The 2011 IGDA GDC Scholar Experience

Two months ago, on my way out to dinner, I received a phone call. It was an unrecognized number from California. I thought to myself for a moment and it hit me. It couldn’t be I said to myself. After answering the phone, my assumption had proven true.

On the other end of the phone was Gordon Bellamy, the Executive Director of the IGDA. He informed me of winning one of the twenty-five IGDA scholarships for GDC 2011. I honestly don’t remember much of that conversation as it all happened so fast. But I do recall my responses, which were pretty much comprised of awesome and thank you.

When Tom sent out an email about an article on Gamasutra talking about the IGDA scholarship, I never expected it would lead where it did. I honestly assumed it was a long shot. But I took my time and submitted the application.

These are the events that led me to the phone call from Gordon. I had become one of the twenty-five GDC 2011 Scholars and I was going to San Francisco for GDC, an event, prior to a year ago, I assumed I would never get to attend.

My experience as an IGDA scholar was both memorable and rewarding. The people I met and the skills I learned in the week at GDC were amazing. From the private tours of studios, to the networking we were able to do with Zynga, Microsoft, Epic, and other companies, the experience was really like nothing I had been a part of before.

Aside from the meeting with companies, having lunch with Zynga, and all the completely awesome things Jack Bogdan, Sheri Rubin, and Gordon planned for us, some of the best experiences came from meeting and talking to the other 24 scholars.

GDC and this entire experience of being an IGDA Scholar, if nothing else, taught me one thing. I am a game developer. Sure I am still a student and should consider myself as such, but with talking with the other IGDA Scholars, and attending a lot of the talks and tutorials at GDC, I realized that amidst FIEA and the scholar experience I had become a game developer.

Being an IGDA Scholar and attending GDC was really the first time I felt like one and not just another student. I had conversations with 24 amazing people and we all talked about the projects we were working on, the assignments we were completing and the trials and tribulations we faced every day while working on our respective game related projects.

We talked about managing people, development methodologies, programming topics, engines and more.  It was great to meet and interact with such a dedicated and passionate group of people. We came from countries all across the world but were united under one thing, our passion and love for video games and the industry.

The experience taught me more than that of course. On top of feeling like a developer, I also realized that this was really what I’ve always wanted to do. When I came to FIEA I first received that reminder. It was where I wanted to be and I couldn’t be happier making video games with 60 other passionate people.

Being a GDC scholar was again a reminder that I was in the right place. It was a realization that hey my dream is coming true and I was living that same dream with 24 other people who too I am sure have the same dream and goal as me.

Through the scholar program I’ve met and talked to so many great people, and that includes my mentor. Part of the scholar experience is being paired up with a mentor. At GDC I met up with my mentor on two occasions. My mentor was Dustin Clingman, the CEO of ZeeGee games here in Orlando, FL.

Dustin was very helpful and taught me the networking ropes at GDC. He taught me about various networking techniques, introduced me to people, and we talked about some of things I was working on at FIEA.

Aside from the great tours, the talks with companies that the IGDA set up for us, and talking with all the other scholars, just having the chance to go to GDC was amazing. I went to the Producer Boot camp, sat in some writing sessions, toured and talked to a lot of people on the Expo floor, watched the experimental gameplay sessions, and even went to a talk from Will Wright.

I learned a lot about production, development methodologies and a lot of little things that I could take back and apply in my projects at FIEA. Plus, I mean seriously. I got to see Will Wright in person. Two years ago that notion would have seemed ridiculous.

In the end the entire experience would not have been possible without the IGDA. They have done an amazing job with the scholarship program and again the events they were able to plan for us scholars were stellar and informative.

The IGDA is an impressive organization that I don’t think gets enough recognition. They are great group of dedicated game developers who are daily trying to help each other and help budding young developers. They are doing great work with programs like the GDC Scholarship program and they are trying very hard to help students make contacts and get jobs in the industry.

I can easily say the program that the IGDA setup for us scholars will undoubtedly be a huge factor when it comes time for me to find a job. I almost cannot fully put into words the gratitude and appreciation I have for all those involved in setting up this scholar experience. It was one of the best weeks of my life and it truly was a dream come true.

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