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'Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game' Q&A with Game Designer + Pixel Artist Jonathan Lavigne

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game Q&A with Jonathan Lavigne

Our Movies at MoPOP Grow Up! virtual film series returns at 6 p.m. PT this Thursday, December 17 with an online watchalong of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. To help build excitement for this week's event, MoPOP Production Associate Kasi Gaarenstroom caught up with game designer + pixel artist Jonathan Lavigne, co-founder of the Montréal-based independent game studio Tribute Games. Jonathan was in charge of game design for Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game and took a few moments to chat with Kasi about the game development process, favorite video game memories, MoPOP's Indie Game Revolution exhibition, and more!

How did you get involved with the making of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game?

Jonathan Lavigne: Before Scott Pilgrim, I had been working on Game Boy Advance games at Ubisoft. When the first Scott Pilgrim graphic novel came out in 2004, I was immediately hooked. I loved the art style and the humor. One of my colleagues (Justin Cyr) was even more invested than I was and emailed [Scott Pilgrim series creator] Bryan Lee O’Malley to ask if he'd be interested in making a game. I think he replied, but nothing happened because there wasn't enough interest within Ubisoft to produce a game about Scott Pilgrim and we had absolutely no decision power haha! That was back in 2004 or 2005 if I remember well. We were too early, way before the movie and all the hype. Time passed, the Game Boy Advance life cycle ended and in 2008, I left Ubisoft to start making indie games. A few months later, Justin calls me to help him work on something: a pitch for a Scott Pilgrim game at Ubisoft! Since there was now a movie being made, an Ubisoft IP manager who was a fan of the graphic novels made things move to obtain the license for a game. They wanted to make a 2D game, so they had to bring back the old Game Boy Advance team (or at least, a part of it). That's how I got involved!

What elements from the comic book did you know you had to include in the game?

Jonathan Lavigne: I don't think there was one specific thing we wanted to include, but we really wanted the Scott Pilgrim version of Toronto to be brought to life in the game. A lot of the locations that are in the comic books were fun to include as levels or as shops in the game.

What was the collaboration process like with Bryan Lee O’Malley and others who worked on the game? How did you all work together to make sure his beloved world translated to a video game?

Jonathan Lavigne: It was really great! Working with Bryan was awesome for me because we shared similar tastes for old video games. We quickly agreed that the game should be its own thing like the graphic novels or the movie, and not a direct adaptation. This guideline gave us a lot of creative freedom on the project. We often said that the game should be like it was made by some obscure game company of the 80s that's unfamiliar with the license and uses a lot of wonky video game logic. That said, we still wanted the game to be faithful to the spirit of Scott Pilgrim.

What were your first game memories that had a big impact on you? What pieces of media either books, movies or other video games, inspired you to get into game development?

Jonathan Lavigne: When I was a kid I thought that other kids who wanted to make games when they grow up were dumb because games were made in Japan, not Canada! Games always were my passion but I didn't know I'd end up making them someday. So I'm not exactly sure what happened. I think my first memory that had a big impact was playing Super Mario Bros. on NES for the first time at a friend's house when I was 5 or 6 years old. When I came back home I was so excited to tell my mom about it, I was freaking out and I was totally unintelligible!

We have our Indie Game Revolution exhibition at MoPOP, where we showcase the latest and greatest in game design. What games have you played or seen recently that you’re really excited about? Or are there any games you think deserve more hype?

Jonathan Lavigne: I'm ashamed to say that I've almost exclusively been playing Monster Hunter and retro games in the last couple years. There are still so many great classic games I'm discovering! However, concerning indie games specifically, I've been very excited by Ex-Zodiac by Ben Hickling and Pixeljam. I love the original Star Fox on SNES and Ex-Zodiac seems to pay an awesome tribute to it. It's currently in Early Access on Steam and I can't wait to play the game in its finished form.

To you, what aspects are important for a fun and successful video game?

Jonathan Lavigne: It's going to sound cliché, but I really believe in making what you love, i.e. what you enjoy playing yourself. There's no better benchmark because if it's not fun for yourself how can it be fun for someone else? However, if you're asking for one specific aspect of what makes a game fun and satisfying to play, to me, it's the feeling of accomplishment it can give you.

Finally, does Tribute Games have anything exciting coming up? Where can we follow you and Tribute Games for updates?

Jonathan Lavigne: We do, but it's still top secret unfortunately. You can follow us on Twitter @TributeGames

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About the author

Kasi is a climate worrier, sitcom fan and the MoPOP Production Associate.

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