The Graduation Ceremony of Class GD31

Class GD31 saw the end of 2013 with a bang by celebrating their Graduation from the Game Design program.  The night was a mixture of looking back at an amazing year of work accomplished, friendships forged and exciting opportunities to look forward to.

The December 12th Graduation and Awards show were one part formal with the Diploma Ceremony, followed by the more casual themed Award Show.  The formal Diploma Ceremony was hosted by myself and began with a speech from the Head of Department Dave Warfield who welcomed family and friends, and warmed everyone’s hearts with a very special GD31 Christmas Carol written for the students of Class GD31 (the poem is featured below, at the end of this article).  Next up student-elected Class Speaker Shad Miller continued to tug at heartstrings by reminiscing about the ups and downs of the past year to a changing backdrop of class photos.  Finally student-selected Instructor Speaker Andrew Laing closed the speeches with some comedy by comparing the students’ year at VFS to a video game of which they were the heroes.  In their own way each of the speakers offered insight into the past year and then a look ahead to the bright futures waiting for these new graduates. 

The formalities continued with the handing out of Diplomas accompanied by embarrassingly long handshakes with Dave Warfield and loud cheers from the GD31 class (notably Shad). Special congratulations to Raul Alvarez, Jim Dodge, Shad Miller, Tomas Pamplona and Evan Yates for Graduating with Honours.

Next, during a short break, parents, friends and family members were invited up to the 2nd floor Production Studio for refreshments and trying their hand at the final project games this class has created.  Then, after the break, it was time for the Awards show…

Game Design Awards

Project Design Instructor Chris Mitchell and Sr. Instructor Andrew Laing kicked things off by presenting the first award, the Award for Best Game Concept; this acknowledges the original and unique game ideas that students create at the start of their year in the Game Design program. The Award went to Darian Mazloomi for his game concept Captain Cool Breeze.

During Term 1, the students are taught to exchange their ‘game player’ hats with ‘game designer’ hats.  The first step to this is by understanding strategy in game play and establishing rule sets; what better way to learn than by creating their own board game.  Game Theory Analog Instructor Graeme Jahns and Flash TA Benjamin Stern presented the award for Best Board Game, which was swept up by Jason Delesalle for Empire Wars.

Next up is everyone’s favourite assignment — the tome-sized, Detailed Design Document. Project Management Instructor Olivia Bogacki and Game Design Teaching Assistant Brant Stutheit gave the award to Raul Alvarez for his game, Guardian of Momentos.

Next up were the Excellence Awards. Based on outstanding work done during the year, these Awards cover 4 specializations: Level Design, Story, Coding and Art. The winners were: Tomas Pamplona (Level Design), Raul Alvarez (Story), Shad Miller (Coding), and Alvin Kwok (Art).

The students were asked to select an “Unsung Hero”.  This is someone who goes out of their way to assist, guide, or educate them separately from any type of instructor responsibilities. Class GD31 Graduating Students Wes Bassett and Darian Mazloomi presented the award to Teaching Assistant Benjamin Stern, who had spent many hours throughout the year assisting this class with their projects.  Benjamin thanked the class by stating they were a ‘challenge’ to him but to him a challenge was a positive thing as it gave him the chance to grow and learn from them, just as they had from him. To close, he challenged the class to continue to push themselves and their skills going forward.

Also selected by students are two awards that focus on the classroom: the Best Instructor and Best Course Awards.

First up, graduating students Evan Yates and Jason Delesalle presented the Best Instructor Award to Game Art Instructor Rupert Morris, after which graduating students Jim Dodge and Zac Christie presented the Best Course Award to Graeme Jahns for his Game Theory Analog course. As this was only his second time teaching this course, Graeme was moved and thanked the GD31′s for the accolade.  Classy man that he is, Graeme also thanked the staff at VFS for making him always feel welcome to the program. We’re happy to have him.

Then it was time for the two awards everyone was waiting for, the two group projects: the Best Flash Game is the first team-based game project that students create in Term 2. Senior Instructor for Flash Jacob Tran and Game Audio Instructor Steve Royea presented the award to P.U.N.K. by Wes Bassett, Tomas Pamplona, Jesse Bardell and Zac Christie.

The final award of the evening is also the biggest assignment of the year — the culmination of an entire year’s worth of training put into practice – 8 weeks of Pre-Production, 12 weeks of Development on a team-based Final Project.  Programming Sr. Instructor Peter Walsh, and Head of Department Dave Warfield used the assistance of the local “games industry community” to help them choose a winner. Competition was stiff but Sweet Escape by Raul Alvarez, Trilok Potluri, Tomas Pamplona, Marcus Lembi and Shad Miller triumphed.

Photo: Trilok Potluri, Shad Miller, Marcus Lembi, Tomas Pamplona, Raul Alvarez with their awards for Best Final Project Awards

(For a complete list of past Game Design Awards Winners click here).

The Nominees and winners should all be very proud of their work, but this was just a small sample of the incredible work that all of these students did over the course of the year.  The celebrations continued after the Award Show with drinks at The Pint Public House & Sports Bar.  As best we could tell, a good time was had by all.

To the entire 31st class of Game Design, we say, Con-GRAD-ulations!  We all look forward to seeing amazing things from all of you in the future.

For your enjoyment, I now present to you The Night Before Graduation: A GD31 Christmas Carol by Dave Warfield:

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and the school was all messy.
Not a creature was stirring, not even the Jessies.
The schedules were hung by the kitchen with care,
In hopes that GD37 soon would be there.
GD31’s were nestled all snug in their beds,
For the first time in a year they got to rest their heads.
And Natalie in her ‘kerchief, and Zac in his cap,
Had just settled their brains for a long winter’s nap.
When from the production floor there arose such a clatter,
Security and Dee were called to see what was the matter.
Was someone still here working on a game in flash?
Or did Wes and Evan come back to make a game for cash.
The fluorescent lights reflected of the new-fallen snow
And the locals were collecting Darian’s cigarette butts below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a development team, with eight tiny gameers.
With a little old PM, with his eye on the clock,
I knew in a moment it must be Trilok.
More rapid than eagles his designers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!
“Now Raul! now Pietro! now Bernardo and Jason!
On, Marcus! On, Alex! on Tomas and Alvin!
We’re finally done, To the elevator! to the hall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”
And then, in a twinkling, I heard in the lobby
What sounded like crying, or was it a sobby.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the hallway came Eric, or Shad with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Games he had flung on his back,
Resumes in his hand, and business cards in a pack.
His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
Right below a fake mustache, A grin on his face,
He exclaimed rather loudly, “I’m done with this place.”
Peter was giggling like a jolly little elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
Jim packed up his laptop with a twist of his head,
And I knew at that time they had nothing to dread.
GD31 showed up last year and went straight to their work,
They created their games, and didn’t act like a jerk.
They studied they learned, they created cool things,
And today on grad day they get to spread their wings!
I couldn’t be prouder, to watch them all grow,
Game designers of tomorrow are sitting in that and that row.
So tonight I say, “Congrats and well done, your future is bright”.
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”

Tanya Jensen is the Program Manager for Game Design at VFS