This Was Our Year: Two Scholarship Winners at Game Design

In August 2013, Vancouver Film School opened an international contest for full and partial scholarships. We both participated and won full tuition for the Game Design program. You can check out the videos here: Sandra’s and Dani’s. Since then we’ve been through a long road, and we’d like to share our story with you.

Hi, My name is Dani Kogan, I would like to introduce to you Sandra Gersenowies. Sandra is an amazing character artist from Mexico and a passionate game developer, she is highly driven and will not rest till she is the best at what she does. When I met Sandra, my first impression was that she seemed very angry, but I soon learned that it was just her default expression. Once you manage to get past her defenses she is an awesome person to talk to and a good friend.

I will not lie, at first Dani Kogan seemed like a very shady character. Maybe it was the messy long hair or the weird Russian accent (although he is from Israel), but soon enough I realized that he was extremely knowledgeable about audio, with a great work ethic, and an almost enviable passion for videogames. Given our personalities it seemed almost impossible that we would be able to cross more than a few words without killing each other, but we ended up having a good friendship which led to us working together in a great final project, but we’ll get to that later.

This is My Year Scholarship

I was working in 3 different jobs and producing electronic parties on the weekends. I wanted to follow my passion for video games and was looking into Game Design courses all over the world. I got in contact with the VFS and they told me about the program, which got me very excited. In the end they told me about the tuition fee, and I said to myself “Well, I’m eating instant noodles for the next 2 years”. After a couple of weeks they told me about the This is my Year Contest. From that point onwards I stopped everything I did and started working on my video. I took a job as a security guard in a graveyard shift, this allowed me to work at night as well. I knew that even if I didn’t win the contest I was starting my path as a game developer.

While Dani was being a productive member of society, I was dealing with the consequences of switching majors halfway through college from Computer Science to Digital Art, mainly by having the frustrating feeling of possibly never finishing now 18 years of continuous schooling. My college has always had a good relationship with VFS, and I always heard great things about it, but the tuition was definitely out of my budget. I heard about the contest a couple of weeks before the deadline and gave it my all in the time I had left.

During this year at VFS, we met a lot of amazing people. Instructors who always pushed us to our limits and classmates who became great friends. We are passionate to the point of looking for side projects besides the already intense year at VFS. We collaborated with the Entertainment Business Management students and participated in a lot of game jams with VFS students. Game jams are events, in this case sponsored by VFS, in which small teams must develop a full game in the course of 48 hours. This gave us a lot of game-making knowledge, teamwork skills, and overall a lot of interesting brainstorms that would be useful later on for our final project.

Dani musicing some music and Sandra arting some art for the Hat Jam

During my year, every morning I woke up with a huge smile on my face, knowing that I will learn something new about my favorite subject in the world: games. VFS’s biggest asset is that they push you to be proactive. You have all the resources at your disposal and it’s up to you to make the best of it. One of the best things that I learned from instructors here is problem-solving skills. They taught me a lot and motivated me to research and learn even more by myself outside of class. They are available at all times, so if you need assistance outside of classes you can consult with them.

The final 5 months at VFS are focused on making teams for the final project and working exclusively in it. From concept to production to our final presentation with industry professionals, we are guided by instructors. We are also given work stations so we can be in close contact with our teammates. Sandra and I ended up working together on the final project, which was an amazing experience. Our team was very diverse, with students from all around the world, we even had a student from the Programming for Games, Web & Mobile in our team. Although we spoke 6 different languages, communication was never a problem. We learned a lot from each other and honed our skills. During the development, we had mentors from the industry coming by 2 times a week to give us feedback and help us achieve our full potential.

This is how we spent our time for the last 4 months at VFS

The last 5 months were the hardest and also the most rewarding part of the year. At first, in the pre-production stage, we had a lot of brainstorming sessions, discussing as a group which game concept would inspire us to get up in the morning and work intensely every day to make it great. Initially, we were a big mess with a lot of ideas, especially given the diversity of our cultures and backgrounds. Regardless, we soon learned to work with one another and organize ourselves to work efficiently. The big bulk of the work came in the production stage, where we had to sit down and make our idea into a reality. Our team became really close, and we had a lot of fun working alongside each other during this time. We ended up doing a great game that we all felt really proud of. You can download the game HERE.

Recollection, our final Unity project

Sandra & Dani
To sum things up, this year was awesome in a lot of different aspects. If we compare our knowledge about game development before VFS and after, it is like night and day. Although, the best thing that we got from VFS was the people that we met there. There were 5 teams in total in our class, and we all communicated with one another, gave each other feedback and helped each other out. We had an amazing class, and we made some long-lasting friendships.

Recollection Team, from left to right: Dani Kogan, Felipe Caravelli, Hugo Lindsay, Hugo Moraleida, Sandra Gersenowies and Tyler Thomson

This year at VFS taught us a lot, not only about the game industry, but about ourselves. We will always remember this experience, this was definitely our year.