A new law recently passed in Quebec, Canada designed to force immigrants to learn and use French in a short amount of time has many game developers in the area worried. The new bill could make it harder for studios to recruit and keep talent in a part of Canada that contains numerous big game studios and companies.
Last month, Quebec’s legislature passed Bill 96, which contains over 200 clauses, all designed to allow the government more ways to “reinforce the use of [the French language] in all areas of Quebec life.”
While only some of Bill 96 is now active, many immigrants and companies in the province are already preparing for the changes that the bill will bring. One of the biggest is that, starting next year, all government communications and services will be written in French. Immigrants living in Quebec will still be able to access government services and sites in English, but only for six months after they arrive. Following that, people will have to use French, essentially forcing them to learn the language to continue to live and work in the Canadian province.
As reported by the CBC, since Bill 96 was passed last month, many game devs in the area have expressed concern about the bill and especially about the way it will eventually force devs to learn French to live for any extended time in the area.
One game dev, who used the alias Remy to remain anonymous, told the CBC that in the video game industry English is often the primary language used, even around the world, so many devs learn how to speak English as a second language to help them find more success in the industry. And he believes that for many, having to then also learn French to work in Quebec will be too much to ask and they will likely find work elsewhere, in Canadian cities such as Ontario or Vancouver, where more and more game studios are setting up shop these days.
“I just don’t see Quebec companies being able to attract talent if that’s what they have to [contend with],” said Remy.
Osama Dorias, a veteran game developer in Montreal, Canada told the CBC that Bill 96 will likely become a big problem for game studios that are already struggling to find and recruit talent in a hypercompetitive global market.
“Now [those job seekers] are just looking elsewhere, and I don’t blame them,” Dorias told CBC. “It’s going to be very hard for us to compete on a global level.”
Dorias further explained that while Quebec has a lot of colleges and universities releasing newly educated and talented devs into the area, many get grabbed up by studios outside of Quebec, like in California or Sweden. And Bill 96 will make it hard to fill the gaps with talent from outside of the province, which could eventually hurt the game industry in Quebec and lead to some larger studios leaving entirely.
Companies like Ubisoft, EA, Epic, Gameloft, Bethesda, and Warner Bros. all have studios located in Montreal, one of the big global hubs of game development. CBC reports that the game industry brings in around $US1.75 ($2) billion in revenue for Quebec each year.
The video game industry’s huge presence in Quebec could begin to disappear, said Dorias. He told CBC that he now asks people interested in working in Quebec if they speak French and if they say no, then he explains “you’re unwelcome. 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 the effort to ensure the sustainability of our official and common language.” It also explained that it planned to provide free tools and online programs to help immigrants learn French.
Of course, there are still many questions about how any of this bill will be enforced, even though the new ministry created to enforce it has already received an approved budget of $US27.4 ($38) million.
Many trade groups, industry leaders, and experts have voiced strong opposition to the bill. A group of 138 Quebec tech leaders even signed an open letter to the government directly calling out the six-month language law as an “unrealistic deadline” for immigrants who might already be dealing with a world-changing move to a new country. It also criticised another part of Bill 96 that forces all business contracts in Quebec to be written in French.
Remy told the CBC that many will end up leaving Quebec instead of staying and working. In fact, he confirmed with the outlet that he had recently accepted a new job partially because it pays better, but also because of the newly passed Bill 96.
“People are going to move here, they’re going to get stressed and they’re going to think it’s just not worth staying here,” Remy said.