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Game over? New language laws endanger Quebec's video game industry, insiders say

Remy was interviewing a video game company when she asked the obvious question that she needed to learn French to work in Quebec.

Remy wasn't from the state and he couldn't speak any language. The company was based in Quebec, as are many major players in the Canadian video game industry. 

"[I asked], would that be a problem?" Remy said. (Remy is not his real name. CBC News protects his identity because he fears work retaliation for speaking publicly.)

"All meetings are conducted in English. We were convinced that learning French was voluntary and unexpected. ”

According to the Quebec Ministry of Industry, the video gaming industry in Quebec employs more than 11,000 people. Quebec makes nearly $ 1.75 billion annually. 

But people working in the field say that Bill 96, the state's controversial new language law, puts them all at risk.

Many of these 11,000 workers are newcomers to the state, hired from abroad without the French. Currently, some of them are considering leaving Quebec altogether.

"Some people look at Building 96 and say," OK, it's time to pack up and leave, "Remy said.

Demanding Skilled Workers

Bill 96 aims to strengthen Quebec's language law and is a new extension that covers everything from healthcare to corporate working language. It has the rules.

Some laws stipulate that immigrants who have stayed in Quebec for more than 6 months can only access most government services in French.

Remy said that if Bill 96 passed before being hired, he would "definitely have influenced" his decision to work in Quebec.

He said that English is the default language for most gaming industries and that some international game developers will learn English only to work in this area.

On top of that, having to learn French may be overkill for some if the gaming industry can easily find a job in the fast-growing Ontario or Vancouver. Said.

"I don't think Quebec companies can attract talent," he said.

He is not the only one to see the letters on the wall. 

Osama Dorias has been a game designer in Montreal for over 15 years and teaches in post-secondary video game programs, including Dawson College. He said many video game workers he knows are thinking of leaving Quebec next year.

He admits that not everyone actually goes, but it would be difficult to replace someone who does. Due to the global labor shortage in the video game industry, it was difficult for Quebec-based companies to hire. Even before Bill 96.

"Now [these job seekers] are just looking elsewhere and I don't blame them," he said. "It will be very difficult for us to compete at the global level."

Osama Dorias is a game designer in Montreal for over 15 years. Working as a teacher in a post-higher education video game program. (Eli Glasner / CBC)

Quebec has many colleges and college programs that bring out local talent, but he says it's also being scooped up by international companies. I did.

"Even if they are Francophone, they will leave because they got a better job in California and Sweden," Drias explained.

If Quebec is unable to maintain its unique talents and can't hire from outside the state, it's not a good sign for the industry. He explained that if the studios couldn't be hired here, they might move their activities elsewhere.

"We really have a presence and a global presence as a video game leader. " And we're throwing it all away. "

Industry supports the spirit of law

Dorias said he was encouraging other game developers to move to Montreal, but because Bill 96 was passed. , Said that it cannot be recommended in a conscientious manner.

"The first question I ask is," Do you speak French? No. Then you are not welcome. I think you should look elsewhere, "he said.

"It's like day and night. I've moved from supporting people moving here to warning people."

Christopher Chancey, chairman of the board of directors ofGuilde du jeuvidéo du Québec, which represents the state's video game studios, is also concerned.

He said the guild supports French, the default language for the Quebec gaming industry. In the past, the organization has worked with the government to translate video game terms that had no French equivalent and reduce Anglicism at work.

"But a lot of people from all over the world are coming here to make video games here in Quebec," he said. "Our fear is that we are sending a message that this is not inclusive of other cultures."

Chancey sees the government extend the six-month deadline. Said that he was interested in. This is an idea that other Quebectech companies have raisedin the last few weeks.

Students and professionals will attend the workshop during the first video game week in Sherbrooke, Quebec. Earlier this year. (Submitted by Sherbrooke Innopole)

Meanwhile, he said the law had "PR issues" that the government had to deal with.

"I think everyone understands the importance of French ... I think it's a matter of getting the [newcomers] to feel included," Chancey said. said.

Dorias doesn't feel that way. He said he was not optimistic when the government changed his mind.

"I think the intent behind [Bill 96] is to make certain people feel unwelcome," he said, hoping that Quebec will fully participate in the law. is doing.

"I hope I'm wrong. I seriously hope I'm wrong."

Every industry must play its part.

When contacted by CBC News, the newly established French Conservation Agency emphasized that the protection of French is a joint responsibility.

"All sectors must contribute to our efforts to ensure the sustainability of our official and common languages," the statement read.

The ministry also added that it will create a new program, Francisation Québec, to help newcomers learn French "in the classroom, at work, online, and on college campuses."

It's like Remy feels that more should be happening. He said he tried to do a part-time class after the shift because he wasn't given time to learn French during his work.

After all, he thinks Bill 96 is effective in creating a French workplace. It drives out people who don't have the time or energy to devote themselves to learning a language.

He should know: He just accepted the job in another state.

"If I said Bill 96 didn't affect it, I would be lying," he said.

In retrospect, the company is responsible for responding openly to its employees, rather than "underestimating the importance of the French" when hiring, as he does. He said.

"People will move here, feel stressed and think it's not worth staying here," he said.

And like him, they leave.