Meagan Budgell is the 2015 Valedictorian for the Video Game programs at the Toronto Film School. Find out what Meagan’s biggest take away is from her time at TFS and also her advice to new students in the Video Game Design and Development and Video Game Design and Animation diploma programs is in this Q&A.
TFS: Where are you from?
MB: I’m originally from Stayner, Ontario, a small town just north of Barrie.
TFS: What brought you to Toronto Film School?
MB: Although I had originally planned to attend the Toronto Film School, I first pursued a degree at the University of Ottawa. However I found the university experience wasn’t for me as I preferred the idea of smaller class sizes. The one-on-one time with my professors and hands-on experiences were invaluable opportunities which I felt university did not offer me.
TFS: Why did you choose your program?
MB: I wanted to specialize in game programming while also getting a chance to learn the workflows of the artists and producers I would be working with in the industry. I also wanted to be able to work as part of a mock studio and lead projects to completion as part of the learning process. The Video Game Design and Development program allowed me to do that and now I am able to relate to all sides of the game development process.
TFS: Why do you think you were chosen as the Valedictorian for your program?
MB: Coming from university gave me a pretty big advantage over my classmates. This advantage was not solely in programming experience as I had to relearn many things, but in understanding the effects that a great community can have on motivation and creativity within a school environment. I endeavoured to bring the experiences that I had at university of students encouraging each other and helping each other to TFS by means of community events and game jams.
In order to bring those events to the school I attended countless game development events across Ontario. These experiences enabled me to engage with the community and in turn give back and share what I learned in my own local community. With the help of a fantastic team of women I introduced an annual game jam called TFSJam which was then followed up by a TFSArcade event where the games from the jams were shared with the public. We’ve had a good run with these events and have seen a steady increase in participation so far. My team and I also created a Global Game Jam site at the school, which attracted approximately 35 people in January, and we are expecting a larger turnout next year.
Throughout the entirety of my educational experience I have understood the importance of community, networking and encouragement. I have been in a lead position for every team I have worked on and have seen all of their projects to successful completion. I have been on campus council, a peer tutor, and I have actively tried to create a better community within the game development students at TFS. In recognition of my work, I was chosen as an IGDA Scholar and awarded a scholarship to attend the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco this past March. I believe that I was chosen as Valedictorian in recognition of my efforts to improve TFS and its surrounding community.
TFS: If you could offer one piece of advice to an incoming student, what would that be?
MB: I think the most important thing incoming students should do is to get involved with the community outside of school early on. Learn about the conferences, workshops and events that are happening around you and go to them, bring friends along. Don’t let the feelings of “not being ready yet” stop you, you never know who you will meet. If you can’t find anything outside of school you want to attend, then create something new!
TFS: What is one of the most important things you have learned/experienced at TFS?
MB: At TFS I learned the importance of being self sufficient in guiding my own career path and adapting to challenges as they come. One of the most valuable experiences for me was leading my first team and completing our game “Toymakers and The Dust for Tomorrow”. I walked into a significant time and resource disadvantage with this team and was able to turn it around by not only boosting morale, but also by quickly understanding and adapting to the strengths and limitations of the team. It taught me a great deal about the entire production process and how to motivate others to produce the best results possible.
TFS: What keeps you motivated?
MB: I find my motivation comes from a lot of places. It comes from being surrounded by a constant stream of different creative, passionate people who inspire me to strive for my personal best. It also comes from showcasing games and watching the reactions that they receive when new people play them. The satisfaction of having an emotional impact on new players and connecting with them through the medium of games is what keeps me going. I also keep myself refreshed by participating in game jams with my team which is a great creative outlet that allows me to test new ideas and learn new skills.
TFS: What are your plans after graduation?
MB: I have a lot of plans following graduation! I will be continuing my work with my studio, Point B Games, as well as working on a passion project with a few developers I met at GDC in March. I will also be continuing to update my resource Facebook page for TFS Game Dev students to learn more about upcoming events, workshops and volunteering opportunities in Toronto and the surrounding area. I will continue to host the next TFSJam and next year’s TFS Global Game Jam site. I will also be continuing my education this fall, and am currently working as a programmer for an app developer in the meantime.