All posts by Odette Jacquet

Odette Jacquet

About Odette Jacquet

I'm AE's jack-of-all-trades marketer. I'm a part of everything from social media to analytics to sales. My passions include videography, the arts, and growing food.

Summarizing the past 20 months working as a Precision Marketer at AE is….really challenging.

Do I talk about the amazing work culture and values fostered by AE? The welcoming, quirky, and hard-working team? Or the way the job itself has transformed since I first started?

After jotting down my favourite memories of working at AE, I knew what I wanted to share…

Here are the 5 parts of being a Precision Marketer that I loved the most!

Building Up The Site

Before starting at AE, I had never used WordPress. (I know, how did I even get the job, right?!)

If you have any experience using WordPress you know it can be like wandering through a labyrinth trying to rescue your baby brother from David Bowie…

From conception to birth, building out a page is quite the process. You brainstorm a page idea with the team, create a wireframe, build it out on WordPress, write the copy, design the graphics, make endless tweaks, and BOOM! There’s a gorgeous new piece of marketing magic for the whole world to see. The length of the process is part of what makes it so rewarding.

Because of how frustrating WordPress was to learn, I am even more chuffed about how far I’ve come. I’m so grateful to have learned this skill and I can say with confidence that I am now a (semi) proficient web page creator!

Creating Video Content

When I started at AE, we had a problem. People knew of AE, but very few could explain in a sentence what it actually did. I was tasked to help solve this problem, by creating an explainer video.

I love video. I love how fun it is to watch and how it can effortlessly get an idea across when used effectively. There’s something you just can’t capture with words…and video has got it.

After getting the green light on my script and overall concept, I raced into the groovy world of video. There were a million things I needed to know, so I researched everything from lighting to how to build a stop motion rig to camera settings.

Then Jeff and Annabel left for a 4 week vacation to Australia and it was just me and the camera left to battle it out…

Despite the moments of panic and despair – I got it done! My mantra was just keep trying, and it worked. The finished product wasn’t perfect, but I think it helped a lot of people to understand AE better.

I made many more videos after that first one, including ones for help docs, email campaigns, ad promos, PR, and sales. It was a blast and I loved every minute!

 

Writing With Pizzazz

Working on AE’s Marketing team has given me a lot of opportunity to write. And not the often boring, long form reports that I had to write for business school. At AE, our brand is fun, authentic, and quirky – just like me! So whether I was writing a social media post or a help doc, I could always inject a little personality.

Now I feel like all around stronger writer. I know how to communicate big ideas in a few words, and how to be fun and professional at the same time. 

Here are a few things I’ve learned:

  • Writing is the perfect activity for Deep Work. Close out your tabs and apps, put on some tunes and go fullscreen. Ahhhh the perfect blank canvas.
  • Avoid cliches and expressions. Okay, I still suck at this, but I’m learning! Now I always ask myself, is there a more original way that I could say this?
  • You have to make humans and computers happy with your content. This means not sacrificing readability for those extra keywords, but also realizing the power of SEO. This article has been bringing in 1000+ people to our site since being published.
  • Always make your links open into another tab. Always. 
  • Turn off your self-editor when starting a writing project. It’s better to get your rough ideas on paper and edit later – we call it a “vomit draft.” The next day when you open up the document, it’s so easy to see what edits need to be made.

Strengthening AE’s Culture

One of the many great things about working at a startup is how you get to wear many hats. I loved being able to do a bit of “People Ops” work while being on AE’s Marketing team.

I helped to organize our monthly games nights at KWENCH (our co-working office space), birthday and onboarding lunches for team members, quarterly “field trips” (like axe throwing and watching Star Wars in 3D), and our end of the year holiday party. 

I also got to help re-vision our company values and start initiatives like our “Vole of the Month.” (Once a month a team member gets nominated based on how they are living our values. They are the Vole of the Month!) I got to work on the internal communications around that, facilitate the process every month, and create this little award trophy:

The rainbow vole award
Voles show remarkable empathy for one another – a trait previously linked solely to large-brained animals.

AE is a company that puts a lot of effort into having an awesome workplace culture. (Check out all the fun things we do together on Instagram!) At the end of the day,  AE sees its employees as people first, who want to be themselves and enjoy being at work.

Visioning For Our Growth

Every fall, we get the whole team together for our Strategy Days. It’s two full days of team building and strategy assessment where we get a chance to look at the full AE picture.

While some employees might roll their eyes and think, “When can I get back to my real work?”, I thrive off this stuff.

I love stepping back from the day-to-day and seeing what is working – and what isn’t. Then following up with meaningful and rapid action on those discoveries. For me, this meant working with the Marketing team to craft our plan for the year. It’s probably one of the few times a year where I actually love working with spreadsheets!

It’s fun to engage with your team in ways you might not be used to. We did the classic Spaghetti Tower challenge as well as a unique Tinkertoy building challenge. Secrets out: I can be pretty dang competitive!

AE strategy days spaghetti tower
Teams were challenged to create the tallest towers with only a paper bag, tape, spaghetti, a marshmallow, and a set amount of time…

Overall, it was an amazing experience to work so closely with the founders of a succesful startup and to have my perspective be acknowledged and acted on.

There are two things I know for certain.

First, that I will miss the team greatly. While I am excited about my upcoming adventures, I know it will be hard to stop wondering what’s going on at AE…Are Jenn and Jeff still representing the team at HIIT every week? Are Grant’s younglings finally sleeping through the night? What did the team play at the last Games Night? Did we sign on any new customers? Thank goodness for social media.

Second, that I will carry the memories and skills I picked up at AE, forever. I already know that it was a pivotal experience in my career and I am immensely grateful. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Every month at the AE offices, we choose our Pop Culture Picks. It could be an album, a band, a book, a movie, a TV show, a podcast, or anything else we enjoyed over the previous 30 days. Keep scrolling to find out what caught our attention this month!

Annabel’s Pick

Annabel's pop culture pick is the great pottery throw down
Annabel Youens, CMO & Co-Founder

The Great Pottery Throw Down

In Short: There’s a reality TV show for everyone in 2020. This one is somehow exciting and soothing at the same time…

Anyone who reads my PCPs knows I have a love of British reality shows, so here’s my recent discovery thanks to my mum: The Great Pottery Throw Down.

I’ve never thrown clay on a wheel. And I don’t have any experience with pottery beyond visiting one of those paint your own ceramics stores, oh and okay the movie Ghost.

This show is not like either of those! Each week the contestants have a major build to complete like a fireplace mantle made of tiles, a working clock or a light fixture. While a lot of American reality shows build drama around the interpersonal conflicts of the contestants the Great British Throwdown uses the kiln! You never know what happens during the firing. Will the statue crack? Has the glaze been wiped properly from the base of the vase? And while it sounds a bit twee when I write it down it’s pretty exciting and nerve racking for the contestants.

There’s also a technical challenge each episode where one of the judges, and master potter, Keith Brymer shows a specific technique, like how to throw a long necked jug. The contestants will be asked to do the same item in a very short amount of time. It’s a lot of pressure and those fingers, knuckles and arms are working really hard.

I now look at the ceramics in my life very differently after watching this series. Did they slab build that statue? Did they use a coil technique for this bowl? Was that candlestick thrown on the wheel?

If you love watching people be creative or are interested in trying your hand at pottery give the show a watch. You might just sign up for a local pottery class…

Watch the first episode here.

Jason’s Pick

Jason's pop culture pick is the long kiss goodnight
Jason Scriven, Head of Enterprise Sales

The Long Kiss Goodnight

In Short:  The Long Kiss Goodnight is a movie from 1996 about a typical mom who bakes cookies and volunteers in the PTA who discovers that she was an assassin in a previous life.  Bad guys show up to kill her and the chase is on.

Geena Davis stars as the mom/assassin and is great as both.  The movie is directed by her husband Renny Harlin who also directed Die Hard 2, Cliffhanger and Deep Blue Sea, so the action scenes are fun and unique with plenty of stuff blowing up.

Writer Shane Black (Lethal Weapon, Iron Man 3, Predator) brings smart dialog that crackles when in the hands of co-stars Samuel L Jackson and Brian Cox.  Cox is her formal handler and encourages her to quit the PTA and get back in the assassin game. Jackson is a private detective hired by Davis’ character to find out who she was prior to being “amnesia chick”.

The scene where Davis reverts to her assassin alter ego and Jackson comes to grips with her new persona is set to “She’s Not There” and “Lady Marmalade.” It’s a classic mix of music and dialog that reflects the fun in this movie.

Jenn’s Pick

Jenn's pop culture pic is shelter point distillery
Jennifer Paul, Intermediate Developer

Shelter Point Distillery

TL:DR; Jenn recommends this local distillery for their award-winning whiskies (they also have gin and vodka, if you like that).

A few years ago I joined a club in town called WhiskyDev, which has been tons of fun. We meet once every few months and one of the founders leads a whisky tasting for us developers. The tastings are different every time, with themes varying between specific distilleries, regions of Scotland, bourbon, whisky+cheese, and more. This month the theme was a specific distillery which was Shelter Point Distillery which is based out of Oyster River right here on Vancouver Island!

The tasting was led by Jacob who regaled everyone all night with the best stories about the distillery and how it is run. It was all told from his perspective, which is that they bought the land as farmers and found that whisky is the most profitable use of the land. We learned all about how their 5 employees do everything from growing the barley to distilling, selling, and tastings/tours. It was refreshing to get this different perspective and also enjoy all the whiskies at the same time.

The whiskies themselves were a pleasant experience – the ones we tried were cask strength and so were all quite strong (50%-60% ABV). Yet, surprisingly, they were all smooth. My favourites were the Single Cask Rye which was an ingenious rye finished in American Oak barrels, and the Artisanal Cask Strength whisky, which tasted like a hint of chocolate to me. If you ever get the chance to buy a bottle or visit the distillery for a tasting, I highly recommend Shelter Point!

Grant’s Pick

Grant's pop culture pick is the band Lawrence
Grant Spychka, Head of Customer Success

Lawrence 

TL:DR; Brother/sister duo Clyde and Gracie front soul-pop band Lawrence (also their family name). Some of my favourite modern soul music in years, with a healthy dose of pop mixed in to make it even more accessible. New single “The Weather” is out now!

For the past couple weeks I’ve been pulled back into the catalogue of New York-based brother/sister soul-pop duo, Lawrence, ever since their newest single (“The Weather“) popped up in my Spotify. The new track is a beautifully stripped-down take on their normally driving modern soul style, with Gracie’s voice taking the lead over subdued piano, guitar, and strings. It’s a perfect showcase of her almost effortless melodies and breath control, while still being a shining example of their talent as composers.

And while I think that everyone should listen to “The Weather”, I’d be doing a disservice not to mention a few other choice tracks. For something a bit poppier, “It’s Not All About You” delivers a keys-heavy main riff with a punchy horn section, while Clyde and Gracie trade lines about terrible dates. “Do You Wanna Do Nothing With Me?” has deeper roots in soul and funk, with the main hook delivered by the horn section and perfectly synced bass and drums. Plus, who doesn’t like a good love song about eating Pad Thai and watching HBO? Finally, “Come On, Brother” offers an alternative to their other more upbeat songs, with Clyde’s slightly gritty but smooth vocals over a simple clean guitar. It’s a beautiful song about the love between him and his younger brother, and how when he went off to school the only thing that could make them both feel better about being apart was writing a song. It’s also a pretty special track as it features the three siblings singing together on backing vocals.

If you’re looking for a polished soul-pop experience then I highly recommend you check out Lawrence’s entire discography. There’s a bit of something for everyone regardless of your personal musical tastes.

Odette’s Pick

Odette's pop culture pick is oat milk
Odette Jacquet, Precision Marketer

Oat Milk 

In Short: Oat milk makes the best lattes. Seriously, try it!

Global panic related to COVID-19, aka the coronavirus, has led to the US stock market plunging, hand sanitizer shortages, and a 300%+ increase in the sales of oat milk. 

Shelf-stable staples are flying off the shelves with everyone and their bunker preparing for the worst.

….But of all the plant-based milks, why oat?

Oat milk is blowing up. Between 2017-19, oat milk sales increased 10-fold in the US. Global sales of plant milks, including oat milk, were US$1.6 billion in 2018, with a forecast of $41 billion by 2025.

Oat milk is more environmentally-friendly than cows milk and many other plant-based options. Oat milk production requires 15 times less water than dairy milk and 8 times less than almond milk. It is also the more compassionate choice. US dairy cows face significant trauma including overproduction of milk, restrictive housing, and poor nutrition.

Lastly, it just tastes really great. Unlike many other non-dairy milks, it has a neutral flavor and, thanks to the high carbohydrate content of oats, it is naturally sweet. Nutritionally, it has more protein and fiber than almond milk, and, when fortified, is comparable to cow’s milk. 

So where did this magical milk come from?

Oat milk was invented in 1990 by the Swedish scientist Rickard Öste. He wanted to create a milk alternative that was sustainable and suitable for lactose intolerants. Öste later founded, Oatly, which is still among the world’s greatest manufacturers of oat milk.

Making oat milk isn’t too different from other non-dairy milks. You take oats and grind them up with water, creating a thick slurry. Enzymes and heat help to extract nutrients from the oat solids and then the concoction is strained. Lastly, emulsifiers, sugar, salt, vitamins, and/or flavours are added and the final product is homogenized and pasteurized. (Intrigued? You can nerd out here & here.)

You can get pretty much anything made from oats these days, including oat yogurt, ice cream, creme fraiche, and spreads. It’s now a common sub offered at major coffee shops and the preferred non-dairy milk of many baristas due to it’s amazing frothability.

If you haven’t tried this milk yet, you really oat to. I have a feeling it’s here to stay, unlike our dear friend COVID-19.

Groove Productions is a major American record label owned by Transamerica Music Group. Founded in 1977 in Los Angeles, Groove fostered an authentic and honest brand voice from the start.

(***This use case describes the real-world problems of a fictional company.)

With the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) going into effect this year, Groove knew they needed to reassess their data management strategy. There was a huge opportunity here to show their customers they were a brand to be trusted.

Plus there were some major issues cropping up:

  • They were getting flooded with emails from customers wanting to know how their data was being collected and used.
  • They had fans requesting their data be completely removed from their systems.
  • Their team was stretched trying to keep up with emails and respond within the time required by CCPA regulations.

Groove needed a solution that helped them be compliant with data regulations and let them focus on what they did best, supporting artists to release incredible music.

Here’s what they did.

Groove started by setting up a Privacy Center with AE. They were already using AE as an access management and customer insights tool, so it only took a few clicks. The best part? It didn’t cost anything extra as the AE Privacy Center is included in all Enterprise plans.

From there it was even more straightforward. When a customer requested information about their personal data, Groove simply sent them a link to their branded Privacy Center. That’s it.

Finally, customers were empowered to view, manage, and delete their own data. The team at Groove was saving hundreds of hours on data management and didn’t have to worry anymore about being CCPA compliant.

Being so transparent was a little nerve-wracking at first. What if everyone deleted their data and it impacted their ability to provide hyper-personalized marketing? Spoiler: that didn’t happen.

In the end, customers were incredibly grateful for such a progressive tool and made it loud and clear online. Groove’s brand image was stronger than ever.

It was an easy win for Groove and their fans. Now back to making sweet, sweet music.


 

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There are a lot of games out there, and we have definitely not tried them all.

That being said, there are quite a few video game lovers on the AE team. And, over the years, quite a few video game reviews have been included in our monthly Pop Culture Picks.

Which is why we created this list of our Top 10 Video Games – specifically for gaming consoles like PS4, Nintendo Switch, and Wii.

Keep scrolling to discover our favourite video games – and why we loved them!

Gris video game

Gris 

TL;DR: If you are looking for a quick game, that is easy on the eyes, relatively relaxing, and fun to explore, check this out!

Gris is a side-scrolling platformer that is short and not overly difficult but is still quite engaging due to its story and aesthetic.

You play as a young woman, who must work to restore color to the world after a cataclysmic event leaves it grey and shadowy. The art style is amazing and makes it feel as if you are playing a beautiful illustration. There is no dialogue, but the story is easy to follow due to the quality of the animation.

All of the above made this the perfect game to play with my 6-year-old daughter Ada and that made the experience even more enjoyable for me. She was very engaged in the story and loved the music. She would watch me play and often give me advice on where to go or how to reach a goal.

The game mechanics were simple enough that my daughter was able to pick up the controls herself and move around the landscape. I loved watching her celebrate as she made a difficult jump or helped to bring a colour back into the world.

As you progress through, restoring more colors, the game becomes more and more vibrant which reinforces the sense of making an impact.

If you are looking for a quick game, that is easy on the eyes, relatively relaxing, and fun to explore, check this out. It’s also a great game to play as a family or with younger children.

pokemon sword and shield

Pokemon Sword & Pokemon Shield 

TL;DR: Best entry to the Pokemon game franchise to date, but perhaps not the complete overhaul that many (myself included) were hoping for.

The latest entries in the much-loved Pokemon game franchise, Pokemon Sword & Pokemon Shield are the first mainline games released on a Nintendo home console. Until this point the games have always appeared on Nintendo’s handheld consoles. Now, as both a handheld and “proper” console on the Nintendo Switch, it is a perfect fit for this generation.

Both games have been upgraded and slightly modernized, thanks to higher processing power producers, GameFreak. The main new addition is a free-roaming “wild zone” for the player to catch wild Pokemon – previously gamers had been limited to linear paths between cities to catch Pokemon, although these are still here as well. The other main addition is the ability to set up camp: a largely superfluous but fun feature that lets you cook meals and play with your Pokemon to create bonds and level them up.

Despite these changes, Sword & Shield still feel like an extremely familiar addition to the series. This is both a good and a bad thing. Fans of the series will have no trouble picking up and playing immediately, but it would’ve been nice to see the new hardware push the series into a completely new chapter. Last year’s Pokemon Let’s Go Evee and Pikachu games (remakes of the original Gameboy Red / Blue / Yellow entries) play remarkably similarly despite their base material dating way back to 1998.

Despite the lack of a total makeover, Sword & Shield are still a huge amount of fun and are undoubtedly the best entries in the series to date. Suitable for both newbies and long-time fans, there’s nothing quite as much fun as a good Pokemon game.

the outer worlds video game

The Outer Worlds

TL;DR: Obsidian, the game developers behind the original Fallout and Fallout: New Vegas, is back with what can be best described as New Vegas in space!  

This is the Fallout game that fans have been asking for for years, but in a new galaxy with a variety of beautiful environments to explore. The idea is that this galaxy has been taken over by a number of mega-corporations, all of whom have established their own branded colonies on each planet. You play as a character who is awoken from cryo by a total stranger after your ship has a mysterious accident, only to be thrown down onto a foreign planet to fend for yourself.

What I love about this game is that it gives you a chance to be whoever you want in a weird, backwards world. I’m personally a low-level ex-bureaucrat who is highly skilled in persuasion, charm, and one-handed weapons. But you could also be a janitor who excels at melee, lying, and sneaking around!

The game is just ridiculous, over the top, funny, and gorgeous to look at. If you’ve ever enjoyed a Fallout game and want to expand your horizons, go get The Outer Worlds.

fire emblem: three houses video game

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

TL;DR: An RPG with a fun strategy and an excellent introduction to the Fire Emblem series.

The Fire Emblem series has been going for a long time: the first release in English was back on the Game Boy Advance in 2002, but within Japan, the series stretches way back to the original NES.

This game is my first experience with the series – while I love JRPGs in general, Fire Emblem is a tactical RPG – meaning the battles are fought Risk-like on a battlefield with various units etc. – something that never hugely appealed to me.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses is a little different from previous games in the series in that it introduces a school mechanic. Think Hogwarts meets the Persona series: you’re a teacher at the school whose lessons help to improve your student’s stats in battle.

It’s a fun little twist and much to my surprise I found myself really enjoying the strategy elements as a result. There’s also a whole lot of fun to be had getting to know the characters. Further, choosing one of the three titular school houses to align with gives the game a lot of replayability. It’s also given me the incentive to go back and explore previous games in the franchise as I’m having such an enjoyable time with this one.

moonlighter video game

Moonlighter 

TL;DR: Moonlighter is an Action RPG done in a pixel art style reminiscent of early console games (e.g. NES). You play Will, a shopkeeper by day and dungeon crawling hero by night.

There are two sides to playing Moonlighter, both equally engaging. The first is the classic “rogue-lite” gameplay of fighting dungeon denizens as you make your way deeper down, collecting loot, and eventually battling the big boss of the dungeon. Second is running your shop in the village and selling the loot you acquire on your dungeon journeys.

The dungeon crawling is fun as you move from room to room, dodging and weaving and striking as you clear enemies. As loot drops, your bag fills up pretty quickly. You then need to start making some hard decisions.

Do you drop some items you think are of lesser value, replacing them with rarer finds as you continue to push further down where there are even more valuable goodies, or do you use your special trinket (costing some coin) to portal your way out back to the safety of your shop to sell your hard-earned wares? If you are too greedy, push too far and eventually fall at the hands (or tentacles, etc) of the enemies then you lose (almost) everything you just acquired. This “push your luck” element really adds a nice adrenaline boost to your dungeon adventure.

The shopkeeper aspect is also great. It is necessary to fund your adventures, but also a game in itself. In order to maximize profits, you need to use supply and demand to your advantage. The trick is to find that perfect price point by paying close attention to customer reactions!

As customers wander your shop, they bring their items to the counter. As shop keeper, you have to ring up the sale within a certain time- or lose the sale and the item! Furthermore, some shoplifters will prowl around looking to nab something and run, forcing you to tackle them to retrieve your goods.

All this creates a chaotic, vibrant shop scenario where you bustling around handling sales, stocking shelves, and keeping your eyes open for ne’er-do-wells looking to run out with an expensive goody.

Overall, it’s a great game.  I love how easy it is to jump back in where you left off. Despite how casual it feels, there is a lot of depth within the game and play time required to advance. Available on a number of platforms, I highly recommend you give it a try!

octopath traveller video game

Octopath Traveller 

TLDR; Classic JRPG action with unique graphics and 8 separate characters for you to try on and explore.

The Nintendo Switch is basically the perfect machine for JRPGs – play on the go, level up your characters, plug it in on the big screen, and continue your adventures. Octopath Traveller is a Switch exclusive from the folks that put out the Bravely Default games on the 3Ds (also well worth checking out if you’re a fan of the genre).

The game takes its name from the 8 different characters available for you to control, each with their own separate adventure within the game world. The most striking thing about the game is its unique graphical style – 2 dimensional character sprites on a 3D background – and it looks fantastic. Gameplay is pretty standard for a classic style JRPG, with an excellent battle system. Each of the eight characters has their own unique abilities in both battles and while adventuring, which provides plenty of reasons for exploration.

If I have one criticism, it’s that the story and missions can be a bit generic. But that’s to be expected with the complexity of maintaining 8 separate character arcs. With so much going on there is plenty to keep you entertained in this lovingly crafted retro-JRPG.

ys viii video game

YS VIII

TL:DR; Lightweight action JRPG with a difference.

This one’s been out for a while on various systems (PS4, PS Vita, Steam) but it’s reasonably new to the Switch, my preferred console for Japanese role-playing games (JRPG). The Ys series (pronounced ‘ees’) has been around since the NES days, but admittedly this is the first of the series I’ve ever played and I’m enjoying it a lot.

In many ways Ys VIII is a pretty standard action JRPG. Heroes with big swords, magic, talking animals- you know the drill. But there are a few points of difference as well. Unlike most JRPG series that see a new world and characters with each sequel, the Ys series has followed hero Adol Christen since the very first game. The combat is also seamless and takes place in the overworld – no switching back and forth between exploration and battle mode. This works so well you wonder why it isn’t used in more games!

The scenario and game world are great, with the protagonists shipwrecked on a mysterious island, and Adol searching for any remaining survivors to return to the ever-evolving Castaway Village. It’s also refreshingly fast moving for a JRPG with just a short prelude episode before dumping you into the game proper. Highly recommended.

persona 5 video game

Persona 5 

TL;DR: Fight monsters whilst attending Japanese high school. A completely unique gaming experience and very highly recommended.

The Persona series is part traditional JRPG and part Japanese high school simulator. Sounds weird, but anyone who has played one of the previous games in the series will know how unique and fun this combination is — and this most recent installment is the best yet.

In the game, your character’s Persona (their alter ego) battles monsters in an alternate dimension featuring a variety of dungeon settings (a bank and an Egyptian pyramid are my two favourites so far). Meanwhile, back in the game’s “real world,” your test scores and relationships with your schoolmates help improve your powers in the virtual world.

Everything about Persona 5 is beautifully designed, right down to the menus. Even the post-fight and loading screens offer more visual flair than most entire games. It’s a unique and stylish gaming experience that comes highly recommended.

ruiner video game

RUINER 

TL;DR: RUINER is a stylish and fast-paced top-down cyberpunk shooter, with a kick-ass soundtrack to boot. Go get ‘em, puppy!

This game was released in September 2017 by the Polish indie studio Reikon, but has been regularly updated, including the recent “Annihilation Update.”

I have a soft spot for the old-school-style isometric shooters and platformers that only seem to be released by indie studios nowadays. RUINER is a cyberpunk-inspired isometric shooter with a slick art style and a great soundtrack that really enhances the futuristic setting. The overall look pays homage to Blade Runner and Ghost in the Shell.

Your character is a cybernetically enhanced individual who can only communicate via nods or shrugs, as well as through a helmet that displays feedback across its faceplate. You are assisted by a seemingly friendly hacker who offers encouragement and direction as the story unfolds. However, nothing is as straightforward as it seems, and unraveling the mystery plays a large part in encouraging the player to progress.

Gameplay utilizes dual stick controls (moving/aiming) which keeps the action fast-paced and fluid. A dash option allows your character to move quickly across the screen, avoiding damage and moving in for the kill. Weapons include guns (lots of them) and melee (bats, swords, pipes, etc.)

Layered over those basic controls is the ability to customize your play style via skill tree. For example: unlocking an ability to trigger a “slow-mo” mode that makes dodging bullets easier or “hacking” your enemies to get them to fight for you.

The game is challenging (on normal or hard), but offers enough checkpoints for you to stop and start when you like without losing progress. RUINER is a great game to fire up and enjoy without having to worry about investing huge chunks of time.

Xenoblade Chronicles video game

Xenoblade Chronicles

My pick gives you: classic JRPG, great graphics and excellent British voice acting

This game is a few years old now (it came out in 2010 — positively ancient in gaming terms) and its sequel has just been released on the Nintendo Switch to mixed reviews, but it’s the original that’s really got me hooked at the moment. Released on a platform not known for its “serious” RPGs, Xenoblade received a limited release in the West and as such, has become a cult classic amongst JRPG nuts like me.

With great graphics (for the Wii), excellent (and very British) voice acting, and expansive, lovingly created environments (the entire game world is set on the back of two giant robots), Xenoblade Chronicles has everything and more for fans of the genre. It’s a classic JRPG that I’d rate in my top 5 of all time — right up there with Final Fantasy 7.

2020 is going to be a huge year for the Games Industry. So expect many more game reviews on our blog over the coming months!

Ever wondered what it’s like to attend CES, North America’s biggest consumer electronics conference?

Every January in Las Vegas, the world’s leading electronics brands gather to showcase their newest products, make sales, share knowledge, and meet with other top execs. It’s a fun and crazy few days with upwards of 175,000 attendees each year.

This year we sent Jason Scriven, AE’s Head of Enterprise Sales, to check out the gaming and eSports scene at CES. Keep reading to discover what his first time was like!

What was your first impression when you arrived?

My first impression was, “holy cow there’s a lot of people here!”

CES is hosted at Las Vegas Convention Center, which is made up of 3 separate buildings that are about a quarter of a million square feet each. Plus there are 7 hotels that host conference sessions on top of that. Despite that huge amount of space, it was absolutely packed.

I spent most of my time at the eSports sessions. The room sat 200 people and was full, every time. With only 15 minutes between sessions, a lot of people didn’t move. They just whipped out their phones and kept working it. So the overall pace was really great and there wasn’t a lot of waiting around for people to get settled.

The information in the sessions was solid, though I’m surprised that the trade show wasn’t more related to eSports…but it’s still a small industry!

Did you have to do a lot of research beforehand to know what you wanted to see or did you just show up and figure out your schedule?

No, I definitely had to research ahead of time.

It turns out there were trade show booths in both the hotels and the conference center, which is amazingly complex to get around. There’s not very many maps and the numbers on the floor are unclear. It’s one of those things where I was in the conference center for an hour and a half and spent 45 minutes of that lost.

There were people I wanted to visit in two of the conference center areas and in one of the hotels, and then my actual sessions were in another hotel. So logistically, I had to plan out the day and a half I had very carefully.

What was your favorite session or speaker?

There was a talk with Ann Hammond on the panel, who is the chairman and CEO of Super League Gaming. Super League Gaming’s mission is to create a space where people could have a pro experience even if they’re amateur eSports players.

It was very clear that she lives the values of the company. During the session she talked about inclusivity quite a bit and how, video games in general are, regardless of your economic level, your geographic location, your gender, your ethnic background, very inclusive. So that was one thing that really kind of stuck with me.

In terms of making business connections, did you find that it actually was worthwhile?

Oh yes, though you have to work at it a little bit. And, again, I had a plan. There were certain trade show booths where there were influencers in our space. I knew that if I got introduced there, they would be able to introduce me to others.

For example, Sports Innovation Lab had a whole lounge set up at the back of the room where the eSports sessions were going on. They had charging stations, free soda and muffins, and other stuff for their clients and guests to be able to come in and relax and hang out there. I went and met their CEO, their VP of Product, their Head of Sales, and all those people introduced me to other people. And the only reason I got in there was because I talked my way in, because I wasn’t invited. I used a referral from someone I met on the plane and that got talking with one person, who got me to another person, and so on.

Jason met Dabier Snell at CES
Jason with the multi-talented, Dabier Snell

Did you find that most people were pretty friendly and open to having a conversation?

The session speakers were obviously the big fish. After they’re on stage for five minutes you get a sense of who they are and if you want to talk to them. And, depending who the speaker was, there could be a lot of people waiting to talk to them backstage. But if you do get a chance to talk to them, it’s key to make eye contact, exchange business cards and say here’s why we want to talk to you – are you okay with me following up to next week? If you get a “I’m sorry I don’t have a business card,” then you know the speaker clearly didn’t want to be followed up with. “If you give me your card I’ll call you,” is another line. Don’t expect a call back.

It was great to be able to make personal contact with people who I’d already met or that I’d been in contact with online. And then I was able to see them face to face, and that led to follow up after CES.

What made you want to go to CES versus other gaming-related conferences?

The attraction here was a full day of eSports specifically around data, fan engagement, and analytics. We felt that this was a good opportunity for AE to learn about how people think about data in eSports and to scope out potential opportunities.

Is there anything you would do differently if you were to go back?

Yeah, I’d stay for more days! I would have loved to see more of the trade show.

It’s one of those places where it’s okay to go down a rabbit hole if you have the time. If you dive deep into it and just kind of wander, you can discover so many cool little things. It’s a lot easier to do that then having a specific booth you wanted to go to and figuring out how to get to it!

Also, I sat down in the plane next to someone who told me it was their 5th or 6th year going to CES. She said she always goes to the trade show on the afternoon of the last day. Why? The vendors don’t want to take anything home so they are just giving away thousands of dollars of electronics.

CES conference 2021
See you at CES 2021!

Anything else you want to tell someone thinking of attending CES next year?

For us, it only made sense to go because of the full day on a topic that was intimate for us. If they didn’t have that track dedicated eSports, then we likely wouldn’t have gone.

So much of what goes on at CES is about electronics and hardware. Make sure there is a strong reason to go if that is not your business’ focus.

One more thing. You have to be patient going from conference to hotel to whatever. With 175,000 people, the shuttles and the ride share services are overwhelmed. As a result, you’ve just got to be patient. Pick and choose your times. Get to know the doorman at your hotel and ask if they can store your bags or get you a taxi really quick. Just be prepared for a lot of people!

Every month at the AE offices, we choose our Pop Culture Picks. It could be an album, a band, a book, a movie, a TV show, a podcast, or anything else we enjoyed over the previous 30 days.

In this special edition, we bring back each of our favorite picks from 2019. This is your opportunity to get caught up before we start a fresh new year!

Annabel’s Pick

annabel's pop culture pick in december 2019 is the tv show the mandalorian
Annabel Youens, CMO & Co-Founder

The Great British Sewing Bee (TV Show)

In Short: Season 5 of the Great British Sewing Bee aired
February 12th, 2019. Tune in for a good laugh and to learn more about the world of sewing!

If you read my Pop Culture Picks with any regularity you might pick up on a theme here: my love of British reality shows made by the BBC.

This year’s Bee has a new host, Joe Lycett, a British comedian. I’m not too familiar with him but was sent this clip (NSFW) – ha! Season 5 sees Joe in the sewing trenches with the contestants, while Patrick Grant and Esme Young circle the sewists like great white sharks, literally picking at their stitches. Patrick loves a well-made garment and Esme loves some flair – they are such a perfect pairing.

I started watching the series when I took up sewing, hoping to pick up tips. But in fact, the show has taught me much more about the history of fashion and why garments are constructed in certain ways. If you have any interest in clothing you’ll come away with an appreciation for a well-made garment and most likely look a little closer at the clothes you purchase. Better yet, try your hand at making your own!

Joe Lycett posted this Season 5 trailer on his Twitter. Give it a watch if you aren’t already convinced!

Check out the team’s other Pop Culture Picks from February!

Jeff’s Pick

jeff's pop culture pick this august is fall or dodge in hell by neal stephenson
Jeff Mitchell, CTO and Co-founder

Fall; Or Dodge In Hell by Neal Stephenson (Book)

TL;DR: Full disclosure, Neal Stephenson is probably my favorite author. I have been swept away by his ability to tell such expansive stories, amazingly intertwined across different eras and covering historical fiction, possible futures, and parallel worlds. His newest novel Fall; or Dodge in Hell is a deep exploration into the human perception of reality.

Fall; or Dodge in Hell is somewhat of a sequel to a prior book called Reamde. Stephenson takes the same characters but quickly projects out to a possible future for humankind that is quite fantastic but also eerily possible.

The start of the book begins around ‘current day’ and describes the aftermath of the death of a wealthy game designer, Richard Forthrast (AKA Dodge). His will explicitly states that he is to be preserved beyond death via the best technology available so that he may be revived later. While this was thought to be using existing cryogenic techniques, there actually exists the ability to scan his brain (“connectome”). Basically a brain in a computer instead of a brain in a jar. Various legal battles occur between main parties but in the end, Dodge and others are scanned until such time as the technology emerges to utilize that scan.

…read the rest of Jeff’s review in August’s Pop Culture Picks!

Jenn’s Pick

Jenn's pop culture pick of 2019 is 1984 the book by George Orwell
Jenn Paul, Intermediate Developer

1984 by George Orwell (Book)

TL;DR: 1984 is the ultimate dystopian novel which dives deep into topics such as the treatment of humanity, freedom, thought, language, perception of reality, and history.

My pop culture pick this month is the classic novel 1984 by George Orwell. I thought I knew what I was getting into and hooo boy, I was not ready. This book is intense.

The story is set in the year 1984, following decades of war that has redefined the world. A mysterious “Big Brother” leads the nation, and everyone is watched 24/7; words, actions, and even thoughts are monitored constantly. There’s propaganda, rations, and constant reports of a war that is happening with one of the other two continents (the world is now Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia). If anyone shows even the slightest hint of rebellious thought, they are severely punished (tortured) and eradicated.

Read the rest of Jenn’s review in April’s Pop Culture Picks!

Grant’s Pick

Grant's pop culture pick this november is the video game the outer worlds
Grant Spychka, Head of Customer Success

The Outer Worlds (Video Game)

TL;DR: Obsidian, the game developers behind the original Fallout and Fallout: New Vegas, is back with what can be best described as New Vegas in space!  

This is the Fallout game that fans have been asking for for years, but in a new galaxy with a variety of beautiful environments to explore. The idea is that this galaxy has been taken over by a number of mega-corporations, all of whom have established their own branded colonies on each planet. You play as a character who is awoken from cryo by a total stranger after your ship has a mysterious accident, only to be thrown down onto a foreign planet to fend for yourself.

What I love about this game is that it gives you a chance to be whoever you want in a weird, backwards world. I’m personally a low-level ex-bureaucrat who is highly skilled in persuasion, charm, and one-handed weapons. But you could also be a janitor who excels at melee, lying, and sneaking around!

The game is just ridiculous, over the top, funny, and gorgeous to look at. If you’ve ever enjoyed a Fallout game and want to expand your horizons, go get The Outer Worlds.

Bonus points if you have Xbox Game Pass, since it launched day 1 on that service and is available for free download right now.

Check out the team’s other Pop Culture Picks from November!

Mike’s Pick

mike's pop culture pick in septmebr is fire emblem: three houses the video game
Mike Penhall, Senior Developer

Fire Emblem: Three Houses (Video Game)

TL;DR: An RPG with a fun strategy and an excellent introduction to the Fire Emblem series.

The Fire Emblem series has been going for a long time: the first release in English was back on the Game Boy Advance in 2002, but within Japan, the series stretches way back to the original NES.

This game is my first experience with the series – while I love JRPGs in general, Fire Emblem is a tactical RPG – meaning the battles are fought Risk-like on a battlefield with various units etc. – something that never hugely appealed to me.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses is a little different from previous games in the series in that it introduces a school mechanic. Think Hogwarts meets the Persona series: you’re a teacher at the school whose lessons help to improve your student’s stats in battle.

It’s a fun little twist and much to my surprise I found myself really enjoying the strategy elements as a result. There’s also a whole lot of fun to be had getting to know the characters. Further, choosing one of the three titular school houses to align with gives the game a lot of replayability. It’s also given me the incentive to go back and explore previous games in the franchise as I’m having such an enjoyable time with this one.

Check out the team’s other Pop Culture Picks from September!

Odette’s Pick

odette's pop culture pick in december 2019 is Allah-Las rock band
Odette Jacquet, Precision Marketer

The Beyond Burger (Food)

What you need to know: The Beyond Burger is a delicious way to reduce your carbon footprint. Keep reading to learn more!

Companies are getting crazy innovative to bring us food that satisfies our cravings while minimizing harm. Lab-grown tuna anyone? Or how about some eggless scramble? Nah, I’ll just stick with my non-dairy Ben & Jerry’s.

My pick isn’t about any of those tantalizing treats though. It’s about the Beyond Burger- an epic, plant-based alternative to the traditional hamburger. Using ingredients like pea protein, coconut oil, and beet juice extract, the resulting burger “looks, cooks, and tastes” the same as a regular beef burger.

I tried a Beyond Burger for the first time a few months ago and was happily surprised. It was delicious and very, very convincing.

…read the rest of Odette’s review in February’s Pop Culture Picks!

Jason’s Pick

jason's pop culture pick in october is the rewinder blog by sb nation
Jason Scriven, Head of Enterprise Sales

Rewinder by SB Nation (YouTube Channel)

In Short: Rewinder takes a deep dive into the background, context, and important events preceding those moments in sports history that have become so legendary and so iconic that people might forget what made them so important.

I came to this blog through one of the greatest world series games in baseball history: game 6 in the 2011 series.  As they say in the video, the walk-off home run by David Freese deserved a deep rewind.  The details of the moves during the season, during the playoffs, during the series, and during this game that led to this fantastic play are fascinating for a baseball wonk like me.

The rest of the series, from Michael Jordan’s final shot to the butt fumble, includes tales of greatness and infamy across all sports. Moments are rewound for fans to understand every little thing that made the moment magic.

Check out the team’s other Pop Culture Picks from October!

Here’s to another year of Pop Culture Picks! Check back for fresh picks at the start of every month.

How a nation-wide cinema chain used AE to increase revenues, adapt to the “Netflix” reality, and maximize customer loyalty.

Identifying Opportunities in Your Customer Base

Founded in 1998, Cinacorp Cinemas is a leading theater chain with 164 locations across the United States. Despite being a key player in their industry, they had a problem.

(***This use case describes the real-world problems of a fictional company.)

With the rise of streaming services like Netflix, Crave, and Disney+, theater customers were becoming increasingly hard to attract and retain. Despite having a popular membership program, Cinacorp executives worried they were losing touch with customers. Audience attendance was steadily dropping.

Cinacorp knew they offered the most exciting in-house entertainment experience to customers. They just needed to get their customers’ attention and remind them how much fun a night out at Cinacorp could be.

That’s why they used AE’s leading-edge insights and dashboard for brands to connect with their audience on a national scale.

Here’s how they did it:

Better Data from Their Membership Program: Cinacorp seamlessly added AE to their membership program login to find out exactly who their best customers were and what they cared about. They learned a lot — from the brands their customers were talking about to the music and shows they were watching.

Micro-Segment: In AE’s dashboard, Cinacorp easily segmented small, targeted groups of customers with similar tastes, and lifestyle interests.

Engage Customers: Cinacorp created revenue-boosting events and offers specifically personalized for each small audience.

– – –

That’s how Cinacorp used AE to become the market leader in a quickly-changing entertainment industry. They stopped suffering declining numbers and instead got fans talking about how exciting their theaters are.


 

If your customers are online, AE will help you maximize the value you get from them. Visit our plans.

entertainment industry infographic

Every month at the AE offices, we choose our Pop Culture Picks. It could be an album, a band, a book, a movie, a TV show, a podcast, or anything else we enjoyed over the previous 30 days. Keep scrolling to find out what caught our attention this month!

Annabel’s Pick

annabel's pop culture pick in december 2019 is the tv show the mandalorian
Annabel Youens, CMO & Co-Founder

The Mandalorian (TV Show)

In short: A bad-ass gunfighter who chooses right over wrong and hooks up with his sidekick, baby yoda! What’s not to love.

The new Disney+ show, The Mandalorian, is set in the time period after Return of the Jedi. The Empire has fallen and chaos rules across the galaxy. Our main character is living in very uncertain times. He’s a man who lives by a strict Mandalorian code, which is slowly being revealed over the course of the season. Pedro Pascal plays our lead and does a remarkable job giving humanity and richness to a character who can never show his face.

The episodes released so far call back to spaghetti westerns. I’m reminded of a futuristic Man with No Name. Take off Clint Eastwood’s poncho, put him in armor and you’ve got a galaxy-roving gunslinger. This premise is a great vehicle for story-telling and allows for short, sharp episodes like Sanctuary, while moving along the overarching theme.

Our lone gunslinger has been coupled with the low, sad, desperate notes of the bass recorder to transport you far, far away. This musical theme echoes across each episode and creates another time and place quality that’s quite enchanting. It’s not the full and rich, romantic soundtrack of the original trilogy but a softer sound that emulates the lead character’s restlessness.

Our Mando, as he’s called, is complex. His higher purpose, his code, requires him to retrieve bounty and hand it in for payment. But of course, our hero is challenged when he’s obliged to hand off the world’s cutest baby yoda. This pivotal scene really sets us up for the series. We have a true hero who chooses right over wrong, even if it goes against his code.

I’m interested to see where the series is taken by showrunner Jon Favreau. For now, I’ll just have to wait impatiently like everyone else for Friday night’s airing on Disney+

Jeff’s Pick

jeff's pop culture pick in december 2019 is into the badlands the tv show
Jeff Mitchell, CTO and Co-Founder

Into The Badlands (TV Show)

TL;DR: This TV show features razor quick sword fights, fantastical acrobatics, and an interesting post-apocalyptic storyline.

Into The Badlands takes place in a post-apocalyptic world hundreds of years in the future, and more specifically in an area called “The Badlands.”

The Badlands has become a feudal society ruled by warlords called “Barons” who control different territories and commodities. While there is still some remnants of the modern world, the main weaponry is sword-based, and the Barons maintain an indentured army of sword-wielding mercenaries called “Clippers” to maintain their power.

The story mostly focuses on one particular Clipper called “Sunny” (Daniel Wu), and his journey from loyal Clipper (best in the Badlands) to rebel outcast. The series introduces another concept of this future scenario via the character of “M.K.,” a coming of age young man who has a “dark power” brought on by being cut. This power is known of, but rare, and essentially supercharges the individual into an unstoppable fighting machine.

If you are a fan of the Wuxia style films (think Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), then you may want to check out this series. It has some of the best-choreographed action scenes I have seen outside the big screen. The sword fights are often jaw-dropping in their speed and complexity and combine the fantastical acrobatics used generously in Wuxia films.

I watched the first season when it first came out, but took a long break before binging the last two seasons recently on Netflix. Other than Sunny, many other great characters are introduced and explored as the story progresses. One of my favorites being “Bajie” (Season 2 & 3), essentially a disgraced monk played by none other than Nick Frost (of Sean of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, etc). It looks like he really enjoys being part of the frenetic fight scenes, plus he brings a levity that was missing in Season 1.

While there had been plans for a fourth season, apparently that has now been canceled. Still, the Season 3 ending does do a good job of tying everything together from the first few seasons and works well as a series finale.

Check it out!

Jenn’s Pick

Jenn's pop culture pick in december 2019 is kyla gaganon personal trainer in victoria bc
Jennifer Paul, Intermediate Developer

KylaFit  (Personal Trainer)

TL;DR: KylaFit offers great HIIT workouts around Victoria (also yoga, mindfulness practices, and essential oils workshops). I highly recommend this trainer to get you into shape!

Ever since our office moved across town (to the fancy new KWENCH coworking space), I’ve changed a few habits in my life. One of those habits was that I quit the gym and started cycling to work. Another change was that I met Kyla Gagnon when KWENCH brought her in to offer fitness and yoga classes.

I absolutely love Kyla’s HIIT bootcamp-style workout classes and I try to make it twice a week. It isn’t easy! If you aren’t familiar with HIIT, it stands for High Intensity Interval Training. Essentially, it’s a lot of different exercises in short intervals, so you get a great full-body workout. Exercises can range from TRX rows, skipping rope, burpees, or even the dreaded “zombie mermaid/walrus” (basically a plank with your feet on frisbees and you drag yourself around moving only your hands). It sounds hard but it is totally worth it. I have a Fitbit Ionic watch and I always track my heart rate and calories burned for these workouts. Then I share them with the other HIIT participants after the session as a fun way to see all the work we just did.

Kyla also loves yoga and essential oils and offers these as a part of her business. I went to her workshop for “sleep and essential oils” and it was really nice – I left super relaxed and with a custom blend of pure essential oils, a lavender oil roller, and some epsom salts. I was initially inspired to go because Kyla also offers a free mindfulness session at KWENCH on Fridays – a half-hour meditation with some relaxing essential oils. It is really nice to have all these benefits available to me and I am grateful that my workplace encourages my physical and mental health every day.

Grant’s Pick

grant's pop culture pick in december 2019 is motherhacker the podcast by gimlet studios
Grant Spychka, Head of Customer Success

Motherhacker (Podcast)

TL;DR: Motherhacker is a new masterclass in short-form audio storytelling by Gimlet Media about the dangers of getting caught up in the world of digital fraud.

Gimlet Media (of StartUp, Reply All, and Homecoming, and acquired by Spotify earlier this year) are back with another incredible podcast series called Motherhacker. The fictitious story follows Brigitte, a devoted mom with a bit of a dark side, who’s just barely getting by financially. When she falls prey to a tele-phishing scheme, Brigitte gets tangled up in a mysterious digital fraud ring in order to pay her debts.

I won’t get more into it at risk of spoilers, but I urge people to give this one a listen. If you liked Homecoming (which went on to become an Amazon Video tv series), then Motherhacker will be a welcome addition to your queue. There are only 9 episodes, each one clocking in at around the 12 minute mark. It’s easy to digest, short-but-engaging, and incredibly well-directed and acted. All episodes are available for download right now on any of your favourite podcast apps.

Mike’s Pick

mike's pop culture pick in december 2019 is Pokemon Sword & Shield the nintendo games
Mike Penhall, Senior Developer

Pokemon Sword & Pokemon Shield (Video Game)

TL;DR: Best entry to the Pokemon game franchise to date, but perhaps not the complete overhaul that many (myself included) were hoping for.

The latest entries in the much-loved Pokemon game franchise, Pokemon Sword & Pokemon Shield are the first mainline games released on a Nintendo home console. Until this point the games have always appeared on Nintendo’s handheld consoles. Now, as both a handheld and “proper” console on the Nintendo Switch, it is a perfect fit for this generation.

Both games have been upgraded and slightly modernized, thanks to higher processing power producers, GameFreak. The main new addition is a free-roaming “wild zone” for the player to catch wild Pokemon – previously gamers had been limited to linear paths between cities to catch Pokemon, although these are still here as well. The other main addition is the ability to set up camp: a largely superfluous but fun feature that lets you cook meals and play with your Pokemon to create bonds and level them up.

Despite these changes, Sword & Shield still feel like an extremely familiar addition to the series. This is both a good and a bad thing. Fans of the series will have no trouble picking up and playing immediately, but it would’ve been nice to see the new hardware push the series into a completely new chapter. Last year’s Pokemon Let’s Go Evee and Pikachu games (remakes of the original Gameboy Red / Blue / Yellow entries) play remarkably similarly despite their base material dating way back to 1998.

Despite the lack of a total makeover, Sword & Shield are still a huge amount of fun and are undoubtedly the best entries in the series to date. Suitable for both newbies and long-time fans, there’s nothing quite as much fun as a good Pokemon game.

Odette’s Pick

odette's pop culture pick in december 2019 is Allah-Las rock band
Odette Jacquet, Precision Marketer

Self-titled by Allah-Las (Album)

In Short: Whether you’re on a road trip in your camperized van or getting some serious work done on the computer, Allah-Las chill you right out.

If you’ve read any of my previous pop culture picks, you know that I love music that is happily melancholic. This band is no exception.

Allah-Las are a garage/surf rock band from Los Angeles, California. The group formed in 2008, and have released 4 albums since then (which can be played one after the other creating a delightful super-album).

Their most recent album, titled LAHS, was released this past October. Reminiscent of lazy summer days, it offers a little warmth to the crisp Victoria winter. I’m always looking for good focus music and this album does the trick. The tracks flow into each other smoothly, the vocals are relaxing, and the upbeat guitar licks keep me energized. Heck yep!

Check out this goofy music video.

Every month at the AE offices, we choose our Pop Culture Picks. It could be an album, a band, a book, a movie, a TV show, a podcast, or anything else we enjoyed over the previous 30 days. Keep scrolling to find out what caught our attention this month!

Jeff’s Pick

Jeff's pop culture pick this november is the video game Gris.
Jeff Mitchell, CTO

Gris (Video Game)

TL;DR: If you are looking for a quick game, that is easy on the eyes, relatively relaxing, and fun to explore, check this out.

My pop culture pick is Gris, a game that has been out for some time now but that I didn’t play until last month.

The game is essentially a side-scrolling platformer that is quite short and not overly difficult but is still quite engaging due to its story and aesthetic.

You play as a young woman, who must work to restore color to the world after a cataclysmic event leaves it grey and shadowy. The art style is amazing and makes it feel as if you are playing a beautiful illustration. There is no dialogue, but the story is easy to follow due to the quality of the animation.

All of the above made this the perfect game to play with my 6-year-old daughter Ada and that made the experience even more enjoyable for me. She was very engaged in the story and loved the music. She would watch me play and often give me advice on where to go or how to reach a goal.

The game mechanics were simple enough that my daughter was able to pick up the controls herself and move around the landscape. I loved watching her celebrate as she made a difficult jump or helped to bring a colour back into the world.

As you progress through, restoring more colors, the game becomes more and more vibrant which reinforces the sense of making an impact.

If you are looking for a quick game, that is easy on the eyes, relatively relaxing, and fun to explore, check this out. It’s also a great game to play as a family or with younger children.

Jason’s Pick

Jason's pop culture pick this november is the netflix tv show criminals
Jason Scriven, Head of Enterprise Sales

Criminal (TV Show)

In Short: Criminal is a 3 episode series that takes place entirely in the interrogation room of a modern police station.  There are 3 versions on Netflix: UK, France, Germany, each with different casts and plots but all filmed on the same set.

The real star of this series is the production design – a high tech interrogation room complete with cameras, microphones, and a huge illuminated mirror that looks like it belongs in the bathroom of a high-end hotel.  Two officers are in the room with the suspect, sometimes with a lawyer, and the rest of the team is behind the glass, observing and commenting on the interview techniques.

The interview builds slowly, weaving back and forth until a late episode reveal that is usually staggering, all delivered in a quintessential, understated European style. The uniqueness of the structure – only 3 episodes, 3 different languages, all filmed on the same set – and the strength of the writing set this series apart.

I watched the French episodes first, with subtitles, followed by the English and German ones. Each featured a woman-led team of detectives, with some back story of gender and age-based resentment among the senior male team members adding to the plot.

The main actors in each were unknown to me, except in two of the UK episodes where David Tennant (Dr. Who, Jessica Jones) and Hayley Atwell (Agent Carter) are the suspects.

Grant’s Pick

Grant's pop culture pick this november is the video game the outer worlds
Grant Spychka, Head of Customer Success

The Outer Worlds (Video Game)

TL;DR: Obsidian, the game developers behind the original Fallout and Fallout: New Vegas, is back with what can be best described as New Vegas in space!  

This is the Fallout game that fans have been asking for for years, but in a new galaxy with a variety of beautiful environments to explore. The idea is that this galaxy has been taken over by a number of mega-corporations, all of whom have established their own branded colonies on each planet. You play as a character who is awoken from cryo by a total stranger after your ship has a mysterious accident, only to be thrown down onto a foreign planet to fend for yourself.

What I love about this game is that it gives you a chance to be whoever you want in a weird, backwards world. I’m personally a low-level ex-bureaucrat who is highly skilled in persuasion, charm, and one-handed weapons. But you could also be a janitor who excels at melee, lying, and sneaking around!

The game is just ridiculous, over the top, funny, and gorgeous to look at. If you’ve ever enjoyed a Fallout game and want to expand your horizons, go get The Outer Worlds.

Bonus points if you have Xbox Game Pass, since it launched day 1 on that service and is available for free download right now.

Jenn’s Pick

jenn's pop culture pick in november is the app Mealime
Jennifer Paul, Intermediate Developer

Mealime (App)

TL;DR: I’ve been using Mealime for a couple of months now and it has changed the way I prep food throughout the week.

Many of us can agree that it’s hard to always eat healthy, to take the time to plan, shop for, and make meals every day. I have tried many things over the years with my latest being “Meal Prep Sundays” where I make salad lunches for the week. This was pretty successful and tasty, but still left me needing to make those dinners every night. Then I discovered this app called Mealime.

Mealime has many delicious recipes that are broken down into categories like Breakfast, Budget, Quick & Easy, Bowls, Main-Course Salads, Stir-Fries, etc. You can also add your preferences and allergies into the settings (I’m trying all vegan recipes this week, just for fun).

The app is laid out really well – think FoodGawker-style with all the pictures you can scroll through. You choose recipes to create your meal plan for the week; I usually choose about 4-5 dinners. Then it compiles all the ingredients from your weekly meal plan into a single grocery list. Check off the ingredients you already own, and there’s your shopping list for the whole week!

Now when I come home every night, I already know what I’m making and all the ingredients are ready. I make 2 servings and have my lunch for the next day. It is just like those premium meal-kit services that are all the rage now, except these recipes are free!

Ok, I was so impressed I ended up buying a premium subscription. With that, you get exclusive recipes, calorie counts, nutrient counts and more.

This app has helped me lose the stress that goes into the constant food-planning cycle. I’m eating more delicious meals, and on top of being healthier, I’ve actually saved money from not ordering out. ???

Here are a few of my favorite recipes so far: Shrimp Scampi with Spaghetti Squash, Teriyaki Chicken with Bok Choy, Cashews, & Coconut Rice, Sweet Potato & Bean Chili, Eggless Egg Salad Sandwich, and Brown Butter Pumpkin Mac & Cheese.

Bon Appétit!

Here are our top tips for staying positive and encouraging better mental health at work.

“Mental illness affects people of all ages, education, income levels, and cultures. In any given year, 1 in 5 people in Canada will personally experience a mental health problem or illness,” reports the Canadian Mental Health Association.

We have all struggled, or know someone who has struggled with mental health. It impacts all areas of life,  work included. For World Mental Health Day 2019, we want to share what is working for us here at AE. Below, we draw on our own experiences to give you tips for improving mental health in the workplace.

Mental Health Tips From
Our Team:

#1: Switch Your Focus

Jeff Mitchell, CTO and Co-Founder:

Fixating on a single problem can lead to a lot of stress. If I’m stuck on something, I find it helps to step away and focus on something else. You may be surprised to find that the solution presents itself when you allow your mind to work things out in the background.

Exercise is also a key stress reliever for me, specifically running. Until recently, I used to take my phone and listen to music, but the last few times I’ve left that behind in an attempt to get some tech-free time.

#2: Meditate Without Meditating

Annabel Youens, CMO and Co-Founder:

Being healthy mentally is really hard sometimes and I’ve had patches where I’ve struggled with depression. I think the ways you handle stress and manage your mental health change as you grow older. I’ve discovered sewing in the last few years, and found it an amazing outlet for stress.

Sewing is my meditation. When I’m taking a 2D pattern printed on paper and turning it into a 3D garment to wear, my brain is at maximum capacity. I can’t think about what’s for dinner, or who’s picking my daughter up from school next week, or if that marketing project got finished last Thursday. It all disappears. And at the end of my sewing session, I’ve used my hands to create a physical product. I find it so satisfying and my brain feels lighter.

#3: Break Up Your Day

Mike Penhall, Senior Developer:

I work remotely from home, so I have less human interaction than most people. I also run the risk of spending too much time in front of a computer and not having a change of scene or being very active.

I try to break up my day with trips to the gym and regular check-ins with workmates. Ultimately if I keep my activity varied and fulfilling, my mental health reaps the rewards. Take care of your mental health like you would any other aspect of your health.

#4: Prioritize What Keeps You Positive

Odette Jacquet, Precision Marketer:

My mental health at work is largely the result of two factors.

First, am I keeping up with my self-care? Eating well? Exercising? Spending time in nature? Connecting with friends and family? If I’ve got that stuff down then I’m usually feeling pretty positive.

The second part comes down to the work itself. Autonomy and creativity are non-negotiables – when I don’t have them, my mental health starts to slide.

What do you need to do outside of work to fill your well? What parts of your job make you feel energized? Prioritize those things.

#5: Keep Projects On Schedule

Jason Scriven, Head of Enterprise Sales:

Projects can be a major source of stress for organizations and the people trying to manage and complete them. You can reduce the negative impact of projects by keeping a fixed end date, even if it means reducing the scope. Items that have to be removed or new ideas that are generated during the project are scheduled for future projects.

Be sure to celebrate the completion of every project. Appreciating team members and celebrating wins together is essential for a healthy workplace.

#6: Say It Out Loud

Jennifer Paul, Intermediate Developer:

I find that my brain is overactive pretty much all the time. If something is bothering me, then I am constantly thinking about it! This can escalate in my head to the point where it’s worse than it really is.

Here’s my #1 tip: When you recognize that your mental health is not doing well, tell someone. Whether it’s a big or small issue, ongoing or a one-time thing, I’ve always found that saying it out loud helps. It reduces stress by stopping those cyclical thoughts in their tracks.

Talk to your coworkers about creating a supportive environment with an open-door policy. Sometimes you don’t need a solution, you don’t need advice, you just need someone to hear you out.

#7: Leave The Screens Behind

Grant Spychka, Head of Customer Success:

Increasingly I find that the amount of time I stare at screens without a break is impacting my mental health. We’ve become so accustomed to working at our desks, and when we’re not, then we have a phone in our face.

I’ve been making a concerted effort this past year to either take a short walking break to get some sunshine throughout the day, or to keep my phone in my pocket during lunch or coffee breaks. It’s a seemingly simple thing, but it keeps me more focused and present during my workday. Plus, this habit transfers into my personal life in an equally positive way.

Thanks for reading our top mental health tips for work. We hope that we sparked something in you. Please reach out with any questions, comments or tips of your own!