Though I often talk about how different my Paraguayan upbringing was to what would be considered “normal” in North America and Europe, today I want to talk about my time in Canada. From 2003 to 2015, I spent what had been the worst and best years of my life in this wonderful country. Canada had very unique things to offer a chap like myself. So, let me tell you what it’s like to be a gamer in Canada.
THE LAWS VARY WILDLY, BUT ARE STRICTLY ENFORCED
One of the things that really jumped out at me was how different laws were from provice to province. What would be OK in Ontario wouldn’t be OK in Alberta, and vice-versa. For example, when I was in Ontario, the best way to get a flutter on was to visit a Canadian online casino. The infrastructure just isn’t there if you want to have an in-person experience. But when I moved to Alberta, casinos were a dime a dozen, and you really could pick anything you wanted.
The same applied even for video games: though the video game rating system is the same (Canada uses the ESRB rating), it’s only law in certain provinces like Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Saskatchewan. So, again, when I moved to Alberta, my local EB Games (which is basically Canadian Gamestop) was less likely to deny sales of T, M or R games to younger folk. It’s important to note, though, that most stores enforced the ratings voluntarily anyway.
PRICING IS ALL OVER THE PLACE
I remember the good old days when the price in dollars was the same in Canada as it was in the US. But then, around the turn of the last decade, the Canadian dollar started losing value against the US dollar. The first time I remember feeling this was when I went in to exchange my 3DS for the 3DS XL. EB Games had this trade-in program, and the $200 price was maintained if you bought your console with a trade-in, but if you bought it outright, it was $220.
I had no idea that this would signal things to come. Not only did consoles go up in price, but games started going up in price, too. No wonder I started doing the weekly PS Store sales reports here at Vita Player. It was more predictable going into an online casino and putting a fiver on black 5, than going into Best Buy and trying to guess the price of the latest Call of Duty. This is something that continues to happen, and sadly, it’s almost impossible to know what the price in Canadian dollars is going to be for any given game or console.
BEING A GAMER IN CANADA IS SOCIALLY ACCEPTED
One of the great things about living in Canada is the world-famous Canadian niceness. No matter who you are, what you do, or where you’re from, you’re almost guaranteed to be treated better in Canada than in most other countries around the world. And this applies to being a gamer, too. While a lot of countries have stigmatized our hobby, Canada not only accepts gamers, but embraces video games as an important learning tool.
From social events to educational initiatives (such as the wonderful National Education Initiative, by the Canadian Gaming Association), rather than making pariahs out of gamers, Canada has seen the potential in video games and fully integrated gamers into every part of society.
ONLINE WASN’T AS EASY AS PLUG-N-PLAY
Even though I lived in Ontario, the most populated province in Canada, for most of my time there, the internet infrastructure wasn’t great. I mean, it was way better than it is here in Paraguay, but compared to the US and the UK, it was definitely lagging behind.
This isn’t a big issue when you’re doing Pokemon battles, but when you’re trying to get competitive in first-person shooters, the lack of extra bandwidth and the latency from the DSL system that was used right up until 2010 was killer. It wasn’t until 2012 or so that fiber internet started to really expand, and when I came back to Paraguay in 2015, my house in Calgary still had cable internet, with a “measly” 10mbps speed. Needless to say, I was cannon fodder in CS:GO.
THE CULTURAL MELTING POT MEANS YOU MEET GAMERS FROM ALL OVER
I’m from Paraguay, as I said, so one of the things I loved the most about being a gamer in Canada was meeting other gamers who were also from different countries. I remember once going to a library for a Pokemon tournament / release thing (celebrating the release of X/Y) and I don’t think I met two people from the same country that day.
Pakistan, India, Scotland, Canada, the US, Paraguay, Argentina, Chile… it was like the UN had organized a gaming event. I had as much fun talking to my new friends about their home countries, as I did battling them for Pokemon supremacy. I was playing with my battle team from Black 2 and I totally annihilated them, haha.
WOULD I CHANGE THE EXPERIENCE OF BEING A GAMER IN CANADA IN ANY WAY?
In a word: no. The prices suck sometimes, but they sure are better than what I’m paying here in Paraguay. And they’re adapted to what the income in Canada is, anyway. At any rate, I’m buying less games as I get older, and to be frank, free-to-play games are getting really good. They are no longer pay-to-win (or at least, not all of them).
What I loved the most about Canada was the friendliness and getting to know people from all over the place. I’m 100% sure that my life has been enriched the most by the experiences I shared with those with a very different background from mine.