Feminism in the Games Industry

Illustration by: Nicholas Gilbert

Current Game Design student Jaymee Mak recently delved into the topic of Feminism in the Games Industry: The Importance of Asking ‘Why?’ on VFS Arcade, Game Design’s community site.

A 2013 Women in Games Scholarship winner, Jaymee interviewed Brenda Bailey Gerschkovitch (CEO at Silicon Sisters), Kirsten Forbes (COO at Silicon Sisters), and Mathew Kumar (CEO and Creative Director at MK Ultra) to learn more.

“I wanted to explore what feminism meant to three people in different stages of different careers in the games industry, how this showed in their work, and their thoughts on the impact of feminism in the industry,” writes Jaymee. “I had so many questions. Do we need more women in the industry? Why? How could we increase the ratio?”

Read more on the VFS Arcade.


VFS Launches a New, Innovative Program!

Vancouver Film School is finishing 2013 with a bang, by launching a brand-new, world-class program!

Programming for Games, Web & Mobile is all about becoming a better, smarter, more versatile and hireable developer. This one-of-a-kind program teaches individuals how to create and bend programs; to develop software that is impressive, innovative, and entertaining. Students graduate with a high-powered portfolio along with the skills to impress professionals and recruiters from an incredible range of industries.

“Industry leaders have been asking us to teach programming for years, because they need VFS-trained programmers and they need them now,” says Dave Warfield, Head of Programming for Games, Web & Mobile.

The program starts with foundation skills in math, design, production, and programming, before progressing to front-end interface and mobile development for iOS and Android. Students build on this core knowledge with increasingly complex courses on interface development and programming, and finish with advanced classes on shaders, network programming, social integration, and cloud-based applications.

Like all VFS’s other 12 programs, career preparation is an integral part of the coursework, from presentation skills and portfolio development, to studio tours and networking events. It’s every advantage students will need to succeed as they launch their careers.

“Programming unlocks industry doors. Graduates have the skills to work on an unprecedented number of development teams, whether it’s using Ruby on Rails, JavaScript, and C++; or app development for iOS and Android,” comments Peter Walsh, Senior Instructor, on the outcomes of the program.

Programming for Games, Web & Mobile begins March 2014 and has already generated tons of buzz among industry leaders and alumni. We encourage everyone to check out the program page and see what it’s all about. The program is especially relevant for Game Design, Digital Design, and Sound Design for Visual Media students and grads looking to add a competitive edge to their skill sets.

A big congratulations to all the instructors, industry, alumni, and students who contributed to the making of this incredible program, and we can’t wait to see the amazing results! 

Announcing the My Year Video Contest Full-Tuition Scholarship Winners!

A big congratulations to our 10 full-tuition VFS My Year Video Scholarship Contest winners!

These talented folks will be joining us here at VFS in 2014:

Beatriz Brenes, Acting for Film & Television
Elea Clarac, Makeup Design for Film & Television
Juan Ignacio Osorio Santiago, Digital Design
Paul Dombrovskis, Film Production
Priyanshu Mehran, 3D Animation & Visual Effects
Sandra Gersenowies Jasso, Game Design
Shafakat Reshamvala, Digital Design
Silvia Prieto, Classical Animation
Ultan Courtney, 3D Animation & Visual Effects
Zeeshan Parwez, Film Production

Check out their winning entries!

We were blown away by the creativity and talent we saw over the last few months and are so excited to see what else our winners have in store for us over the coming year!

Thank you to everyone who participated and congratulations again to all our scholarship winners!

Get Your Exclusive All Access Pass to the VFS Open House Weekend!

This November, join us for the VFS Open House Weekend and experience what it’s like to be a student at VFS! Go behind the scenes and learn everything you need to know about kick-starting your entertainment career.

For two full days, we’ll be opening up our campuses in Downtown Vancouver and sharing what makes VFS so special and how YOU can be a part of it.

Don’t miss this opportunity to:

  • Meet alumni, current students, faculty, and staff
  • View student work
  • Watch live demonstrations
  • Explore our campuses
  • Learn how you can get the career you’ve always wanted

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Makeup Design for Film & Television
Foundation Visual Art & Design
Film Production
Animation & Visual Effects

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Writing for Film & Television
Digital Design
Sound Design for Visual Media
Acting for Film & Television
Game Design

For more information on the VFS Open House Weekend and to register, visit us online or call 1.800.661.4101.

FIFA 14 Hits Shelves Today

FIFA 14, the latest edition in the soccer video game series from EA, is being released in North America today. A group of VFS grads from Game Design, Foundation Visual Art & Design, 3D Animation & Visual EffectsSound Design for Visual Media, and Entertainment Business Management worked on the game, including:

Brad Dyck, Embedded Audio Quality Assurance Tester
Eloy Hernandez, Quality Assurance Tester
Fonda Louie, Associate Animator
Garrett Metcalf, Senior Quality Assurance Tester
Ignacio Vallejo, Quality Assurance Tester
Kramer Solinsky, Quality Assurance Tester
Luc Labelle, Lead Quality Assurance Analyst
Mattheus Pitillo, Quality Assurance Tester
Melissa Stacey, Quality Assurance Team Lead
Noushin Bardi, Assistant Test Coordinator
Rob Starr, Lighting & Environmental Artist
Trevor Da Silva, Development Support
Warren Zahari, Assistant Modeler

Take a look at the trailer:

Great work, everyone!

Game Design Grad Talks Early Inspiration and Shipping His First Title

Game Design grad Damien Le Lievre worked on the recently released game Tesseric, which is available now for free on iOS and Android. The game has been getting some buzz on mobile gaming websites, including Android Shock and Super Game Droid. We spoke with Damien about his early passion for video games, his time at VFS, and working in the gaming industry.

What were you doing before you came to VFS?

Damien: Before coming to VFS, I was running my own photography company in Ottawa, Ontario and attending the Ottawa School of Art, pursuing my interests as an artist. Video games were a huge part of my life and I would spend much of my time playing them, watching them, reading about them, and coming up with my own ideas for games. I owe my entire career to Super Mario World and Legend of Zelda - when I first played them they had such a huge impact on me, which would stay with me for the rest of my life and continue to inspire me.

Have you always known you wanted to be a game designer?

Damien: I think since the first time I picked up and played my first video game, I was so enthralled and absorbed by them that I knew my future had to involve them. When I was much younger, I would come up with games I wanted to play and worked on the skills that I needed to make them a reality. Even when I was running my business as a photographer, I knew deep down that I still wanted to pursue game design as it was my true passion. I think the reason I enjoy game design so much is because I get to be as multifaceted as I want to be. Being a game designer allows me to be both artistic and technical and wear a lot of different hats.

What was your experience like in the VFS Game Design program?

Damien: My time in the game design program was a blast. I knew very well going into it that it was definitely not going to be an easy task, but being something I was very passionate about, I was not going to let that stop me. During the program I made a lot of friends, and learned more in the span of a year than I ever have my entire life. It was amazing to be surrounded by, work with, and be taught by people just as passionate about games as I am. It was also fascinating to get so much exposure to different people’s ideas and approaches to video games.

You recently shipped your first title – tell us about the game and your experience on the project.

Damien: From my first meeting with the Director of Tesseric, Evgueni Naverniouk of Lexan Software Inc., I knew that it was a project that I wanted to be a part of. Tesseric is a four-dimensional puzzle game built for Android and iOS devices. The goal of the game is to navigate your cube (aka a Tesseract) around a 4x4x4 world, matching up the next move’s colour with coloured orbs floating in the world.

The game rewards players that plan their strategies many moves in advance and those who take daring risks. Brave players can let these orbs sit for a while and turn to stone that impede their movement; then consuming a newly spawned orb near a stone allows the player to chain combos and score much higher. As the player levels up, the time they have to eat these floating orbs before they turn to stone lessens and the players ability to think multiple moves ahead is tested and strained harder, with the payoff being a much larger score at the end. We also introduced a competitive mode where players can wager a score they think they can achieve and must exceed it in order to stake a claim on the global high score table.

Working on Tesseric taught me a lot about game design, programming, and the Unity engine. Working with Evgueni and Alex Naverniouk, CEO of Lexan Software Inc., was a fantastic experience and helped me push myself way further than I could imagine. I worked on Tesseric while I was also a Unity Programming TA at VFS and I felt that doing both the project and working at VFS would help me push my skillset further. I was putting in at least 60 hours a week for a number of months and there were many times that the task ahead felt daunting, but my drive to succeed kept me going. I definitely did not want to let anyone down.

Check out the trailer below:

What are you working on next?

Damien: Currently, I am working as a programmer at Fathom Interactive in Vancouver. Alongside that, I have been working on a multiplayer dungeon crawler with some VFS co-workers. I also have a few projects of my own I have started up. One of my recent projects includes programming in assembly for the Super Nintendo. The SNES was the first console I ever played and I want to pay homage to the games that inspired me when I was younger. I also have another competitive multiplayer game in the works for the future which I’ll soon be talking about on my blog and website.

Thanks for speaking with us, Damien! Good luck!

An Inside Look at the VFS Game Design Campus

Nicha Jaijadesuk is a 2013 Women in Games Scholarship winner. She recently offered readers of Arcade, the VFS Game Design Community Site, an inside look at the Game Design campus in beautiful downtown Vancouver.

If you are thinking about entering our Game Design program, or just want to see what the facility has to offer, check out Nicha’s personalized tour.

Get to know Nicha a little bit better, check out her interview with Jaymee Mak, another 2013 Women in Games Scholarship winner.

Thanks, Nicha!


Game Design Grad Finds Early Success

Kristine Tilos, a recent graduate of the Game Design program at VFS, is no stranger to a fast-paced life. Before she even completed her last day at VFS, Kristine had already realized every new graduate’s dream: she landed an industry job in her field of choice, at one of the, ahem, hottest video game developers in Vancouver—Hothead Games. Kristine was kind enough to answer some of our burning questions about her time at VFS and what the transition was like from classroom to studio.

Congrats on the new job! Where are you from and what were you up to before coming to VFS?  

Kristine: I’m from the Philippines, and spent ten years of my adolescent life living as an expatriate in Malaysia. I worked as an Inclusion Teacher for a kindergarten child with special needs in the International School of Kuala Lumpur. Before my family was repatriated back to the Philippines, my parents applied for Permanent Residency here in Canada. We moved back to Manila and I completed my Bachelor’s Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies, majoring in Psychology and Education. We got our PR documents a couple months after I graduated, then migrated here.

I’d never been to Canada prior to the move, and didn’t exactly know what to do, or pursue next, since I didn’t have the necessary paperwork to teach kindergarten here. I knew that the first thing I needed was to get work experience here in Canada. With luck, I landed a job at IKEA as an Admin Specialist for Ikea Food Services within two weeks of arriving in Vancouver.

What made you want to pursue a career in game design? Were you always interested in this kind of work?

Kristine: I’ve always been fascinated by computers and video games and have always been obsessed with technology. I played a lot of PC games growing up, and owned a PS and PS2. I had a Gameboy, Gameboy Advanced and a DS. It was a rather serious addiction to video games and I got myself into some homework-related trouble and a few groundings because of it. I’m much better now, though. 

I’ve always been obsessed with art too, and used to get in trouble in elementary school for doodling and drawing all the time. I started dabbling with digital art in high school and worked as a freelance graphic designer for a couple of years after graduating. I also used to read and write a lot. I seriously considered pursuing a degree in Creative Writing at some point, but decided that it was better suited as a hobby.

Despite my passion for video games, I never imagined I’d actually find myself in the Video Game Industry. If you told me I would be two years ago, just before I moved to Canada, I would’ve laughed and never believed it.

Why VFS? How did you find out about the Game Design program?

Kristine: While working at IKEA I made friends, who introduced me to their friends. It was through that process that I met Damien Le Lievre, a Game Design TA at VFS. He told me about the program, and about scholarships, and I immediately knew I had to apply. I knew it’d haunt me, and that I’d think about it and wonder “What if?” for the rest of my life if I didn’t just take the chance. So I contacted John Robertson (Senior Admissions Advisor) for more information, and he gave me a tour of the GD campus.

My parents had flown to Calgary at the time, because they were trying to figure out where to settle down and wanted to see if Calgary was a viable option. I arranged a second campus tour with John to show my parents around as soon as they returned. My family, who had decided to move to Calgary, agreed to support me on the condition that I got the full scholarship amount. I submitted my application for the scholarship.

There was about a week or two of anxious waiting, followed by John inviting me over so we could talk about the result. He told me that there was both good news and bad news. The bad news was that I could only get half the scholarship amount I was hoping to get. The good news was that I could receive the full amount if I decided to start in August instead of October.

I couldn’t really keep it in at that point. I started to cry in the meeting room, just out of sheer joy and disbelief. Whenever I think about my life and how I found myself in the Games Industry, even now, it’s hard to keep my emotions in check.

What was your experience like in the program? What was the hardest thing about it? What was the best thing about it?

Kristine: My experience in the program was nothing short of amazing. This has easily been the happiest year of my life to date. I’ve never felt more challenged and fulfilled. My class has been through so much together, and we’ve accomplished so much. It’s crazy how fast time flies, and at the same time, thinking back—it’s crazy how much you can cram into a year.

It was a very challenging experience. There is so much to learn, and despite the fact that VFS curriculum is already crammed full of highly relevant courses, there is always more that isn’t taught and this is no fault of the school. A year is not a lot of time to teach all that there is to know about Game Design. I took the initiative to learn as much as I could on the side, while juggling the crazy course load. The year is a lot of long days and sleepless nights. This one-year experience is all about what you choose to make of it, and how hard you push yourself. It’s so worth it.

The best thing about it is the people that you find yourself surrounded with. Students from all sorts of different backgrounds, likely with the same geeky interests and hobbies as you. Teachers that have worked in, or currently work in the Industry. Mentors that work with you in the development of your Final Project, who impart so much knowledge and treat you like peers.

My time in Pre-Production and Production was particularly dear to me. I worked on a flying game called Nuts for Gems (available on the VFS arcade!) with some of the most talented individuals I know. The other members of my team were Luciana Abe, Pedro Cardial, and Liam Semeniuk, and we were mentored by Justin McGuire (a designer at Electronic Arts). Our time together has strengthened our friendship. We all grew together and learned more about game design through this project. It was awesome—we delivered what we set out to make. We made a game! We won the Best Final Project Award! I will definitely miss my time as a student at VFS.

What was life like after graduation? How did you find out about the position at Hothead Games? What was it like starting so soon?

Kristine: I was really lucky.

A friend of mine, Kramer Solinsky, the QA Associate at Hothead Games, whom I met during one of the First Fridays (a GD student-alumni socializing event at a nearby bar on the first Friday of every month) recommended me for the position at Hothead. He is a GD alumni and we’d become good friends during my time as a student. I had my interview with Hothead the day after my Industry Pitch and Play Night. It was a Friday and they told me that I would have to start on Monday. That Sunday, I got an email with the news that I didn’t land the position, but that they’d keep my information on file, which was fine—I still had Employment Prep and Portfolio Development classes for three weeks before we graduated. A week and a half later I got a call from Hothead telling me that there was a new opening, and that they wanted me to fill it. It made my day.

It was a little strange starting work even before graduating. I remember packing up my stuff that Friday (the same day I signed my contract), and thinking back on the life-changing experiences of the last year. I remember thinking just how much I’d miss it. Hothead gave me the day off for my graduation, so I got to celebrate adequately.

It’s been great so far at Hothead. I’m doing QA with a team that consists of other GD alumni, which made it really easy for me to integrate. I feel right at home.

Do you have any advice to share with new students? For people thinking about a career in game design?

Kristine: Making games is very different from playing games.

It’s a very challenging year, and what you’ll get from it will depend on what you put into it. Push yourself hard, but know your limits and don’t burn yourself out. Take a break from work every now and again (this is harder than you might think). Be a sponge, and learn all that you can from the teachers and mentors. Don’t be afraid to try things out of your comfort zone. Even if you have no interest in Art, or Code, or whatever, learn it—if only to understand how it works so you know what others are doing.

Team work is important! Making games is all about working with a team. Leave your ego at the door. Be open to other ideas and don’t be a jerk. Chase the fun of the games you make, and don’t be tied down to the designs that are on paper.

Socializing is a must! Networking is important! But don’t do it just because you want to get a job. You should do it to make friends, and to surround yourself with other creative people who you can learn from and be inspired by. Spend time with others and get to know them.

And have fun (seriously)!

Thanks for speaking with us Kristine, and best of luck at Hothead Games!