Canada’s Video Game Industry
Interview with Jayson Hilchie
Jayson Hilchie is a Saint Mary’s alumni whose list of impressive achievements includes winning a gold medal for track, while at school, and, more recently, meeting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to talk business.
As the voice of Canada’s video game industry, Jayson has successfully, and happily, combined his passion for economic development (first ignited while studying Marketing at Saint Mary’s) and his love of video games and technology. He now travels, representing the industry as Head of the Entertainment Software Association of Canada.
We spoke with Jayson and learned how success at SMU, both on the track and in the classroom, has translated into success in his career.
Before we get into your current position as Head of the Entertainment Software Association of Canada, let’s start by asking, why did you choose Saint Mary’s?
I chose SMU for two main reasons. First, I wanted to stay in the province for school. I’m from a pretty small community just outside of Kentville, here in Nova Scotia, so one of the things that appealed to me about SMU was its size. It seems funny to say it now that I live in Toronto, but at the time, Halifax seemed like the big scary city to me. But SMU was a small, supportive school and community, in the heart of a bustling city. So it was sort of a nice transition and the best of both worlds.
And the other reason I chose SMU was their track and field program. I started to really excel in track in high school and when I started looking at universities in Nova Scotia, most didn’t even offer track and field as part of their athletics program.
Track played a big part in your decision to go to Saint Mary’s. Did it remain a big part of your life while at school?
Absolutely. I competed throughout my entire time at Saint Mary’s and I am proud to say I was the first gold medalist in the history of the SMU Track and Field program. I was also CIAU national champion in 60 meters and named Athlete of the Year. I also worked at The Tower – the SMU athletics centre – where I did things like set up for other sporting events. So yes, athletics at SMU was a big part of my life and that includes socially as well.
Okay, let’s talk academics. Specifically, is there one course or prof that you think played a big part in where you are today?
Without a doubt. One of my business profs, had a huge impact on my life. He worked really hard to make the classes fun and engaging, by bringing in interesting and respected speakers in their different business fields. It wasn’t just a dry “get out your text books” class. Another thing about Professor McHugh was that he was a basketball coach so he really understood and supported my commitment to and passion for both academics and sports and supported me in my efforts to excel at both. Years later, I’m happy to say, we still stay in touch and we’re actually friends on Facebook.
How did you end up combining your interest in economic development with video games?
At first I thought I wanted to go into advertising but, once again, a professor played a big part in my life by exposing me to many different forms of creative marketing and communications. I also enjoyed video games and became interested in the video game industry and how it could become a big employer in Nova Scotia. Those interests combined when I became Director of IT & Interactive Media at Nova Scotia Business Inc., during which time I led initiatives to grow the video game industry in Nova Scotia. One of the first businesses I helped bring to Halifax was Longtail Studios, now known as Ubisoft, a company with offices around the world. And from there I started on my path to where I am today.
And now you are the voice of the video game industry in Canada. Tell us about that.
Yes, I am the President & CEO of the Entertainment Software Association of Canada, which is the trade association that represents companies that develop, publish and distribute video games in Canada. This is actually a huge industry in Canada which employs over 20,000 people and contributes $3 billion to Canada’s GDP each year.
And in this role, you met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau?
Yes, I am the lead advocate for the industry with the federal government in Ottawa and have represented the industry in front of Prime Ministers, including Mr. Trudeau. I have also spoken with senior Cabinet Ministers as well as multiple Parliamentary committees.
Do you think your time at Saint Mary’s still has an influence in your life today?
Yes. When I was training for track, it was pretty intense between working out and competing and all the diet and sleep requirements that go along with it. It took focus. Interestingly, the busier my training program became, the more my grades improved. And I still apply that same focus that I learned at SMU, to my career today.