Quebec’s French language law worries many game developers

A group of protesters hold a sign as they gather in Montreal to oppose the controversial Law 96.

photo: Giordanno Brumas / SOPA Images / Light Rocket (Getty Images)

A new law recently passed in Quebec, Canada, designed to force immigrants to learn and use French in a short period of time, has worried many game developers in the region. The new law could make it harder for studios to recruit and retain talent in a part of Canada that’s home to numerous large gaming studios and companies.

Last month, the Quebec legislature passed Bill 96, which contains over 200 clauses all aimed at giving the government more ways to “increase the use of [the French language] in all walks of life in Quebec.”

While only part of Bill 96 is active now, many immigrants and businesses in the province are already preparing for the changes that the law will bring. One of the biggest is that from next year all government communications and services will be written in French. Immigrants living in Quebec can still access English-language government services and sites, but only for six months after arrival. After that, people have to use French, essentially forcing them to learn the language in order to continue living and working in the Canadian province.

As reported by the CBCSince Bill 96 was passed last month, many game developers in the region have expressed concern about the law and specifically how it will eventually force developers to learn French in order to live in the region for long periods of time.

A game developer, who used the alias Remy to remain anonymous, told CBC that English is often the primary language in the video game industry, even around the world, so many developers are learning to speak English as a second language to help them find more success in the industry. And he believes that for many, having to learn French to work in Quebec will be too much to ask, and they will likely find work elsewhere, in Canadian cities such as Quebec Vancouver, where more and more game studios are settling these days.

“I just don’t see Quebec companies attracting talent when that’s what they need to do [contend with]’ Remy said.

Osama Dorias, a veteran games developer in Montreal, Canada, told CBC that Bill 96 is likely to become a major problem for game studios, which are already struggling to find and recruit talent in a hyper-competitive global market.

“Now [those job seekers] just look elsewhere and I don’t blame them,” Dorias told CBC. “It will be very difficult for us to compete on a global scale.”

Dorias went on to explain that while Quebec has many colleges and universities that are sending out newly educated and talented developers to the region, many are being picked up by studios outside of Quebec, like in California or Sweden. And Bill 96 will make it difficult to fill in the gaps with out-of-province talent, which could ultimately hurt Quebec’s games industry and cause some larger studios to exit the company altogether.

companies like Ubisoft, EA, Epic, Gameloft, Bethesda and Warner Bros. All have studios in Montreal, one of the major global centers of game development. CBC reports that the gaming industry brings in approximately $1.75 billion in revenue for Quebec every year.

A photo of the exterior of Ubisoft Montreal's large office building.

photo: Eric Thomas/AFP (Getty Images)

The huge presence of the video game industry in Quebec may gradually disappear, Dorias said. He told CBC that he now asks people interested in working in Quebec if they speak French and if they say no, he explains, “You’re not welcome. I think you should look elsewhere.”

“We actually have a presence, a global presence, as a leader in video games,” Dorias explained, “and we’re throwing all of that away.”

The Office for the Protection of the French Language, a newly created government group established by Bill 96, told the CBC that “all sectors must contribute to efforts to ensure the sustainability of our official and common language.” It also stated that it plans to provide free tools and online programs to help immigrants learn French.

Of course there are still many questions too how any part of this bill will be enforcedalthough the new ministry created to enforce it has already received an approved budget of $27.4 million.

Many trade groups, industry leaders and experts have spoken out strongly against the law. A group of 138 Quebec technology leaders even signed it An open letter to the government The six-month language law is directly branded as an “unrealistic deadline” for immigrants who may already be facing a world-changing move to a new country. It also criticized another part of Bill 96, which requires all business contracts in Quebec to be written in French.

Remy told the CBC that many will leave Québec instead of staying and working. In fact, he confirmed to the outlet that he recently took a new job, partly because it pays better, but also because of the newly passed Bill 96.

“People will move here, they’ll be stressed, and they’ll think it’s just not worth staying here,” Remy said. Quebec’s French language law worries many game developers

Curtis Crabtree

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