Carl-Simon Picard has many hats: co-founder of Hatchery Games in Quebec City, 3D animator, narrative director and father of a young boy. What could be more ideal than this profile to explain to us what it is like to work in the video game industry and to be a parent.
Marc: Hello Carl-Simon! Could you please tell us what your current profession is exactly?
Carl-Simon: I’m a 3D animator by profession and I’m now a co-founder of Hatchery Games . I do animation in addition to taking care of the narrative and animation directions for our projects.
Marc: And is this your first job in the video game?
Carl-Simon: No, I started at the end of 2011 with internships and small contracts in video games before finding my first “real” job at Beenox in Quebec City as a 3D animator. I then wanted to go to vfx (film) in 2016, but I came back to my old loves for 1 year.
M: What studies have you done?
C: I started my CEGEP in natural science to try to convince myself that we could not make a career moving men and creating video games, to realize the obvious, that I could not do other than enroll in 3D animation and image synthesis in Quebec City.
What was your background to working in the video game industry?
A lot (a lot) of hours investing in school projects. To then manage to stand out just enough for two teachers to offer me two internships. Without going into details, these internships were quite incredible, but allowed me to have experience on paper and above all, it allowed me to have professional equipment to put in my demo reel. After these two internships, I continued to do small animation contracts by working in a bookstore full-time, for about 4 months (really depressing where I thought I would enroll in university in architecture.); to finally, to be offered a job at Beenox. Since then, I’ve been making a living getting people moving in the screens.
What does a typical day look like as a co-founder of Hatchery Games?
It’s quite difficult to answer, because being a co-founder means managing a company and employees. It’s spending your day fixing the next problem, I say that while loving my job and my position. That said, if we want a description of the video games aspect, I wear a lot of 2 main hats throughout the team: do the direction of the animation and the narrative direction.
If we focus on the animation portion, I usually planned my macro tasks at the beginning of the week, so I have a good idea of my goals. I do visual research for every animation we want to do. Yes, my job requires me to watch YouTube and BBC wildlife documentaries (I’ve already done this for full weeks for some companies). I want to find the best images, the best ideas to transpose into the game. Then, for sure, I will have a “daily” with the other facilitators so that we can share, show and criticize our progress (and show our YouTube videos).
I have a lot less experience for narrative direction, so I’m learning! In summary, being a narrative director is really a lot… lots of planning and puzzles. I have my nose in game design, level design, concept, animation (cinematic), casting, recording and all the technical portions (programming) behind all these elements.
What are the points you enjoy most when working in the industry?
The atmosphere of the development teams and working with many individuals, from several different departments. The industry is still young and has been avant-garde for a very long time. From the very beginning, people have wanted to create their experience and their workplace, without prejudice or anything else. What matters is the pleasure people have in rubbing shoulders with each other and the performance (for me, both are equally important.).
What are the negatives when working in the industry?
Toxic people who kill the mood and people who just don’t want to work. I think there is a certain form of housekeeping that has started in recent years with the stories of harassment and bullying in the field. Of course, there can be this kind of person no matter the field, but the spirit and teamwork is so much an indispensable aspect of the development of a game, it can quickly become unbearable and have a greatly harmful impact on a project, a part or the entire company.
What advice would you give to students who want to enter the industry?
You have to be dedicated, very determined and persevering, self-critical and above all be ready to receive criticism from others. And criticism does not always have something to do with the quality of the work, which can be self-esteem and self-confidence!
First, we must understand that yes, companies distinguish between a junior, intermediate and senior employee, but when it comes to students, we make the comparison with juniors immediately. These are people who have experience (1-2 years). So, yes, employers will compare your experience and portfolio with certain industry standards. This means that as a student, you have to push the bar higher than the success of your degree. For that, you have to be dedicated (do not count your hours on a job and take advantage of learning opportunities) and give yourself all the chances and take all the opportunities available to you (internships, open houses, events, contracts and do a little “PR”).
Secondly, (this advice is good for a whole career): you have to be ready to be told: “It doesn’t work!”, “We don’t understand!”, “Explain your intentions to me!” … or: “It’s worse!”. Before we created Hatchery Games, it had already been 10 years of my life that I was told at least once a day that my work was not 100% the vision of someone else: I still love my work so much and by listening to the criticism of others, I have acquired so much expertise. It’s an artistic environment, subjective, you can’t read the thoughts of others and no, we’re not all directors like Denis Villeneuve. That being said, it’s still a super artistic work, you don’t become a performer and when you gain experience, you have more creative freedom!
Finally: never use “no.” and “I know, but”. Using “Okay” and “Why?” make much more progress on the issues. What’s magical is that it also works with a lot of things in life in general!
What advice would you give to parents who want their children to play in moderation?
Have a time slot and respect it. I have a child who started kindergarten and every Sunday morning, we do 45 minutes of NHL 2020 on the playstation. 6 months ago it was 30 minutes, on a certain Sunday we played 40 minutes, the next week there was no question for him to play only 30 minutes… now there is a “timer”.
Do you have any other tips for parents who don’t know about video games?
To be interested in it at least minimally, because it is a hobby like any other. Taking an interest in the interests of the child will help you! And it’s ingrained in the culture of our children and future generations. It is a medium that has surpassed the combined film and music industries and continues to grow year after year. There are plenty of websites that are interested in the field like Split Screen , IGN.com or kotaku.com that talk not only about the content of the games, but also about the industry, companies, etc. Then there’s the whole artistic portion behind each project, if it’s ever more your thing, there’s artstation.com.
There are many ways to get to know the environment and I think it’s important to understand it in the slightest way. A bit like the fact that all Quebecers know who Carey Price or PK Subban is.
What are you playing at the moment? And do you recommend the titles in question?
Right now, I’m playing a lot to test some aspects of the game that we’re thinking of revisiting or reinventing with Hatchery Games. So the list is really long. To make a long story short, I’m going to make you the list of games I’ve played for fun:
· Ori and The blind Forest (2015): Excellent indie game! Truly unique art direction.
· Firewatch (2016): Perfect for “non-gamer” parents who would like to try something, it completes in a few hours, is aimed at adults.
· Hearts of Iron VI: I’m a big fan of management games and the hours go by pretty easily. My big hit of 2021, but it’s very complicated, not for everyone.
Do you have any games to recommend for children? and for teenagers?
For kids, I love sports games in general, because you can play them solo, co-op or multi. One can decide on the duration, difficulty and game modes (example: arcade mode easier to understand and master). The game can be adapted to the age and/or abilities of the player. You can play a game like that with a 3-year-old without any problem. Zero violence and at this age, even if the child has no idea of the content of the game or the sport, the controller and interactivity will do the job. At home, when my child has finished his NHL session, or Tennis on the Playstation on Sunday morning, the activity that follows, at the request of my son, is often the sport in question in the basement or in the yard, to play the role of Djokovic or Nathan Mackinnon. Who would have thought that my PS4 would have moved my child so much.
For teens, my advice is simple. Try any single-player game. These are games that play less on the addiction aspect, no micro-transaction either. There is often a much more developed artistic and narrative aspect and above all, the game has an end.