“As a father, I love my kids with everything I have, and I want to show them that you really can do whatever you put your mind to – that you can chase your dreams.”
Ever since he was in the fourth grade, Joe Dove has known it was his destiny to make video games. Growing up in Oshawa, he lived and breathed games like Prince of Persia, Grand Theft Auto, and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and fantasized of one day making one of his own.
It was a dream many of his childhood teachers, deeming it too dubious a career path, tried to quash – and for a time, they succeeded in doing just that.
After graduating high school, a discouraged Dove opted to pursue a safer route – a decision that caused him to languish for many years in “heavy lifting” factory jobs he was good at, but that didn’t make him truly happy.
It wasn’t until the 33-year-old father of five happened upon an ad for Toronto Film School’s Video Game Design & Animation program on Instagram that he found his boyhood dreams suddenly reignited, and promptly seized the opportunity to make them come true.
“I’ve been married for 11 years now, and I usually run everything I do past my wife – she’s my partner in crime. But when I saw that ad for Toronto Film School, I didn’t hesitate. I knew I had to do it. I reached out to an admissions advisor right away, did the test, applied, and got in,” he recalled.
“It was a dream come true. Having wanted to do this since I was a young boy…getting into the program was awesome. And I’ve given it my all ever since.”
Chasing his dream didn’t come without sacrifice, though. Things have been tight as Dove and his wife navigated his transition from full-time employment to full-time studies, all while raising their five children together: twin 12-year-old sons, eight- and six-year-old daughters, and a six-month-old baby boy.
“We have a lot of mouths to feed, so it’s really hard for us right now. Me making this decision to change my life and not do a heavy-lifting job, it’s been very hard to continue – but that’s why I’ve been so dedicated to this course,” said Dove, who just graduated at the end of December.
Dove’s motivations to keep going despite all obstacles, he said, were twofold: his complete and utter passion for all the knowledge he was soaking up in class, and the love and support he was receiving from his family.
“The programs at TFS are so great and I’ve learned so much – from video game history, to character modeling, to 3D modeling, to texturing classes. I loved it all. I could go on and on about how happy, how proud, and how honoured I am to have had TFS teach me all these things. It’s been such a great change for my life,” said Dove, who acted as Producer, Animator and Game Designer for his and his classmates’ capstone game, The Bright Side.
Sharing his work on that game with his kids – especially his artistically inclined twin boys – was a particularly rewarding experience for Dove, who wants to show them the kind of support for their creative pursuits he didn’t receive as a kid himself.
“I remember showing my son one of the textures I made, and he was, like, ‘Woah, I can’t believe you’re doing this! You’re doing it, dad! You really did it!’ When he says stuff like that, it’s really touching, because I’m showing my children that they don’t have to break their backs doing a job they don’t enjoy,” he explained.
“I want them to see that you can succeed in what you want to do, and you can be whatever you want to be when you’re older. They’re my main motivation. One hundred per cent, they’re my main motivation.”
Now that Dove’s a freshly minted TFS grad, he’s begun applying for entry level 3D generalist, 3D modeling, and surface texture artist jobs at all his favourite studios, from Ubisoft to Gameloft to Rockstar Games, where he’s hoping to start from the bottom and work his way up.
“Right now, I just want to get in. Once I get in, I will show my employers that I can do anything I put my mind to,” he said.
“This is something I’ve wanted to do all my life and I’m not going to stop until I succeed. I want to be able to show my children that I did it!”