Board games don’t want to be toy stories anymore

Quebec board game retailers are preparing to form a united front so that the Office québécois de la langue française (OQLF) recognizes board games as cultural products.

This form of recognition will allow merchants to sell board games in their English version without incurring the wrath of the OQLF. Currently, the list of statutory cultural products includes books, magazines, discs and films, as well as greeting cards, diaries and even calendars.

Board games, they do not have subscribers. An exception challenged by several retailers, notably L’Imaginaire de Sainte-Foy, which displays several thousand different games on its shelves.

“We sell a package Funny Books only ones that aren’t translated into English or manga and don’t cause any problems for Office. And when he comes to the games, he asks us to sell the product in French. »

Last March, OQLF visited L’Imaginaire, a company with more than 50 employees, to ensure compliance with the charter and support it in developing a franchising program. The inspector noted several violations of the statute.

“We’ve seen games being offered in English without the French version being released. It’s not appropriate,” he wrote in an email specifically consulted by the inspector general Position.

Anthony Doyon, director of operations at L’Imaginaire, explains that in many cases the board games are simply not available in the French version. “A game comes out first in English, and if sales are good and there’s some enthusiasm, someone will buy the rights and decide to translate it into French. This translation, emphasizes Mr. Doyo, may be delayed by two or three years.

The statute also requires that a French-language game must never be sold for more than its English-language version. Oftentimes, Anthony Doyon explains, translation costs, smaller-scale production and rights acquisition costs add up to the cost of French-language games, sometimes by tens of dollars.

“We will have to sell our English games at a loss or raise prices to comply with the law. If we don’t want to push our customers into the arms of our competitors, this last option is not one to go and spend their money elsewhere in Quebec,” said the director.

“There is no solution and we find ourselves in an impasse,” he continues. Either I don’t sell the game in English and my customers will buy it on Amazon or in Ontario, or I translate it, because I don’t have the rights, so it’s still not possible, or I continue to sell it, and I’m out of the law. »

He chooses the third way, the way of becoming a criminal. “We have no intention of complying,” Mr. Doyon said. We will fight and try to unite with other traders and suppliers to express our opinion in a letter to the Deputy Minister. »

He hopes the game is worth the effort. “If we deviate from the punishment, OQLF rule, we will not be entitled to receive any subsidy from the government.” Subsidies saved us a bit during the pandemic: losing them definitely worries us. »

However, he believes that Quebec should stop treating games as mere toys. “That’s the problem for me. A board game is a cultural product: there are hired artists to illustrate them, the scenarios often show historical research, there is a lot of work to create the universe, says Anthony Doyon. It is not a consumer product like a toy: behind the game there is a really great work of art.”

Between 35% and 40% of the games offered at L’Imaginaire are in English only. “They make up about 15% of our sales,” Mr. Doyon said. We are not against the defense of the French, on the contrary. I think the OQLF should attack the biggest retailer before they attack us. Not to mention, Amazon has the same problem as us, and it only sells games in English. But whenever he opens a warehouse here, the subsidies never fail. »

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