Geek Speak: Janel Jolly, winner of Vancouver Film School’s Women in Games Scholarship
Janel Jolly is clearly excited to be entering Vancouver Film School’s game design program this April. As one of four Women in Games Scholarship winners this year, Jolly’s tuition is covered for the one-year program.
Turning 30 this year, Jolly already works in the video-game industry. She’s a creative director and project manager for Idevcor Media, an online game studio based in Kelowna. In preparation for her move to Vancouver, she’s rented an apartment in Kitsilano.
This year’s other full-tuition scholarship winners are Nicha Jaijadesuk of Thailand, Jaymee Mak of Australia, and Anna Prein of Russia. Tuition for the VFS game design program normally costs $32,250 for Canadian students and $49,250 for international students, and includes essential materials.
The Georgia Straight reached Jolly by phone in Kelowna.
Why did you apply for the Women in Games Scholarship?
I really wanted to enter game design and the industry. A few years back, I went to school for 3-D gaming animation modelling, and I was really content in doing just that. After entering the industry, I really found that I loved working with the teams and having a better perspective of what the team was going through and the project itself. So going to Vancouver Film School for game design is probably the best opportunity I could ever have to expand on my career.
How do you think the education you’ll get at Vancouver Film School will change your career?
I did a lot of researching on different schools, and what the Vancouver Film School has is the one-year curriculum, which is great because I didn’t want to go back to school for three years. Having it in the one year is the perfect amount of time, because this industry changes constantly. What’s great about the school is I’ve met the staff multiple times. I’ve been there since their very first Game Design Expo—I think it was four or five years ago. I have a bit of contact with there.
They have the best networking. They’re right in the heart of Vancouver, which is a beautiful, beautiful city, which is really thriving in this industry. What’s really good too is they expose you to all different aspects of the gaming world. So when you go there, you can at least be experienced in all the different facets and know how they work. But you can really begin to specialize, and that specialization is really key.
What games inspired you to get into game design?
I’ve pretty much played them all—the RPGs, MMOs, FPS, board games, card games, racing, action, horror. I didn’t actually know that I wanted to enter the gaming industry until I was a teen. By then, gaming was just a really dominant hobby for me. What really made the difference is that I began looking at games as probably the most interactive art medium that was possibly out there.
With gaming being where it’s at right now—with the whole tablet market and phones, with all these new gamers out there—it’s just becoming really fun terrain to work with. The gaming industry is a great place to work. It’s hard, and it kind of has to be part of your life, but I love it so much. You’re providing people with a very fun experience, and I think that’s a really amazing thing to do.
Where do you hope to find yourself after graduation?
Hopefully, still in Vancouver. I’ve been there every year in the past 30 years. What I would like to do is work for one of the bigger or new studios in Vancouver. I definitely do want to stay in Canada and help the gaming industry thrive in this country.
How long do you think video game consoles are going to be around?
I think video game consoles are going to be around for quite a while. They still have quite a lot of life in them. I’m hoping that the consoles won’t die out. I’m hoping that people will be very innovative with consoles. So I think they will continue to exist, but they will evolve.
Any advice for anyone who wants to apply for the scholarship in the future?
Definitely be proud of what you send. If you aren’t, then fix it. This is a really big investment from the school, so you have to really let your personality shine through. You can’t just fill out the questions. You have to answer the questions and answer them in your own style and also answer them in a way that lets the reader know more about you.
The best thing I can say is VFS has really amazing admissions people, so contact them and ask questions. During the Game Design Expo and all my visits there, I went and asked them, “What do you guys want to see?” The answers were pretty much the same for a majority of them. They’re looking for a really mature student who has a really good personality, is fun, extremely dedicated, but definitely knows this is what they want to do.
What I did is I actually submitted my application to get critiques from several people. Of course, this industry is all about critiques and iterating. Just reach out and try and get contacts, because there are really amazing people there who will help you out, especially when they know how badly you want to win.