I’m from a small town where people don’t follow their dreams. It’s the kind of place that encourages you to get a job that everyone’s heard of, then spend the rest of your life trying not to wonder what would have happened if you’d done otherwise. Many people experience something like this. Input from others, uncertainty about the future, self-doubt, and no idea where to start if you want to get in to the industry all provide barriers that are easy to succumb to and for years, I did. I spent time studying things I considered more practical and after college, I worked jobs that were safe, easy bets but not what I really wanted. I wondered if this would be a fork in the road I looked back on, wishing I’d made the other choice. I stopped wondering in April of 2016 when I started at VFS in the Game Design program.
I thought VFS would be a leap of faith, but it’s more of a trust fall. You are doing something that you might find frightening, intimidating, or even impossible, but you have an immense amount of support while here. Our teachers have extensive industry backgrounds, and some are still working in the industry. One thing that really impressed me as a former teacher myself, is that our instructors not only know their subject matters very well but know how to teach to a room full of people with lots of exposure and total beginners alike.
If you’re worried about not knowing what you want to do in the industry, don’t. In our first terms, we were artists, designers, programmers, project managers, and writers. When we started our 2D game projects, we chose a field to specialize in. Halfway through the year, we each focused on two disciplines of art, programming, and level design. If you’re worried about learning aspects of game design that don’t hold your interest or that you feel you’ll struggle with, don’t. Having the exposure to different disciplines helps you understand how they all work together to build a game. You even get exposed to things you might never have considered at all. Did you know that I love designing UI? I sure didn’t, until we had a class on UI design.
I’m now approaching my final term at VFS. I have had experience with different roles, and the teachers are clear about the best way to get into the roles I want to pursue. I meet with mentors from the local game scene twice a week. I have the chance to ask them about the companies they’ve worked for and the roles they perform, the current demand for new people in those roles, and the best way to go about getting hired into those roles.
If you put a lot into the program, you get a lot out of it. You come away with portfolio pieces, and the knowledge about making a portfolio for your chosen specialty. You make industry contacts not only through mentors, but through your teachers, classmates, and students outside of your own class who you meet through networking events put on by VFS. A project in your third term ensures that you develop a creative process, and the entire year has the effect of quickly teaching you how to manage your time so that you can utilize that creative process both in VFS and after it. I came to VFS with no experience in making games, digital art, or completing my writing projects. Now I’ve worked on two games, can make visual effects, and have written a game with a partner. My takeaway is that if you’re willing to take the first step, VFS gives you the means to start pursuing your dreams.