Introducing The 11th Eric Dybsand Memorial AI Scholar

The Eric Dybsand Memorial AI Scholarship is an important piece of the IGDA Foundation’s history, given that it was the award that drove the creation of our organisation. Eric’s impact as a welcoming figure within the Game AI community set the blueprint for what would become the award established in his honor, which we have given out annually since our beginnings. Today we are delighted to introduce you to the 2017 Eric Dybsand Memorial AI Scholar, the 11th student to benefit from that legacy!

EricVignolaEric Vignola is a game developer, thinker, and obsessive. He uses artificial intelligence and interactive experiences to help players explore some of life’s toughest questions. In the past, Eric has helped create tools that allow video game authors to create more expressive worlds that allow for deeper player interaction through artificial intelligence. Presently, he is creating a game about the experience of being biracial in the United States and feelings of social isolation. Eric is planning to create an online media company that uses micro games and blog posts to help people develop greater levels of emotional intelligence through play.

Eric will receive not only all of the benefits of being an IGDA Scholar, such as a complimentary pass courtesy of GDC, but will also be welcomed with open arms by the Game AI community, participating in the AI Summit and being an honored guest at the annual AI Programmers Dinner.

Please join us in congratulating Eric on this great achievement, and if you see him at GDC make sure that you say hello!


The IGDA Foundation is indebted to GDC, the AI Game Programmers Guild and the various members of the community who make this award possible

The IGDA Foundation at GDC 2017

GDC 2017 is less than a week away, and I’m so excited for the activities and programs we have planned!  Over the past months, a team of dedicated volunteers has been preparing some amazing initiatives, and we want to make sure you know about what’s going on with the IGDA Foundation at GDC.

Our programs support inclusivity in our industry and help improve the lives of current and future game developers, and we’re very proud to contribute to the outstanding programming at GDC-this year, 28 GDC speakers are IGDA Foundation alumni or current program participants!  We’re very excited to recognize the accomplishments of our extended community (but we’re not very surprised to see these exceptional alumni sharing their knowledge, accomplishments, leadership, and innovation at GDC).

In addition to congratulating our alumni, we’re showcasing our current programs as well as ways to get involved in the game development community.  All of our GDC programs include all-access passes to the conference, generously provided by GDC, but each offers a unique experience,  designed to help introduce and retain outstanding students and game developers.

First and foremost, the IGDA Scholars program turns 16!  This program selects the best and brightest game development students for a week-long intensive introduction to game development as a career.  In addition to all-access passes to the conference, students tour local game studios, have exclusive Q&A sessions with industry luminaries, and receive mentorship to further support their game development careers.  The Scholars program also includes the Eric Dybsand Memorial AI Scholarship, available to a student whose studies focus on AI in games.

Our Women in Games Ambassadors program, supported by Intel and the Bigglesworth Foundation, provides a unique opportunity for women to experience an accelerated entry into a game development career, through exclusive networking events, resume and portfolio reviews, and an all-access pass to GDC.

Next Gen Leaders, our newest program,  was introduced this year thanks to the generous sponsorship of Xbox.  The Next Gen Leaders experience is created specifically to help retain under-represented minorities in game development by providing workshops for personal and professional growth, a mentor, and an all-access pass to GDC.

We’re very proud of the impact these programs will have on their participants, but we want to do more to support game developers.  If you participate in a game development-focused community organization, be sure to attend our Roundtable at GDC on Wednesday at 11 AM, in Room 111 in the North Hall.  Our Chair, Luke Dicken, will lead a discussion on how to maximize financial and community support for chapters, SIGs, and other game development organizations, including an overview of how to get grants from the IGDA Foundation and additional support to boost your program.

In addition to these opportunities for game developers, if you’d like to learn more about how YOU can support the IGDA Foundation, please don’t hesitate to contact me at GDC.  Safe travels, and see you in San Francisco!



Meet the 2017 IGDA Foundation Women in Games Ambassadors

The 2017 IGDA Foundation Women in Games Ambassadors have been selected! Congratulations to our winners!

The competition was fierce, and we’re proud to showcase an exceptional group of women, who represent a diverse range of professional backgrounds and some of the most promising rising talent within games.

As part of our Women in Games Ambassadors program, these women will receive a once-in-a-lifetime experience with All-Access passes, travel stipends, special Q&A sessions with game industry insiders, and a week full of exclusive insider events and opportunities.

Read more about these incredible women here.

We are grateful for the support of GDC, Intel and the Bigglesworth Foundation, whose generosity makes this program possible.

Announcing the 2017 IGDA Foundation Next Gen Leaders

In partnership with Xbox, we’re thrilled to announce the inaugural cohort for the Next Gen Leaders program.  Through this initiative, we’re excited to support inclusivity in game development through an innovative leadership program that includes an all-access pass to GDC, generously provided by UBM, a two-day summit for personal xbox-2014-stacked-rgb-pngand professional development, a travel stipend, and a mentor individually selected to help the program participant achieve their professional goals.

These exceptional developers, who are also members of under-represented minorities in game development, have shown a profound commitment to their craft and community.  They represent the future of game development, and we are very excited to support them in their development careers.

Please join us in congratulating the 2017 Next Gen Leaders.


Brian Chung
bsc_profile_largeBrian S. Chung is a game designer, artist, and educator.

He is the codirector of the game development studio The Sheep’s Meow, which also doubles as a community organization that supports creators of games and interactive art in New Jersey and New York City. Their mission is to support local developers, make game creation inclusive & accessible, and help people get started making their own games.

His games have been played by millions of players worldwide. His professional design work has included serving as the lead game designer and manager of the design team at Fantage, a virtual world with over 30 million players; game designer at Sony Online Entertainment, working on EverQuest; and game designer & user experience designer of apps, websites, and games for a wide range of clients, such as LEGO, PowerBar, and PETA. His game installation and performance art has exhibited internationally at the Stedelijk Museum ‘s-Hertogenbosch, the Museum of the Moving Image, Babycastles Gallery, Come Out & Play Festival, and more.

He is currently a visiting professor of Creative Arts & Technology at Bloomfield College, where he helps direct the undergraduate game development program.


Caroline Guevara

PSX_20160219_202154 (1)Caroline Guevara is a Production Coordinator for the Mobile Games Department at Cartoon Network Digital. She is in charge of creating free and premium titles for the mobile market and web with the lovable quirky characters of current Cartoon Network shows. She got to this point by pursuing her longtime love of video games with a B.F.A. in Computer Game Design from George Mason University and a M.S. in Digital Media from Drexel University.

Ever since she was young, Caroline was always seen playing with a dusty Sega Genesis or drawing new characters inspired from games or anime. The collection of games, handhelds and consoles grew and only pushed her to pursue what she had always dreamed of doing – creating games for the world to enjoy. From her graduate studies, Caroline still has an interest in games that teach socioeconomic issues and/or engage the player with moral choices – such as “Papers, Please” or others as simple as Bioshock that deliver different scenarios based on story branches chosen. Her ultimate goal as her career develops is to be a creative director.


Jennifer Ashiru

JenniferAshiruJennifer Ashiru is an Associate Games Producer at Cartoon Network Games, where she produces fun and innovative mobile games for a TV network that she grew up watching as a kid. She’s responsible for working with and directing the efforts of key stakeholders and third party developers through all phases of development. Her love for gaming stems heavily from visual storytelling in games — some might even say she’s a huge point and click nerd.

Jennifer holds a BA in Art History/Visual Arts and a minor in Computer Science from Emory University. This combination of coursework allowed her to design her own program, exploring and creating games from a unique perspective. Additionally, Jennifer’s efforts have led her to work with and develop the growing games and media-focused interests of various students from SCAD, Georgia Tech, and Emory.


Jesseca Lee
jlee_headshotJesseca Lee is a game designer at Jam City in San Francisco where she is busily making mobile magic. She is wildly excited about the democratization of play through the proliferation of portable devices.

Jesseca got her start in games by connecting with the grassroots development community in her hometown of Miami before moving to New York City to study with Code Liberation. She then traveled west to California, created an award-winning prototype about infinitely gardening space deer at GXDev, and got to speak about her journey at GaymerX.

Currently, Jesseca designs puzzles and interactive narratives with Jam City. A writer of fiction by academic training, she is incredibly passionate about storytelling in new mediums. Interactivity augments the human capacity for empathy in a way that Jesseca feels is particularly critical to both games as an industry and to narrative as a craft.

As a self-proclaimed futurist, Jesseca is very enthusiastic about virtual reality and the new design challenges posited by play in three-dimensional virtual arenas. She hopes to pioneer the application of AR/VR in mental health treatment, particularly with regards to assisting survivors of trauma in their healing processes. Jesseca seeks to use VR to construct experiences which explore the ways engaging in play can build and strengthen self-efficacy,

Her favorite game is Ico.


Juan Vaca
jvacaJuan Vaca is an American game designer at Telltale Games in Northern California. He is an advocate for authentic representation in storytelling. Juan believes the player agency created in games can be a powerful tool for empathy.

Juan graduated with honors from the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California with a degree in Interactive Entertainment. He credits his success to the discipline and life skills he learned while in the Marines.

As a mental health advocate, he shares advice, feedback, and his experiences via social media and as a speaker on mental health panels at conventions. He volunteers with assisting other veterans and service members in the gaming community.

His credits include: Telltale’s The Walking Dead Series, Tales from the Borderlands, Batman, The Amazing Spider-Man: The Game, Avengers: Battle for Earth, and Deadpool. He is currently writing his memoirs from his time in the service as a Marine sniper.

Juan can be found on his couch watching movies, playing games, or reading comics. He also plays the jug, yes, jug and baritone horn for The Rivertown Skifflers, “The Best Jug Band in the Bay Area,” according to him.


Karen McCarthy
KarenMcCarthy_picKaren McCarthy is a 3D character artist who currently works at EA Sports in Orlando, Florida.  Before this she was an artist at Hapa Games and helped release the game Ascendant while working closely with a small team.  She has worked on several titles in only a few years including NBA Live, PGA Tour, and Madden.  She holds a Master’s of Science degree in Interactive Entertainment from Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy (FIEA).

Most of Karen’s time is spent creating art and games, but when she is not working on her computer tan she enjoys playing soccer and learning ballroom dancing.  She hopes to always be involved in the game development community and to be a helping hand for students interested in or learning game development.

Leena van Deventer
leenavandeventerLeena van Deventer is a game developer and writer from Melbourne, Australia. She has taught interactive storytelling at RMIT and Swinburne Universities and in 2016 published her first book, “Game Changers: From Minecraft to Misogyny, the fight for the future of videogames” with Dr Dan Golding for Affirm Press.

Leena has worked in a freelance capacity on many games, including her role as Senior Copywriter on Cannes Gold Lion Award winning “Run That Town” for the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and was a narrative consultant on the “Twists & Turns” app for the 2014 Melbourne Writers Festival, featuring choose-your-own-adventure stories geotagged to the laneways of Melbourne. In 2013 Leena co-founded WiDGET, a grassroots feminist organisation supporting women and non-binary game developers. WiDGET supports over 700 members, and is poised in 2017 to “level up” its fundraising and research efforts, and its organisational structure. In 2015, Leena received the inaugural “Pioneer Award” at the MCV Pacific Women in Games Awards for the woman who has “over time helped paved the way for women in gaming and helped build the Australian and New Zealand game industries”. She is grateful to continue this work with the help of the IGDA Foundation.

Llaura Ash McGee
llauraLlaura Ash McGee is a multi-award winning Irish artist, designer and video game maker. As ‘DREAMFEEL’ she makes strange, wonderful, intense games.  Perhaps best known for ‘CURTAIN’, the story of a destructive relationship between two queer women in a Glasgow punk band. In 2015 ‘CURTAIN’ won AMaze Berlin’s Grand Prize and the Writers Guild of Ireland’s first ever Best Game Script.

Llaura is currently working on ‘Infinite Notebook’, shortlisted for the New Media Writing Prize, and ‘If Found, Please Return’, which in 2016 won three awards and a commendation in the Irish Design Awards including their first ever Game Design award, the Emerging Talent award and the overall Grand Prix.

Llaura Ash has also been nominated for BAFTA Scotland’s New Talent in Games and twice been chosen as an IGDA Scholar. Her work, interactive art installations, like ‘Fluc’ and ‘Amari’, and her performances have been shown in dozens of places across Europe and America such as Somerset House, London; Babycastles, New York; Indiecade, Los Angeles; and UC Berkeley, California. She currently lectures in DIT while running her independent games studio in Dublin with talented folks such as Liadh Young. Lastly but not leastly, she thinks you’re cool.


Maria Mishurenko

NewAvatarMaria Mishurenko is a game developer and experience designer from Brooklyn, NY. In her work she explores new approaches to education in the fields of philosophy and psychology using augmented, virtual, mixed reality and natural user interfaces. In her artistic practice she researches issues of identity, collective consciousness and personal responsibility. Maria holds a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and has a background in media production and documentary filmmaking. Website:




Rebecca Cohen-Palacios
rcohen-palacios_webRebecca Cohen-Palacios is the co-founder and director of Pixelles (Montreal), a non-profit organization dedicated to empowering more women-in-games through free programs, mentorship, and community love + support. She speaks often about diversity, community organizing, and empowerment through game-making.

She also loves to teach accessible workshops, mentor others, and collaborate with other organizations to help make STEM a more welcoming place. Annually, Rebecca co-organizes the games unconference, Game Loop Montreal, which facilitates open discourse about game development, culture, and methodologies.

Professionally, Rebecca is a hybrid UI artist/developer currently working on an unannounced title at Ubisoft Montreal. She’s shipped Shape Up (for Kinect) and Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate. Before getting into game development, Rebecca spent six years designing user interfaces for apps, websites, and digital experiences.

Announcing our GDC IGDA Scholars Recipients


After an intensive judging process, please meet our 18 IGDA Scholars for GDC 2017! Our new IGDA Scholars recipients will receive a complimentary all-access passes courtesy of the Game Developers Conference. Thanks to the efforts of the IGDA Scholarship committee and the generosity of our speakers and partners, these selected recipients will also receive access to exclusive tours of local game studios, one-on-one mentorship from industry veterans, and special Q&A sessions with some of the game industry’s most influential creators. Here are this year’s GDC 2017 IGDA Scholars:

Ryan Bobell (University of Southern California)
Luis Brito (George Mason University)
Rukia Brooks (University of South Carolina)
Julie da Costa (George Brown College)
Matt Dobill (Loyola Law School, Los Angeles)
Evelina Foxberg (Uppsala University, Campus Gotland)
Kayla Harris (George Mason University)
Malena Klaus (IT University Copenhagen)
Joe Marchuk (Berklee College of Music)
CJ Payne (DigiPen Institute of Technology)
Giacomo Preciado (Universidad San Martín de Porres)
Jonah Sanville (University of Southern Maine)
Javiera Sepulveda (Instituto Profesional ARCOS)
Sarah Spiers (Emerson College)
Colleen Stieler-Hunt (University of the Sunshine Coast)
James Wood (University of Abertay Dundee)
Jenny Xu (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
Eric Vignola (American University)

You can read more about our individual scholarship recipients here.

We would like to take this time to thank Intel, Microsoft, Double Fine Productions, our many judges and alumni who helped review our applicants, and the mentors and speakers who commit their time to this program. Thank you for making a difference kickstarting the careers of industry talent. Our scholarships organizing team will be retweeting and sharing our IGDA Scholar’s GDC experience live on Twitter! Follow along with our Twitter account, @IGDAScholars, or with the hashtag #IGDAScholars!

IGDA Scholars 2017 Judges Announced


We are pleased to announce or judges for the 16th annual IGDA Scholars program for 2017. Our judges are already in progress reading applications from students all of the globe who applied to this year’s GDC program. This year’s judging panel includes:

Jennifer Ash, UI/UX Design at Bungie
Kristen Bornemann, Development Director at ArenaNet
Tim Borrelli, Animation Director at First Strike Games
Kate Edwards, Executive Director of the IGDA
Christine Farmer, Associate Brand Manager at CD PROJEKT RED
Andrew Fray, Programmer Fox at Spry Fox
Ed Fries, Board Member of the IGDA Foundation
Keith Judge, Xbox Platform Programmer at Epic Games UK
Brian McDonald, Independent Design/Production Consultant
Kevin O’Gorman, Instructor at the Art Institute of Dallas & IGDA Analog SIG Leader
Kevin Powell, Game Designer at Gearbox Software
Llaura McGee, Founder at DREAMFEEL
Andy Schmoll, Systems Designer at Arkane Studios
Ian Schreiber, Assistant Professor at Rochester Institute of Technology
Timea Tabori, Engine Programmer at Rockstar North
Steven Tovey, Senior Member of Technical Staff at AMD
Gaurav Mathur, Senior Artist at Toys for Bob
Chris Tihor, Writer / Game Designer at Ironic Iconic Studios
Vanessa Wood, Head of Localization and Narrative Design at Bigpoint GmbH
Toiya Kristen Finley, Game Designer / Narrative Designer / Game Writer / Editor at Schnoodle Media, LLC.
Anshul Dhawan, Lead Product Manager – Growth at Zynga

Please help us celebrate our growth in the new year by sharing our other IGDA Foundation scholarship opportunities to this year’s Game Developers Conference. In addition to the IGDA Scholars program, the IGDA Foundation’s deadline for the WIG Ambassador’s program, an esteemed scholarship for student women in games, is closing on 30th December and its Next Gen Leaders program (for industry professionals) and Eric Dybsand Memorial AI Scholarship (for students in AI) shortly after on 8 January 2017. Don’t wait to encourage someone to submit an application today!


Giving Thanks: The GDC Team and UBM

As 2016 draws to a close, it’s a perfect time to reflect on the work the Foundation has accomplished this year and the support that makes our efforts possible.  I want to thank the GDC team, who is instrumental in helping us improve the lives of game developers everywhere, and whose generous and ongoing support helps us bring the Foundation’s work to fruition.

Our flagship programs, IGDA Scholars, Women in Games Ambassadors, and Next Gen Leaders, all take place at GDC for one simple reason-there is no other game development conference that comes close to providing the breadth and depth of content attendees at GDC experience.  It’s rare to find an event that is equally valuable to students exploring career directions and 25-year industry veterans, and yet, every year GDC not only delivers that experience, but grows and improves their content and atmosphere.

GDC is also inspirational to the IGDA Foundation because of their work in supporting inclusivity in the games industry through their policies, practices, and speaker curation.  GDC’s Code of Conduct helps to ensure a space that welcomes participation from everyone, and we are grateful for their leadership in this endeavor.

Finally, we would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge the significant financial support of the GDC team and UBM.  Their generosity makes our biggest programs possible-and changes the lives of our program participants.  Thank you, Meggan Scavio and GDC team, for helping us improve the lives of game developers-we couldn’t do it without you!


-Jen (

Announcing the IGDA Foundation Next Gen Leaders Program

At the IGDA Foundation, our mission is to improve the lives of game developers through charitable and educational works, primarily by making game development a more inclusive, welcoming, and successful industry for our developers and players. As part of this goal, we support inclusivity through our flagship programs, IGDA Scholars and Women in Games Ambassadors, which provide unique experiences at game industry events for students and recent graduates. I’m proud to announce that we are partnering with Xbox to launch an innovative new program, IGDA Foundation Next Gen Leaders, that continues this initiative through supporting experienced game developers.

As the IGDA Foundation works to expand inclusivity in our industry, our IGDA Scholars and Women in Games Ambassadors programs have helped people who want to explore a career in game development; expanding the pool of potential developers is a key part of building a more inclusive industry and encouraging new perspectives and creativity. However, as an industry, we have a retention problem. According to the IGDA’s Developer Satisfaction and Diversity surveys, the industry frequently loses talent after ~5 years of experience. While there are many reasons people may choose to leave an industry, and some of those departures are involuntary, we also know that under-represented minorities leave tech fields at a significantly higher rate. Increasing the diversity of the talent entering the industry has a profoundly lower impact when we do not retain that talent.

xbox-2014-stacked-rgb-pngThe IGDA Foundation is launching the Next Gen Leaders program in partnership with Xbox to address these retention issues. The program, which is open to developers with 3-10 years of experience and who identify as an under-represented minority, is designed to provide a range of knowledge, experience, and tools to keep the participants in the industry.

The Next Gen Leaders program includes a GDC pass (generously donated by GDC) and travel stipend, two days of workshops and special events specifically designed to help the participants stay in the games industry, an individual mentor, post-GDC discussions, and ongoing networking. We’ve built the program to create ongoing change, starting with our first participants in 2017, that supports making gaming and game development available to everyone.

The IGDA Foundation Next Gen Leaders program would not be possible without the generous support of Xbox. Its focus on Gaming for Everyone–making Xbox a place everyone has fun–provides an outstanding example of how inclusivity helps build stronger teams and better gaming experiences. Xbox’s financial, logistical, and volunteer support has been truly invaluable.

Applications for IGDA Foundation Next Gen Leaders 2017 are open now. Learn more and apply today.

–Jen MacLean, Managing Director, IGDA Foundation

GDC 2017 — Women in Games Ambassadors Program Applications Now Open


The IGDA Foundation’s Women in Games Ambassadors (WIGAm) program is now accepting applications for the 2017 Game Developers Conference (GDC). The program is open to women-identified students and recent graduates in fields pertaining to game development. Applications should be submitted by or before 30 December 2016.

Apply HERE!

The WIGAm program provides a comprehensive event scholarship experience to the best and brightest up-and-coming women-identified individuals in games. It includes all-access passes, travel stipends, a week of insider industry events, and lifetime access to a tight-knit community of high-achieving peers. In addition, the WIGAm program creates opportunities for each recipient to engage with top industry professionals through Q&As and group mentorship. Our ambassadors leave the conference better equipped to jump-start their careers and advocate on behalf of diversity in games.

GDC will take place 27-3 March 2017 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, USA. It is the world’s largest and longest-running professionals-only game industry event features over 400 lectures, panels, tutorials and round-table discussions on a comprehensive selection of game development topics taught by leading industry experts.

You can learn more about the program, its history and how to apply HERE.

GDC 2017 – IGDA Scholars Applications Now Open


The IGDA Foundation is delighted to announce that the 2017 IGDA Scholars Program is kicking off with applications for the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in 2017. The program is open to all students and recent graduates in fields related to game development. Applications should be submitted by 6 December 2016, please click here for further information and to apply.

GDC will take place 27-3 March 2017 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, USA. The world’s largest and longest-running professionals-only game industry event features over 400 lectures, panels, tutorials and round-table discussions on a comprehensive selection of game development topics taught by leading industry experts. Awarded to the best and brightest students in game development disciplines, the IGDA Scholars Program gives recipients an unforgettable experience including an all-access pass, industry mentorship, travel stipend, and local studio tours.

IGDA Scholars in the past few years have had incredible opportunities above and beyond the awarded event passes, including private Q&As with industry luminaries such as Ed Fries, Don Daglow, Reiko Ninomiya, Tim O’Leary, and more. They’ve also toured game studios such as Zynga and Double Fine. Students have made connections with their mentors and fellow Scholars that last well after the conferences.

You can learn more about the program, its history and find out how to apply at Please help us spread the word about this excellent opportunity for students from around the world by following and retweeting us on Twitter @IGDA_Scholars.