Where Are They Now?
showcases interviews from former IGDA scholars. IGDA scholarship recipients have accomplished impressive professional feats since their time in the program. These accomplishments range from working on award winning games to founding companies. Past IGDA scholars have pursued a variety of paths in the game industry and this series hopes to catalog those paths for supporters & participants of the program.
Read more interviews by clicking here.
Meet Gillian Smith
Gillian Smith is a professor, innovator, and design guru.
She is an Assistant Professor in Computer Science and Game Design at Northeastern University, where she is a core faculty member in the Playable Innovative Technologies (PLAIT) lab. She earned her PhD in Computer Science in 2012 from UC Santa Cruz’s Center for Games and Playable Media.
Gillian’s research lies on the intersection of artificial intelligence, game design, and human-computer interaction–in particular, she is interested in procedural content generators and how humans can interact with them to craft unique experiences.
Why did you apply for the IGDA Scholars program?
I applied for IGDA Scholars when I was a PhD student. I wanted to gain insight into some of the design problems that are faced in industry from the people who actually work in that space every day. I was accepted into the scholars program at the Game Developers Conference in 2010.
What was the biggest benefit of the IGDA Scholars program for you?
Attending talks and trying to chat with the speakers afterwards to ask questions. My goal was to learn about the current state of design and development in the industry, and the talks were a fabulous way to do that. But I definitely wouldn’t want to downplay the value of networking at the conference… I met several people at the conference who I’m still in touch with today. I remember skipping a few talks because I was in the middle of interesting conversations that I wanted to continue.
What projects have you worked on since the IGDA Scholars program? Upcoming plans?
I came away from a GDC with a much stronger interest in design, as opposed to the pretty technical path I’d been on before. That increased interest (among other factors, of course) led to me leading a team to create an experimental game called Endless Web, which formed part of my PhD research and will be released quite soon! I am now an assistant professor at Northeastern University, where I teach computer science and game design.
What advice would you give those applying to the IGDA Scholars program?
First of all: definitely apply! I didn’t really expect to be chosen as an IGDA scholar, and I’m obviously really glad I tried anyway. Also make sure to say why it is you want to interact with people in the industry — everyone loves games and thinks it would be awesome to go to one of the events, so put some thought into what you personally want to learn or experience when you go.
Learn more about Gillian by visiting her website and follow her on Twitter.