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E3 Scholars Reports Now Available!

As we ramp up preparing for GDC applications to open this fall we wanted to continue to share the experiences our scholars have had this year. Are you a scholar looking to attend one of our opportunities in 2015? You can now read about the amazing experiences our IGDA scholars had at E3 2014! Check out our scholars reports by clicking here.

Stay up to date on future opportunities by following us on Twitter @igda_scholars. Applications for GDC 2015 will be available in early October! Get ready!

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Where Are They Now: Robert Zubek

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 aims to catalog those paths for supporters & participants of the program. Our hope is to inspire current students to reach their goals and dreams.

Read more interviews by clicking here.

Meet Robert Zubek

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Robert Zubek is a game designer and developer, and co-founder of SomaSim, an independent studio in Chicago.

Before starting his own company, he was a principal software engineer at Zynga, where he was the founding engineer on Cityville and a software architect on Farmville 2, the company’s two large-scale social games. Prior to Zynga, he developed online game infrastructure at Three Rings Design and console games at Electronic Arts. Dr. Zubek holds a PhD in Computer Science from Northwestern University, where he did research on game AI and robotics.

Why did you apply for the IGDA Scholars program?

I was awarded the scholarship to GDC in 2001, the very first year of the scholars program. I was just starting grad school then, and got really interested in doing research on games, which at that point was just getting started.

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What was the biggest benefit of the IGDA Scholars program for you?

Going to the GDC! I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise, not on a grad student’s budget. :) And it was a great experience, a massive knowledge download compressed into just three days. I also met cool people in the scholars program. Unfortunately we’ve mostly lost touch over those 12 years, and I wish we hadn’t.

What projects have you worked on since the IGDA Scholars program? Upcoming plans?

Since the scholarship, I continued grad school, and defended a CS PhD in 2005, with a thesis on AI for games and conversational agents. My first industry job was at EA, on the Sims and Lord of the Rings franchises, then I moved on to a startup called Three Rings Design, which was a pioneer of free-to-play casual MMOs. After that was another startup called Zynga, where I built several very-large-scale social games, such as Cityville.

Finally, last year I started my own company, SomaSim, dedicated to making simulation games. We’ve just released our first game earlier this year – it’s a city management sim called “1849″, set in the California Gold Rush.

How about that for 13 years on fast forward?

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What advice would you give those applying to the IGDA Scholars program?

If you get accepted, immerse yourself in the conference, learn as much as you can about the industry. Take advantage of any mentoring you can get from experienced industry people – you can get much more out of simple conversations with seasoned developers, than from dozens of blog posts or opinion pieces.

Finally, stay in touch with your peers in the scholars program. When I look through the list of past scholars, I’m amazed by how many names on there I recognize. Many of you will go on to do great things.

Learn more about Robert by visiting his website and follow him on Twitter.

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The GDC Europe & Gamescom Experience

The IGDA scholars have wrapped up their experience at GDC Europe and Gamescom in Cologne, Germany. This year scholars met with Lewis Brown from EA about how to get into industry, spoke with Tim Symons from Nintendo Europe about publishing with Nintendo, sat down with industry legend Don Daglow, received special access to the Sony Press Conference, had a Q&A with Brenda and John Romero, met with Oculus Product Lead Joe Chen, and grabbed lunch with Microsoft Tech Evangelist Lee Stott! They finished their amazing conference experience having a Q&A and goodbye dinner with IGDA executive director Kate Edwards.

We wanted to give a special thanks to all of the wonderful volunteers, mentors, organizations, and companies that made this possible. You can check out the scholars’ Storify below. Look out for GDC 2015 applications opening in the Fall. If you would like to help continue to make this amazing program possible, please visit http://foundation.igda.org/ to donate!

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The IGDA Scholars at GDCE & Gamescom!

GDC Europe & Gamescom are here and  that means you can follow our scholarship winners on Twitter! Look out for the #IGDAScholars hashtag, and as always, our @IGDA_Scholars account will be retweeting scholars’ pictures and experiences from the events!

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Where Are They Now: Gillian Smith

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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GDC 2014 Former Scholars Reports Available Now!

Are you a scholar looking to attend one of our opportunities in 2015? Want to know what previous experiences have been like for our scholarship recipients? You can now read about the amazing experiences our IGDA scholars had GDC 2014! Check out our scholars reports by clicking here!

Stay up to date on future opportunities by following us on Twitter @igda_scholars and don’t forget that applications for Tokyo Game Show and CEDEC are due by July 10th! Apply for TGS & CEDEC scholarships at http://ifigdaj.blogspot.jp/.

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Congrats to our 2014 GDCE & Gamescom Scholars!

We are excited to reveal the newest IGDA scholarship recipients! The IGDA scholarship committee welcomes and congratulates 8 bright students to attend GDC Europe (Aug. 11-13th) and Gamescom (Aug. 13th-17th) this year in Cologne, Germany. Here is the list of winners!

  • GDCEandGamesComImageJuney Dijkstra (University of Utrecht, Netherlands)
  • Anders Hillestad (Norwegian School of Information Technology, Norway)
  • Luci Holland (The University of Edinburgh, Scotland)
  • Alexander Muscat (RMIT University, Australia)
  • Karstein Røsnes Ersdal (Norwegian School of Information Technology, Norway)
  • John Sandford ( Bournemouth University, United Kingdom)
  • Nicholas Witsel (University for the Arts Utrecht, Netherlands)
  • Christina Kalinger (University of Utah, USA)

Each year we award select scholars with passes to GDC Europe & Gamescom, schedule booth tours and exclusive Q&A sessions, and match each of them with industry veterans as mentors. You can read the bios of our scholarship winners by clicking here.

Tokyo Games Show & CEDEC in Japan are the last stops for IGDA scholarships in 2014. If you would like to attend as an IGDA Scholar, visit here to apply.  If you missed out on receiving a 2014 scholarship to GDC Europe or Gamescom and want to be a part of this great experience, look for applications to open in the fall for GDC 2015! You can find out when applications will open by following us on twitter @igda_scholars and by bookmarking this blog!

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