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Building a Portfolio for College

Hey guys. My name is Sean from Toronto, Canada and i'm in Grade 12 graduating June this year looking to join a Game development course. I got unconditional offers from Centennial and George Brown. The problem is the portfolio part. I never really took this into consideration when thinking about this career path. I was thinking maybe to take a gap year to focus on that and then just apply for the course again sometime in 2021 because of such little time I have to build a portfolio now for the 2020 year. What do you guys think is appropriate to do and how can one gain some experience to start building a Portfolio? Thanks 


  • Taylor Brown
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    Taylor Brown ngon master
    The process of building a portfolio is straightforward: make art and take some pictures.

    It's get trickier when you start asking what goes in your portfolio. Ideally you only want your best work that shows your skill and expertise without needing explanation. Less is more, if more is just mediocre. Leave out the one day doodles and the baby steps in a new software. Projects where you've just followed along with a tutorial, step for step, aren't displaying your skill... Just the instructors. Granted, standards are probably quite a bit different for a uni versus a job but I'm sure it overlaps.

  • NikhilR
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    NikhilR interpolator
    What you ought to do is move out of toronto. It is the worst place for game development in Canada at the moment.
    Come to montreal and learn french while you're at it.

    Don't get me wrong George Brown is a good school graduated from there ( and I can't speak for centennial) but the game dev scene for a decent job that respects you and pays well enough to actually live in the city is so horribly deplorable it really isn't worth it regardless of what you'd do to get in.

    The way things are in toronto right now I wouldn't be surprised if in a few years there are no game dev studios, or rather it just worsens along the lines of sure you have a job, but pay is shit and you can only afford a tiny room downtown paying rent that could get you a whole apartment elsewhere in Canada. (except vancouver which is also shit on that front)

    I wish some of my colleagues in AAA at toronto would speak out about the mess publicly, but they don't since they are terrified of losing their jobs given that there is just no other alternative in the game industry scene there.

    Also if you'd like I can help you get work in Montreal now in QA, that you can do as you work on portfolio to get into schools or apply for game studio jobs. 
  • BagelHero
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    BagelHero greentooth
    If the school is good and you still live with your parents, I'd be careful about moving around just yet. Theres not yet a reason to destabilize without impending income I think. Better to focus on school.

    I'm unsure what the course or school is like, but if it's game focused and anything like the US or Aus system, 9/10 the portfolio review won't be super demanding. What schools are usually looking for is that you have the drive to complete the course and self-study outside of class/lecture time; as well as maybe pick up new things. Second to that is already producing nice work (and if they're a private course or school then producing nice work is at least a bonus, as they can take and use it on promo material regardless of if they taught you how to do that  :p ).

    In that aspect, it is a bit different from a work portfolio in that it is okay to show some varying works. I had good luck with mostly 2D character work (what I wanted to do), along with some examples of 3D work and illustration, and some proof that I care about learning my craft (in my case, this was some figure drawing, perspective study, and master studies). For different courses, the things you might want to include to show your working will be different, eg plein air paintings for background artist/vis dev specialty in old school animation courses, wireframes and in-engine shots for the budding environment artist, so on.

    Do be sure to check the course rule/website and any emails you receive thoroughly to see if they state the portfolio requirements anywhere outright, and don't be afraid to track down previous students and ask if you can see their application portfolios or email the school admin for details. They want better students, so it's in their best interest to help you out. :3

    If you've already been working hard in your current areas of focus & you know what you want out of the course, it may be easy to slap together a portfolio that gets you in because you can show a lot of hard work even if it's not industry ready, but if you really don't have much to show at all, it might be much harder to get something together for this year.

    All of this said, a gap year may be good if you aren't yet sure exactly what you're wanting out of the course. It's really important to know *why* you're going to college/uni. Do you need a degree for international travel/work? Do you only need the training, preferably up to industry speed? Do you need some guidance in terms of your goals and artistic method? Do you just want to meet other people with the same passion and focus? There are a lot of reasons people might attend, but it's better to know them before going in. Good luck. <3
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