Evgenia Stroganova is the first to admit she didn’t know much about the video game industry before enrolling in Video Game Design & Animation at Toronto Film School Online – but just two years later, she’s graduating as the program’s Class of 2022 valedictorian.
“I have never been much of a gamer. This field was totally new to me, so I was not sure I would succeed. However, I decided to believe in myself, work hard and try my best,” said the 34-year-old Vancouverite, who moved to Canada from Russia back in 2010.
“I loved the program and became so passionate about game design that I started imagining how I would model, texture and animate objects around me.”
Since finishing her online studies with TFSO, Stroganova has continued developing her portfolio, working on a number of different “exciting ideas and projects” including a new language learning game – a venture that’s allowed her to merge her newfound love of video games with her lifelong passion for languages.
Stroganova recently sat down to reflect on her time at Toronto Film School, her passion for video game design, and her plans for the future. Here’s what she had to say:
Please tell us a little bit about yourself
My name is Evgenia (or Genia for short), and I came to Canada 12 years ago from Russia, where I grew up in a mixed Russian-Ukrainian family. I also got to live in China for a year, as my first degree was in Asian studies and I learnt Chinese. Languages are my passion, and I speak a few, Spanish being one of them. As it relates to hobbies, I have many. I have always been very passionate about learning things – from dancing and drawing, to writing and pottery, to video editing, sports and other things. Although I am already 34 years old, I do believe that learning never ends and that it helps us keep the spark of enthusiasm in our hearts alive as years go by.
What brought you to Toronto Film School to pursue your passion for video game design? Where were you in life when you decided to continue your studies with us?
I have been learning and exploring new things and skills while working in the fields of translation, education, and customer service. I was brought into the field of video games by curiosity and a few coincidences. First, a few years ago, out of curiosity, I started an online Coursera course on game development with Unity and worked on a solar system simulation. Back then, I did not have resources to actually pursue serious studies in the field and focused on other things. A couple years later, due to some random circumstances, I got to work in movies as an extra and photo double, and took some acting classes here and there. It was then that I saw Toronto Film School on a social media platform and clicked to read more about film-related programs. I received a call from a wonderful TFS advisor Ryan, exchanged a couple sentences with him and told him that, unfortunately, I was not in a place in life where I could afford taking a program at TFS. With that, I moved on with my life and jobs. A couple months later, I got hired by Yorkville University. Imagine my shock when I learnt that Toronto Film School was a part of it and that, as an employee, I could get a tuition waiver. It was a happy shock. My boss and colleagues were very supportive of me and encouraged me to study. I explored the program options and chose the Video Game Animation, because it looked extremely interesting and fascinating and I knew very little about it. As I reached out to Admissions for guidance, I got to the very same advisor Ryan, another coincidence, and Ryan has always been very helpful and supportive. I have never been much of a gamer, this field was totally new to me, and I was not sure I would succeed. However, I decided to believe in myself, work hard and try my best. I loved the program and became so passionate about game design that I started imagining how I would model, texture and animate objects around me. I started the program when the COVID pandemic began and finished it when the COVID peakede and restrictions were left behind.
Into the new era with the new skills and dreams.
What is the most important thing you’re taking away from your studies at TFS?
Toronto Film School gave me a lot when it comes to knowledge, good memories and relationships. Apart from learning valuable skills in game design, I experienced the great joy and satisfaction of taking on the challenge of learning an absolutely new field, believing in myself and doing things I didn’t know were possible. I learnt skills in 3D character and assets modelling, texturing, animation, environment design, and much more. I also learnt the extra importance of patience, good organization and time management as you deal with the software. Things may go down for various reasons, technical issues and glitches may occur, and it is crucial to give yourself extra time to get your tasks done in a timely manner. I am also very grateful for those beautiful people I met in the program – the instructors, TFS team members and my fellow students. My classmates and I have always been there for each other, building each other up and helping each other improve our skills. I feel that it is very important to have wonderful, talented people around you in the same field who support you and wish the best for you.
What are your plans after graduation both immediate and long term?
I have now been working on my portfolio and I will keep doing so for some time. There are so many things that can be done that I can’t help feeling very excited about. First, I am planning to combine my skills in various fields to work on some little projects with friends. I may combine game design and video-editing to do something for my little languages-related YouTube channel as a part of portfolio-building experience. When I build more portfolio, I would be delighted to work in a game studio and do more individual creative projects.
If you offered one piece of advice to an incoming student, what would that be?
Don’t be afraid, go for what you are passionate or curious about, believe in yourself, do your best, work hard and do not give up. You will thank yourself later, as your new skills will open new doors for you to what you enjoy doing. Working in something you truly love will change your life.