Chad Comeau remembers playing classic video games with his grandmother when he was growing up in Clare, Nova Scotia.
Some of his favorites were Super Mario and Zelda, which he played on a Nintendo.
“Ever since then, I’ve always been curious to learn more about them,” he said.
In Comeau’s first year of university when he was studying in Moncton, one of his friends found a computer program where they could make their own role-playing video games (RPG).
After working on a few small RPG games with friends, he knew he wanted to do more.
He graduated from university with a translation degree. He worked in that industry for four years, while working on video games in his free time and on his lunch breaks.
Something about video games has always fascinated him, ever since he started playing them with his grandmother. Comeau knew he had to pursue his dream in creating games.
Comeau has worked on many small projects, some collaborations with other designers. Last September he produced a game with a friend, all about donairs and previously an adventure game about a Frenchy’s shopping trip.
“I thought about this for a while and after working on so many side projects, I thought hey, I should make this work full time.”
He applied to a video game design course in Koln, Germany at the Cologne Game Lab. It’s a public school so has free tuition but it’s a hard school to get into, he says.
“I didn’t think I’d ever get in but since I’ve worked on so many games in the past, I think that gave me an advantage. Once I got accepted, everything became so real.”
The course is a three-year program and Comeau has completed his first year. Now, he’s back in Clare working on a new project.
Comeau is in the process of making an adventure game all about the Municipality of Clare.
He plans to include some of Clare’s small traditions like the annual canoe trip. As well as legends and myths passed along through generations in Clare.
“My approach is to make a lot of small weird games, because if you make a commercial game, a generic game to sell to the worldwide market, how are you going to make it special? But if I make a donair game or an Acadian game, then just because of the subjects, it will be more special for more people,” he says. “I try to convey something with the games, you know, you play it and it’s not just purely for fun or to make money off of it. You can almost walk away with more knowledge or an understanding of a subject.”
He’s been working on the project for the last year while in Germany. He’s partnered up with the Acadian Studies program at University of Sainte-Anne to research all the details he needs to complete the game. He has a two year timeline to finish the game, with a year already gone, he plans to have it finished by August 2019.
Comeau is also asking for some public input. His vision for the game is to feature stories from residents of Clare and to record their voices to appear in his game.
“One of the pillars of this project is working with the community because the process of creating games is usually just, the company does it, then they put out the game and people buy it. But you know theres other ways of doing it,” Comeau said.
He’s asking for suggestions now and hopes to start recording stories in earlier 2019.
“Every character in the game will be performed by someone in the region,” he says. “It’s taking a participatory approach to making the game.”
Comeau admits he’s not great at computer programing and coding, so the technical barriers have caused him some troubles along the way. For the Clare game, he plans to use some real photos of the municipality to give the game a more realistic approach.
“I hope the authenticity will be one of the main selling points. It will be stories from the region, with pictures from the region, with voices from the region and also environmental sounds. Like if you go to the wharf you’ll hear the seagulls and the wind will actually be captured from the region. Which is very rare for a game to be geographically specific to a region.”
Comeau believes his game will be most popular in Clare but he hopes to see it played worldwide too.
His favorite part of the job is having creative freedom. He gets to visualize a plan and see that plan come to life. But he also enjoys seeing players reactions to the games.
“If people enjoy it, I mean that’s all I can hope for.”
When the game is finished, Comeau plans to host a launch party in Clare.
The game will be a longer styled adventure game, mainly in French but with the option to play in English.
“It was my dream to do this full time, it has been a little overwhelming with the switch because within a month of applying, I found out I was going to Germany and I could leave my job to work on this project. It’s a lot to handle and manage but I’m obviously super grateful that it all panned out and I can wake up every day and go work on a game.”
Those interested in participating in the project can contact Comeau on Facebook, through his gaming page: https://www.facebook.com/FringFrang/
Visitors can also play his games on the page.