Nathalie Gauthier, the one who wants to bequeath a better place to women in video games

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Nathalie Gauthier, the one who wants to bequeath a better place to women in video games

Nathalie Gauthier is executive producer of the game Space Invaders revisited in augmented reality and which will be released in 2023.

Women who occupy management positions in the video game industry, there are not tons of them. But very early on, Nathalie Gauthier – today producer of the game Space Invaders revisited in augmented reality by the studio Square Enix Montreal – managed to carve out a place for herself. Portrait of a mother in love with her job, from Montreal to Quito, Ecuador.

When Nathalie Gauthier was a child, consoles had no place in her parents' house in Longueuil. She had to go to her friends' house to start games on an Intellivision 2, the console on which she loved to play Burger Time, Donkey Kong and Tron. She had to wait until her early teens to finally see her first Nintendo console enter her home.

The Intellivision II console was released by Mattel in 1983.

I was so impressed with the graphics. We were elsewhere in terms of playability. It was like a book in which you are the hero, but directly in front of you, remembers Nathalie Gauthier, with sparkling eyes.

This fascination that she developed at the time for the simple possibility of embodying a character in a virtual world first guided her towards studies in cinema, at the University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM). Her goal then was to become a director and tell stories for cinema and television.

It was in this industry that she began her career, notably as director-designer for Astral Media.

When Nathalie Gauthier had her first daughter, the atypical hours of television and cinema began to weigh heavily on her side, pushing her to quit her job to start freelancing; not in cinema or television, but in the video game industry.

At the time, many artisans and craftswomen on the small and big screen turned towards the video game industry, a trend still current, according to Nathalie Gauthier, for whom the nature of this new work was not very different from what she knew.

“My early years on TV taught me how to tell stories to a specific audience. It was the same with video games. »

— Nathalie Gauthier

In her early days, she wrote short skits, stories and character definitions. Then she quickly became a producer, the closest thing to being a director, notably on a car racing game, and another game for a company working on behalf of Electronic Arts.

“I remember the first time I worked with a programmer. In TV, we shoot, we live with what we shoot. With a programmer, the experience is different: he creates things from scratch. This ability to create something out of nothing is awesome! »

—Nathalie Gauthier.

Bursting with energy and inhabited by an entrepreneurial spirit, Nathalie Gauthier decided, with her husband who was already working in the video game field, to create the independent studio Blue Lizard Games in 2008 in Montreal… and in Quito. This second office became at the time the most important video game studio in Ecuador.

It was not yet fashionable at that time, the studios independent. It was a time when we were starting to see the big names in the industry set up in Montreal, she says.

Consequence: everyone wanted to work for Ubisoft, but not for the small newly established independent studio, which created a great recruitment challenge for Nathalie Gauthier. The solution found by the small family with at that time two children under the age of 3: move to Quito, Ecuador, to open a second Blue Lizard Games studio there.

An unusual choice, but considered for the mother, whose husband is Ecuadorian. Her family is there, and the time zone worked with that of Montreal, she adds.

What was supposed to be a three-month stopover – time to start the machine and delegate day-to-day operations to others – turned into a five-year adventure.

Finally , it turned out to be more efficient to run the studio if we were present. […] I even had my third child there, says Nathalie Gauthier, who specifies that her three daughters speak Spanish.

The challenge was great, but not unattainable for the studio. Ecuador, which is an emerging country, is not famous for the development of video games, but it has a lot of artists, as well as a lot of very high quality programmers and software developers, insists Nathalie Gauthier.

She has made it an asset for the company, building a team of nearly 50 people in Ecuador, in addition to maintaining the studio's activities of 10 to 12 people in the Quebec metropolis.

We trained them to make video games, with people from Montreal who came to Quito for the occasion. And we came together with solid expertise in back-end, infrastructure and game architecture. We had programmers who made banking systems, she points out.

Blue Lizard Games, which therefore became the most important studio in Ecuador, initially worked on video games for the Nintendo DS and Wii consoles. It is also the first company of its kind to be licensed by Nintendo in Latin America. The team then turned to downloadable PC games, then to massively multiplayer PC games.

We worked on Nanoland, for example , which looks a lot like Club Penguin, so a children's game with discussion, she says.

“At that time, having a children's game, with the security that it takes, was a very big production, which spanned several years. »

— Nathalie Gauthier

Nathalie Gauthier's daughters grew up in the studio of Blue Lizard Games in Quito, where they even participated in the creation of games.

It was really thefunto make a children's game with our children. They made character concepts and gave them to employees, who in turn turned them into in-game Easter eggs, where you can find their hidden designs, she describes.

Nevertheless, the repeated trips between Quito and Montreal, which became more and more difficult – especially with three children – got the better of this chapter in the life of Nathalie Gauthier. Result: the latter decided to return to Quebec for good.

After selling Blue Lizard Games (which has since taken on a new name), Nathalie Gauthier notably worked for two years developing Behavior Interactif business applications in Montreal, before joining the Square Enix Montreal team as producer.

It's a studio, a legendary company, with fantastic licenses. I was approached, and I was surprised, she says.

Attracted by the corporate culture, with a small, very family-friendly studio of 45 employees at the time, she accepted the offer. Today, the studio that signs Hitman Sniper: The Shadows has some 170 people on board.

The producer recently took on the team behind the augmented reality game Space Invaders, a feature she loves.

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The level of innovation and creativity in this game fascinates me. Since I come from a screenwriting background, I love creating worlds. With the relaunch of the brand, it's the creation of a new universe, she explains.

The launch of this new version of the 1978 arcade game is scheduled for 2023.

The apple did not fall far from the tree: two of his daughters of career age chose to study in fields related to the video game industry.

One ​​started studying engineering to become a programmer, while the second is starting studies in the arts.

< p>“I have three daughters, two out of three of whom go into the video game field. The legacy I leave them as an industry is important. The day they arrive in the workplace, I want it to be healthy and for them to be able to have an impact. »

— Nathalie Gauthier

This is work that she also does with her employees, in particular through the Next Lev'Elles initiative, which she helped found and which showcases professionals in the video game field through, among other things, conferences.

I try to make women feel good and important. As in all other industries where you see women in men's environments, they need to learn how to make their place, not to be embarrassed to be there, she says.

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Nathalie Gauthier says she is very confident about the future of the video game industry, a booming environment that is moving in the right direction.

The new values ​​brought by the next generation have generated a societal change. We still have a long way to go, but I can see how much people on the games teams care about being representative.

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