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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.


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.

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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

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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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The IGDA Scholars had an Amazing E3!

The IGDA scholars had an AMAZING experience this year at E3. Award recipients toured studios EALA & Insomniac Games. They had Q&A sessions with Justin Berenbaum from 505 Games, Tim Symons from Nintendo Europe, Brian Fargo from inXile Entertainment, and Chris Jurney from Supergiant Games. They also received special booth tours & access courtesy of Disney, Destiny, Sony Europe, Ubisoft, Oculus, Bethesda, Indiecade, and Ouya.

We’d like to thank everyone who helped us set up this experience, from our contacts and sponsors who gave their time and resources to our scholars, to our volunteers behind the scenes. We’ve cataloged these experiences into a storify of Twitter posts shared to #igdascholars. Click Read More to see the storify on our website or click here to see it on!

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IGDA Scholars on Twitter

As our Scholars arrive in Los Angeles and E3 begins, remember that you can follow Scholar activities on Twitter throughout the week on the #IGDAScholars hashtag! Our @IGDA_Scholars account, now featured in the sidebar, will also be retweeting many of the Scholars’ tweets throughout the week, so stay posted!

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A Big Thanks to our Sponsors!

As we approach the exciting experiences our scholars are going to have at E3 we wanted to thank all our sponsors for their support this year! This on-going opportunity would not be possible without the time contributed by our many volunteers and donations from our sponsors. First we want to thank all the mentors, industry veterans, and educators who make this possible behind the scenes. The program requires a lot of effort from volunteers all over the world who work before, during, and after the conference to keep it going.


Another big thanks goes out to Rackspace - the high-performance, scalable platform for all your application and web hosting needs. Rackspace® (NYSE: RAX) is the global leader in hybrid cloud and founder of OpenStack®, the open-source operating system for the cloud. We are very grateful for their help in making the scholarships possible this year.


We’d also like to than Obsidian Entertainment. Obsidian is also known for South Park: The Stick of TruthFallout: New VegasDungeon Siege III, and many other great games. Please help us thank them by checking out their latest project - Pillars of Eternity!


Last but not least, we’d like to thank the IGDA Foundation. We have many donors who help our program and the IGDA by contributing directly to the IGDA Foundation. You too can become a sponsor for the IGDA Scholarship program! If you feel like giving back and would like to participate in making our experience the best possible for the industry’s brightest students and go to

Follow each of our sponsors on Twitter @Rackspace, @Obsidian, and @IGDAFoundation

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Congratulations to our 2014 E3 Scholars

The IGDA and the IGDA Scholarships Committee are delighted to announce and congratulate the 2014 E3 scholars. Each year the IGDA must select from a growing pool of entries and choose just a few students to send to E3. This year, we chose 7 students to send and are proud to share them with you!

  • Michelle Auyoung (New York University, USA)
  • Daniel Feld (Turku University, Finland)
  • Dylan Gedig (University of Victoria, Canada)
  • Richard Gould (Berklee College of Music, USA)
  • Minsoo Lee (George Brown College, Canada)
  • Gaylen Malone (Savannah College of Art & Design, USA)
  • Daniel Waine (University of the West of Scotland, Scotland)

Awarded to the best and brightest students in game development disciplines, the IGDA Scholars program gives recipients an all-access pass, industry mentorship, and local studio tours while at E3. Click here to read the bios of this year’s E3 scholars!

E3 takes place 10-12 June 2014 at the Los Angeles Convention Center in Los Angeles, USA. Tens of thousands of people will attend E3 where game industry professionals will share the latest technology innovations, newest ideas in game development, and best interactive entertainment.

E3 is our next stop in 2014 and promises to be a great opportunity for our scholars. You can learn more about the program, other upcoming scholarships such as Tokyo Game Show and CEDEC, as well as find out how to apply at

Please continue to help us spread the word about this excellent opportunity for students from around the world!

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