How to apply for (and win) an IGDA GDC scholarship

I followed a couple basic strategies while I applied to the IGDA scholarship program:

  1. Demonstrate a passion for what you do. My passion is probably one of my most convincing traits, so I tried to show that in my application
  2. Show that you're active in the gaming community. That includes not only knowing names of big people in the industry, but also that you're constantly developing new games and learning. I personally don't have a lot of connections in the gaming industry, so I focused a lot more on all the projects I'm involved in.
  3. Prove that you're grounded. Anything to help you stand out (in a positive way) from the other applicants will help your cause. If I had to guess, most aspiring video game designers have pie in the sky aspirations, which is great, but often not feasible. I'm a modest person, so this strategy works well with my personality. (Also, bragging about my modesty makes me pretty uncomfy :P )
  4. Convey a personality. In this category I always take advantage of the fact that I play the tuba; it's unique and quirky. I also tried to take a relatively relaxed writing style, as if I were talking to the judge in person. Although I think some of my responses come out a little stilted in the end.
Here are my actual responses if you're curious what I wrote:

Q1 - What are your career objectives? How will this scholarship help you achieve your goals?:
Ultimately I’d love to work as a sound designer/composer for a small game company. Small teams that do the best are made up of experts in their field, so my immediate career objective is to become as expert as I possibly can. I plan on graduating and working for a consumer electronics company while making small video games and attending conferences in my spare time. When my school loans are manageable and the time is right, I hope to make independent games for a living.

Q2 - What do you expect to gain from GDC that is not available at your school?:
I want to meet bright and motivated game audio engineers, sound designers, and composers like me. I have lots of friends that design games, and lots of friends that compose music (electronic and otherwise). What I haven’t found at school is a community of people interested specifically in game audio. GDC gives me the opportunity not only to meet industry professionals, but also to interact and share ideas and insights with people that are as passionate about sound as I am.

Q3 - What is your all-time favorite game, and why? What kind of game would you like to make?:
I’m sure a lot of people respond with my favorite game—Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. I believe the Legend of Zelda series basically defined the Action-Adventure genre, and bringing Link into three dimensions proved to be a very successful endeavor for Nintendo. My particular love of OoT is its music, composed by Koji Kondo. Each song is brilliantly composed using the same 5 pitches on the player’s ocarina, and each is beautiful and memorable. If I could make a game with music as well crafted as Koji Kondo’s, that would be a great achievement for me.

Q4 - Describe a game-related project (personal or academic) in which you've participated. Why did you get involved, and what did you learn?:
Last semester the game design team I was on made 4 prototype games, developing each game within the span of a week. I need more experience designing and developing games, and this seemed like a great place to do it. I learned tons. I learned that defining what exactly a “prototype” is will save you a lot of trouble. I learned design by committee is hard and sometimes inefficient. And I learned that prototyping doesn't work as well in large groups (we were a group of 8).

Q5 - Is there anything else you'd like the judges to know about you?:
If you’re wondering why I’m a Computer Science major but interested in the audio/music of games, I’m also double minoring in Music and Computing in the Arts.
Some other quick facts to get to know me!
I play the tuba. This would be my first time going to GDC. I’m a total geek when it comes to procedural generation, especially procedural music. Last semester I helped teach a highschool game design program. I’ve taken three school game design courses to date. I love blogs, I love San Francisco, and I love games :)

So yep, that's what got me in. Not very jaw-dropping, but good enough to get a free ride to the expo. See you there!

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