Game Design Portfolio

O Canada! – Leaving the UK and my first week Owt & Aboot

Category : Uncategorized · No Comments · by Mar 5th, 2015

Hello! Why aren’t you looking lovely today, pull up a chair and I’ll tell you an extraordinary tale…

No see this handsome chap?

(insert profile pic)

That’s little ol me. Well was me before I decided to pack it in the UK and move to the glorious land of Canada! (all rise for the national anthem). All done? Good! We’ve no time to waste and a lot of ground to cover.

First a bit of Q&A:

Aaron, what you’re doing is fantastic! Why have you decided to take this bold, courageous step in your life?

Excellent question!

So as many of you know, I make my living as a games designer. I’ve worked for a range of companies from micro studios on mobile titles, to established devs on big budget AAA titles (Elite Dangerous anyone?).

I. freaking. LOVE this job.

I love working on games, creating some content and watching people react to it,  seeing a game on the shelves afterwards, even arguing (constructively brainstorming) with programmers and artist about my designs and why they’re the best thing since sliced toast. If I’m passionate about anything it’s video games. I honestly can’t imagine doing anything else with my careerer (Future Aaron – You’d better be reading this from the top of your tower of “Game of the Year” awards!).

Now lets rewind into the mind of “Past Aaron” for a little bit (a scary place). Now Frontier had just released Elite, work was winding down on the project after a massive post Christmas sprint the next game on the horizon was a bit up in the air. Now seemed like the perfect time to do something young and stupid, while I’m still young and stupid (or smart) enough to do it! Now Canada’s had a bit of a boom of late with new games studios poping up and the big players, Ubisoft, Capcom, EA, Biowars, Rockstar etc expanding in a big way (*Cough* oh look, here’s my Resume!). Something to do with tax breaks, yada yada, THAT’S NOT IMPORTANT. What IS important is that after a bit of research I found out i could apply for a young persons visa to work in good ol Canada for up to a year. This seemed to match up pretty nicely and the time felt right to leave Frontier on good terms, after a big successful project before work kicked off on the next title!

That sounds very wise Aaron! But what exactly are you going to do in Canada before you eventually land the Job of your dreams?

I’m glad you asked that!

Now I was worried about this myself. On the one hand I wanted to have free time to search for jobs, do a bit of travelling and work on my portfolio. And on the other hand….

So for a while I was stuck between being kept up in a room on a tight budget, or finding a survival job 9-5 and probably being to tired / not have enough time to do any proper job hunting, portfolio work or travel. Plus the idea of living alone and not having someone to talk to about all my excellent game ideas seemed a but rubbish. All hope seemed lost…

Then, Hark! I found my answer! Wwoofing (Now I know what you’re thinking, no that’s dogging. No that’s not how I’m making a living now, STOP ASKING)

Wwoofing which I learned about  from the excellent Katie Rand (who has her own blog if you think New Zealand’s cooler than Canada…) Wwoofing is a scheme where you basically work on a farm helping out with chores and in return they put you up, feed you and teach you how to do a whole bunch of cool stuff! This. This was exactly what I wanted. I get to travel to different parts of Canada, it gives me a bit of structure, lets me meet the locals and get an insight into proper Canadians and learn some new stuff (I’m now Aaron the horse whisperer, but we’ll get to that!).

So fast forward to me actually leaving (after my gazillion leaving parties). This is where I’m gonna ramble on about my adventures in Canada.

And so, Aaron left England for the icy tundra of Canada! Just him and his trusty backpack 3B, (he’s big, he’s black and a bastard to carry). Aaron having not slept for several days wanted to have a nice nap on the flight, HOWEVER the opportunity was too good to pass up. I was sat next to genuine Canadians who were happy to have a natter about what to do and see, but better yet the guy was called Aaron! (pronounced right too).

(insert pic of diver’s licence)

A good omen.

After I landed I was finally in Canadia I breezed through the immigration office (despite some docs being a bit out of date!) and I was off! The first thing that struck me was the cold. Like, I mean literally stuck me! Walking out the airport into -20 was like getting hit by a slush puppie truck. But I overcame and went on my way to Toronto!

After expertly navigating the underground and trams, I got to the AirBnB place I was staying, dropped off 3B and went for a wonder!

(pic of me in hat)

Did I mention it was cold?

Toronto is cool. Everything has a big city feel to it but it isn’t to imposing or busy, There’s not that many people there compared to somewhere like London and it’s pretty easy to walk everywhere.

Things an Englishman notices about Toronto / Canada.

  • Tim Hortons (think super cheap starbucks) are freaking everywhere! It’s like a religion.
  • Jesus Christ it’s cold
  • Everyone really IS super friendly
  • Trams make no sense. How are do they work? What’s a transfer ticket? Why? How?
  • You guys take shopping malls VERY seriously
  • You don’t have a 1 cent coin… THANKS FOR LETTING ME KNOW
  • Road salt gets everywhere
  • The US does this too, but why god why is tax added on after?! Rather than something actually being $1 (oh that’s an easy amount, I’ll just give you my $1 coin) it’s like $1.13 (oh good! I needed more change.
  • Snow makes everything look awesome
  • You’ve got loads of great geeky / comic / boardgame stores
  • Only 1 of you thought I was Australian! You did well
  • People say “Right on” a lot

So I wondered around the city, then went back to crash. The host I was staying with was an awesome guy, gave me a whole list of things to tackle the next day.

And that’s what I did! I was an Ultra tourist. Checked out the National Ontario Museum (man that place is freaking huge)


Learnt a lot about Canadian history (what what I gathered, it’s Britain’s fault again)

Went up the CN tower (was…. ehh ok. For $30 I couldn’t help feel a bit ripped)


Don’t get me wrong, the view was awesome but there’s not actually much to do apart from have a gander. And it was was to cold to stay out on the viewing platform for too long.

Saw all sorts in the aquarium.


Sharks are awesome.

Sorted myself out with a Canadian phone (my god that was an ordeal) and explored a bit of the nightlife! Wondered into a comedy club which was something! One guy was UNCOMFORTABLY LOUD and I couldn’t get through the other’s ascent. Cool to see though, nowhere near as bad as the Merica comedy shows!

The next day it was time for me and 3B to say goodbye to the big city and head off into the farmland! In classic Aaron style I was late getting to the station and had to run with 100000 tones strapped to my back for the train! … I say train… Canadian trains are weird!


I got to the City of Hamilton (south of Toronto and round the other side of lake Ontario) where I said I’d meet my first Wwoofing host! After getting dropped off at the bus station and meeting my first grumpy Canadian (the bus driver), I got horribly lost again and had to get the help of some kids (students) to help me find the fabled Starbucks where I was supposed to be meeting.

After an hour of waiting and going “Don’t be a serial killer, please don’t be a serial killer” in my head, my first host Jenna arrived….. Not a serial Killer, YES!

More than that I think Jenna’s one of the friendliest people I’ve ever met. Got back to their place in the middle of nowhere and set me up in the spare room. Made me feel totally welcome straight away and her partner Tom used to own a restaurant and is an awesome cook! After food she took me down to meet the horses. 4 of them, Miro, Pooky, Lady and Bella. Oh, AND they had all the dogs + a cat. Lots of tummies were rubbed.

Over the next 2 weeks, I’d wake up at 8 ish, have a hearty breakfast and go sort out the barn chores for a few hours until about midday. There’s normally a few extra bits and bobs in the afternoon but all in all the hours were pretty good and it let me settle into Canada pretty nicely as they’re both super laid back. Jenna also sorted me out with some allergy meds (she’s a nurse practitioner) as well and is helping me get tested to see what I’m so bloody allergic too all of a sudden, which is super lucky and a massive weight off my mind!

Things Aaron learnt working on a horse farm:

  • Horses are freaking massive! And can just, end you if they feel like it
  • Horses poop a lot, like… a lot. And hid it!
  • Chickens are sneaky buggers always escaping
  • Ploughing snow with the tractor is super satisfying
  • “You can’t push the river” If something’s out of your hands, don’t sweat it.
  • Do things properly or you’ll just make more work for yourself!
    • Like past Aaron not emptying the hose so it freezes the next day
    • Or sweeping up first then running around making a mess so you’ve gotta sweep again!
    • Spilling water, then it freezes because it’s -100000 degrees outside and you’ve gotta pick at it with a shovel
    • You get the idea

One of the best things about this farm is Sam.


This magnificent beast is a Husky crossed with a freaking WOLF! Every morning he’s bark his head off at me and stare me down with his wolf eyes. Hmmm, make friends with the wolf? CHALANGE ACCEPTED! Every day I’d make a point of going over and making a fuss of him. Now 2 weeks later the other dogs start barking and Sam’s all like “HEY! Shut up guys, that’s Aaron. I licked his face… He checks out”

I got some time off in between farm work too and I got to borrow the car to explore around! When I was done getting lost all the freaking time (roads are like 100000 miles long with rubbish signs! Doesn’t help that everything is white as well) I went to Niagra falls!


Was truly amazing, just so loud and so much water! Also amazing was the amount of people with selfe sticks…. (He says being jealous). There’s loads of cheesy attractions in the town too which I’m not gonna pay to go in, but they’re cool to see!

(pic of attractions)

There’s a town called Niagra on the lake that’s got a load of old British style buildings, pubs and shops! Was… weird. Felt like I was in a spot the difference where I know something’s a bit off but I can’t tell what. Had some fish and chips in ye olde English pub. Was good but again there’s that British magic missing. NICE TRY CANADA!


Explored around Hamilton which is pretty similar to poole. Did some ice skating by the lakeside.


Was super smooth as well, Canadians don’t mess about when it comes to skating! Speaking of which….

(pic of hokey)

Went to see a Hamelton Bulldogs game, “GO DOGS GO!” … We lost. But bloody hell is hokey brutal! They didn’t disappoint, loads of wall slams, broken sticks and a few fist fights. It’s amazing that you can punch someone in the face and get away with a “Naughty naughty!” from the ref.

Did some wilderness exploring, off the beaten track. Some cool forest hikes to do and frozen waterfalls to see.

(pic of balls falls)

All in all the last 2 weeks have been pretty awesome. Learnt a lot about farm life, handling horses (they’ll boss you around if you let them! Especially Miro… That guy) and getting used to Canadia. Jenna and Tom have been amazing to stay with, couldn’t have hopped for better hosts to start me off! Plus it’s getting warmer, 9 degrees today which is crazy!

Kinda lost track of the Job hunt, but between the rubbish internet and just arriving and settling in, I’m letting myself off! Next week for sure :)

Next up, Kitchener and the next farm!