Consider this my official apology for scoffing in the faces of all those who tried to warn me of the intensity of a year at VFS. You were right. And I was wrong.

Now that winter break is in full force, I can take the time to fully appreciate just how intense the past 6 months have been. Between tight deadlines, team projects, game pitches, and late night UDK crashes, there was barely time to blink. Coffee became my drug of choice, and piles of junk food containers crowded my desk at all times.

We are now officially 50% done with the year. People are often surprised when I tell them the program is only a year long, and I can definitely understand their surprise. There’s enough crammed into these 12 months to last several years. But of course, the year wouldn’t be what it is without the intensity and craziness of it all. Here are the most important things I’ve learned over the past 3 terms:

Term 1: No game designer is an island.

One of the most valuable pieces of the VFS experience is the people you get to go through it with. Over the months, I’ve gotten to know the people in my class extremely well. There are the jokers, the workaholics, the wallflowers, and of course, a few nuts. But I dearly love them all, and this experience wouldn’t be the same without every last one of them.

Term 2: Level design is hard. But fun.

Not too long ago, level design class represented the three most dreaded hours of my week. UDK is not the most friendly program to learn, and with my limited gaming experience, I wasn’t exactly jumping up and down in excitement at the thought of designing the next great level.

I don’t know if you remember, but the first “level” I created was essentially a box. A box with a few doors, some stairs, and a couple of ramps for variation. Through much trial and error, invaluable instructor and peer feedback, and many playtesting sessions, I’m finally starting to realize what makes a good level. Doesn’t mean I can quite make one yet. But hey, it’s a start.

Term 3: I like video games.

But more importantly, I don’t like all video games. Coming to VFS, I knew I had a general affinity toward games, but I’ve since learned that not all games are created equal. Given a choice, I’d pick an action game over a role-playing game. I’d pick a game with targeted missions over an open world game. And any game with in-depth story, eh. Not quite my thing.

At the intersection of all these desired qualities? Street Fighter. That’s right. I never thought I’d say it, but I’m quickly becoming an avid Street Fighter fan. Limited story, fast-paced action, infinite replay value, and the chance the beat people up. What’s not to like? As I continue to play and study more games, I also get the opportunity to learn more about myself, my preferences, and my abilities. Learning through games. Huh. What a novel idea.

Here’s to the next 6 months of craziness. This time, I’ll know it’s coming. Bring it on!