in a way where there’s like tidbits of like, like information on like, the history of like, what was happening during the time and things like that, and how difficult it was for some people and how easy it was for others. And, you know, there’s just a bunch of improvements that I think they made. And the soundtrack is pretty good, too. It’s one that’s won a bunch of awards as well. Yeah, I’ve been playing diet just because it’s kind of like a cool sort of recall of a game that I used to play when I was younger, too. But yeah, it’s very. Yeah, very nostalgic. And it actually has a bunch of story modes. So, you know, it’s like, once I started it,

Scorr  52:16  

I noticed I was getting lost. That’s very cool. To me. That’s awesome. Download after this, count on it, all of you as well. Is there anything that you want to say is anything that was left unsaid on behalf of game loft or on behalf of yourself?

Renee  52:30  

I think we covered a fair amount of it. I mean, I want to thank you, Scott for being such a lovely host. And thank you, Natalie, for you know, being the producer for this. Hopefully I sounded okay. And I looked okay. Yeah, no, thank you so much for having me on the podcast. And I guess like, just as a side note, again, we are growing at gameloft Toronto, and I would love to see more people, you know, applying for all of their open job positions. We have some up already. I think they focus a bit more on artists and programmers, but we’re definitely going to have more as the year goes on. So you know, please look out for us as one of the major growing players of Ontario as well

Scott  53:10  

look out for them on their website, look out for them on all app stores. As well on the lodge, we do make a point of making sure that we post a lot of those jobs on our job board. And some of their games are also featured in our games from Ontario Library as well. So thank you, everyone, for joining us today. Renee, thank you again for taking the time to talk to us and share all of your amazing insight and knowledge of the video game industry. And a big thank you to Natalie, on the ones and twos in the booth and to Ontario creates as well for their continued support of this program. We will see all of you very soon for when nor does the recaps kicks off talking about Pocket Gamer Toronto. And we will be back with regular content from the lodge from now on, don’t you worry. So until then, take care

Renee Wong

Currently Communications Specialist at Gameloft Toronto, Renee brings her years of experience as a communicator and a skilled professional with a marketing and PR background.

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