In this guest post from a member of the 2013 Judging Panel, Chris Tihor addresses an issue that he (and many other judges) have noticed when evaluating Scholarship applications.
As one of the judges for the IGDA Scholars program, I spend a certain amount of time reviewing applications from students. By and large this is an inspiring experience: I get to see what great things the future wave of game creators are up to while they’re learning and developing their craft. But unfortunately there’s a downside to this process as well: many of the applications I’ve read aren’t living up to their potential. I see good applications that could be great applications. And, sadly, I see many applications that don’t represent their authors very positively at all. I hate to see it, because more often than not an awesome applicant is being dragged down by some simple mistakes that can be easily fixed.
One of the most obvious mistakes that I see revolves around the sections regarding volunteering. After reading a number of them, the impression I get is that students are unclear on what volunteering is, so I thought that I’d see what I can do to help. I’ll begin by giving you examples I’ve gleaned from actual applications that are definitely not volunteer work:
- Attending an IGDA Chapter/Game Dev group meeting – While fun and informative, this is not the same as volunteering.
- Working on your game – Another great learning experience, but not volunteering.
- Working on someone else’s game – See “Working on your game” above.
- Working on a game for a class project – This is more along the lines of education instead of volunteer work.
- Donating to a charity – Please do, but don’t call it volunteering.
- Participating at a charity event – Sure, it feels good to have fun while donating to a worthy cause, but it’s not volunteering.
- Working on an unpaid internship – Good for getting valuable experience, but not the same as a volunteer position.
- Buying indie games – Good for you! Indie games are worth your time and money, but that’s still not volunteering.
- Supporting crowdfunded projects – Also worth the effort, but also not volunteering.
- Beta testing a commercial game – A great way to witness how studios get a game to that last level of polish, but it’s not volunteering.
- Attending a game jam – one of my favorite ways to learn how to make games, but, you guessed it, not volunteering.
- Buying games instead of pirating them – not just a good idea, it’s the law. Also, it’s not volunteering.
There’s more, but I think you get the idea. Now that I’ve shot down all of these activities as not volunteering, you’re probably wondering what would actually count as volunteering. Here are a few suggestions:
- Helping out an IGDA Chapter/Game Dev group – Offer to help the organizers with a particular area or whatever needs doing (there’s always something that needs doing). If there’s no nearby group, start one yourself.
- Helping a charity – Donate your time and effort to help the charity raise money, reach its goals, and improve your community. There are plenty out there that could use your help. You might even be able to help them with your game dev related skills: making art for posters, fixing their computers, etc.
- Helping at local schools – Volunteer for an after-school program teaching kids programming, drawing, creative writing; wherever your skills lie.
- Helping at a conference – Most conferences are largely run by volunteers. Why not volunteer for one of your favorite ones? Not only do you tend to get a free pass to the event, you also get to meet the other awesome people who put it on and get a backstage view of how conferences are run.
- Helping the IGDA – We’re always looking for people who are willing to volunteer their time. Most of what gets done in the IGDA is through the help of our fantastic volunteers. Contact us and we’ll soon find something you can help with.
In summary, volunteering is about putting some of your time and effort into endeavors that help others more than they help you. It’s about actively participating in your community, local or international, public or professional, and making a change for the better for all. The great thing is that even though you’re helping others, you’re helping yourself at the same time. You’re building relationships, experiencing new things, and getting a feeling of satisfaction in knowing that you’re making a difference in people’s lives. I know this firsthand: as a volunteer for my local IGDA chapter, as a volunteer for the IGDA Scholars program, and as a volunteer for the IGDA as a whole. In fact, I volunteered to write this article. I did so because I want to help students write better IGDA Scholar applications and help show the judges how awesome they really are. So if this piece helps even one person to do so, then it will make the effort all worthwhile.
Chris Tihor is a writer, narrative designer, creator of comics, and organizer of IGDA Victoria. He’s also the creative dynamo behind Ironic Iconic Studios. You can check out some of his work at http://www.ironiciconicstudios.com/.