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Well, better late than never!

When I was attending the Media Jeunes Conference 2010 last November as a guest panelist, I was asked by Dr. Lise Renaud from the Comsante’ Research Centre at the University of Quebec if I would sit down for an interview about videogames. Modest fellow that I am, they had to twist my arm! I recently received the URL for this interview.

Comsante’ hosts a blog at Cestmalade .

I hope you enjoy the interview!

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When we last left the Doctor, he was attending Media – Jeunes 2010 inside the CBC/Radio Canada Mothership….

Children’s television production in Canada has not been spared from the ravages of the current economic climate. Just as video game production in Canada has suffered from a ‘perfect storm’ of economic and market driven events, the world of children’s television has suffered its own storm as well. Government and private funding for projects in the last three years shrunk dramatically – many companies laid off staff right across the country. The market is very competitive. Youth audiences are flocking to ‘live action’ series, which cost less to produce than an animated program. When you consider the success of shows like iCarly or Wizards of Waverly Place, it’s not hard to understand their impact on animated programs. But there’s another issue as well – computer graphic animation. Many of today’s brightest and best young computer animators want to work for companies like Dreamworks, Pixar, or work for computer game studios like Blizzard Entertainment. Today’s technologies make it possible for young animators to strike out on their own and post their portfolios online. The hardware and software are not that expensive.

The issue is doubly difficult for French Canadian animators in Quebec. Creating content for a Francophone audience is dwarfed by the English speaking markets in Canada and the United States. I came away from the conference with empathy for what it must be like to create content for the Quebec market. Much of French Canadian animation is co-produced with European countries and some Asian countries for international programs, including China. The withdrawal of international funding is contributing to their dilemma. The Canadian federal government launched an initiative in 2010 called the Canada Media Fund to encourage more development of Canadian content. It was interesting to note that while a large amount of money was being allocated to different types of animation and new media, there were not many French Canadian projects listed. When you compare the growing success of the video game industry in Quebec this past decade and the provincial government tax industry incentives it provided to game studios, it looks very much like the French Canadian animation industry needs to consolidate and focus on new opportunities for funding and production. They need to create a strategic plan to compete in a very tough marketplace.

(The Doctor thinks to himself – how about Et Dieu Crea’ Laflaque for the English Canadian TV audience!)

It was interesting to see how French Canadian animation companies were looking at how companies like Nickelodeon and The Disney Channel were using the internet to establish a strong online identity for branding purposes, much in the same way that video game publishers use it as well. The research information from numerous sources like Nielsen, Pew Internet American Life Project, or Statistics Canada, makes it very clear that children and adolescents spend much time online as a place to meet and play. Virtual worlds like Club Penguin, Free Realms, and even World of Warcraft are good examples. In the marketing world, you need to be where the target audience congregates to get your message across. Building a strong virtual community is important. Having an online presence that encourages your audience to visit often is quickly becoming a crucial piece of the media puzzle. Or at least, that’s what the Doctor thinks.

Qu’est-ce que vous pensez? (What do you think?).

Doctor Arkanoid

Bonjour mes amis! Le Docteur est retournee’!

Yes! The Doctor is IN! Honestly! To quote Austin Powers “I’M BACK BABY, YEAH!”. Where have I been? Well, the truth is I took a bit of a hiatus from the blog so I could finish my Master’s thesis and complete my graduate degree. I’m happy to report that after two gruelling years of blood, sweat, and literature reviews,  the thesis is complete at last! I will do a write up for you about the nature of the research later. Today’s post is about the Doctor’s visit last week to the Media – Jeunes 2010 conference that was held at the CBC Radio Canada ‘Mothership’ in Montreal, Quebec on November 18th and 19th.

In early September, my graduate supervisor, Dr. David Kaufman and I were having our usual thesis review coffee klatch. David mentioned to me that the Alliance for Children’s Television (ACT) was holding their annual conference for 2010 in Montreal and were looking for someone who could contribute to a panel discussion about the positive messages provided by digital media, including video games. He felt that I might be a good candidate given my background and experience, so I contacted the conference co-ordinator and made a submission. After several e-mails and phone discussions with Sylvie Lamy from ACT, I was accepted as a panel member. I was very excited because I believe that the positive side of video games does not get enough discussion compared to the frequent media coverage of the ‘AAA’ 3D hyper realistic commercial franchises like Assassin’s Creed, Call of Duty, Gears of War, Grand Theft Auto, Halo, {insert your favourite ‘M’ rated 3D action/fighting/shooting game here}. I also thought that participating on the panel would give me an opportunity to understand the current state of children’s digital media in Canada. There was one other benefit – ACT would take care of my expenses. This was music to a starving graduate student’s ears!

Preparing for the conference was challenging because I wanted to be relevant to the audience of media and television people in attendance. Another challenge was trying to fit my presentation into a window of 12 minutes! The great thing about discussing video games is that there’s never a lack of useful material. The trick is to find content that is meaningful and relevant. I found a really nice trailer from PBS on Youtube for Video Games Live. I selected a clip from the first two and half minutes.

The members of the panel were an interesting mix. We had an opportunity to have a very scintillating conference call the week before. As the sole member from the Pacific coast, I had to get up on a Friday morning at 7:00 a.m.! But our discussion paved the way for a fascinating session in Montreal. Amy Friedman from Redhead Consulting discussed working with licenses in digital media through her involvement with Nickelodeon. She showed some interesting public service announcements about cyberbullying. Dr. Carla Seal-Wanner from Flickerlab presented interactive film making students did using her company’s software for the Global Climate Summit in Copenhagen in 2009. Dr. Judith Gaudet discussed media and health education using the series Ramdam. The moderator was Mathieu Baer, the producer of Zooville for CBC Radio Canada. All of them were very knowledgable digital media professionals. I felt a bit humbled to be sitting alongside these individuals. I also had the challenge of being the last member to speak on the panel. The mission became very straightforward – keep the audience entertained at the end. After all, video games are about fun and excitement, n’est-ce pas?

Tomorrow I’ll give a recap of the interesting issues I learned about at the Media Jeunes 2010 Conference.

Doctor Arkanoid

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