2015 WIG Ambassadors Reports


Jennifer Allaway
Miranda Bradley
Jessica Bull
Bethany DeRight
Caroline Guevara
Jess Hider
Jaclyn Huchel
Farah Khalaf
Sarah Massagee
Andrea Suzanne Morales Coto
Sharon Oh
Shirley Park
Kathryn Pustolski
Cara Ricci
Zoë Sams
Lauren Scanlan
Bobbi K. Schultz
Mariana Steffen
Carol Torres Gonzalez
Hannah Walker
Minni Wiitala

Jennifer Allaway

GDC is a hard experience to describe for me. I thought it would get easier with time, knowing that this year would be my third, but the words only seem to become that much more intangible. My first year was overwhelming, so much so that I don’t think I realized how little I scratched the surface of this entirely new world. I was scared, hesitant to enter as a stranger, and over the course of that year became more sure of myself. The second year, I entered as a speaker, and entered with the goal in mind of doing everything – and then I realized how every year, everyone who attends GDC (first or fifteenth year) will always only scratch it’s surface – that there is no way to truly experience all of it and really experience it at all. I left GDC that year exhausted, but with an insurmountable new group of contacts and friends which I still keep up with today. I owe much of my success today to them, and their kindness from the following year.

My third GDC – this GDC – thus, felt like a homecoming. GDC has come to be a therapeutic week for me, a manual retreat I take every week to find my friends and colleagues long lost from the year, and find fresh collaborations. In some ways, I think of GDC as returning to the family that took me in. This year was particularly exciting, because I was adding quite a large addition to that family – the Intel scholars.

Earlier in the day, a number of the scholars wanted to meet up and see San Francisco a little. As I was a “local” from the bay area who used to hang out in the city with friends, I offered to play tour guide. Thus began what felt like hours of texting, finding one another, wiggling ceremoniously to point one another out, and then squealing in group hugs as we finally united after months of correspondence. There was a familiarity between everyone – a shared connection because of the program that excited us all, and made us feel instantly closer despite being strangers. As ten of us strolled through Japantown, and stuck together, we began swapping stories about where we were from, what we loved about games, what we were excited to see at the conference – and I began to feel at home here in ways that I just don’t at my other places of living that are isolated from gaming communities.

As we headed back to collect our badges, and all of us were in one place, there was an air of celebration that could crescendoed. Selfies were taken, as though to say, “we are here – we started this” – and then we went to our dinner with program volunteers, who divulged some extremely valuable industry “do”s and “don’t”s for navigating the conference space. I had an atypical experience, and this was probably the last time I saw all of the women in the program in one place. But knowing how wonderful it is to stay in contact with these women, this foundational two days to just sit together and talk about the days to come was phenomenal.

I loved the industry talks that the Intel program specifically gave us – especially the one on ones with Kate Edwards and Sheri Graner Ray. Both women I greatly admire, Kate’s work on localization and culturalization in games directly helped me apply my sociological background into some of my current design projects, and Sheri Graner Ray had tremendous insights into the trials and tribulations trying to open your own studio, and what to expect when you get there. As these women both have insights that are extremely valuable, it’s very significant that we got time exclusive to us just to ask whatever we wanted from them, in a really relaxed space.

I personally was attending the conference on the narrative track, so I had an excellent time learning great things there for many days straight. Zoe Quinn had an excellent talk on the lack of comedy in games, and breaking down the guidelines of stand up and how that related to game design, which was extremely helpful. A very large theme of many of the talks was the illusion of player choice in narrative, and the benefits (or detriments) of that. Beyond Binary Choices (Amanda Lange) dealt with the problems of binary choices, and how players often feel they are given a “good” or “evil” binary, with “evil” leading to extremes they are uncomfortable playing in, and that giving players more balanced choices may lead to more interesting narrative. Rob Morgan gave an exceptional talk on the need for more narrative in VR games, that VR is most easily ruined by immersion breaks, and that immersion breaks are most easily and cheaply solved with narrative – and now I REALLY want to make a game that utilizes VR technology, if nothing else to bring a really exciting narrative experience to the VR market.

And last, but not least, GDC would not be GDC (for me, understanding that I’ve only attended in the past few years and I have a number of privileges) without quite a bit of empowering therapy from being among my peers. At the Microsoft Women in Games Luncheon, I heard women able to freely talk about their work with each other with excited voices, criticize misogynistic designs in a space they would knew they would be safe to do so, and comfort each other as they discussed problems they faced. It was an empowering community of women that were all happy to be there and lift one another up – and it is one of few parties I felt truly, completely safe in. Friends and strangers alike wearing our Feminist Gaming Illuminati T-Shirts agreed to sit together during #1reasontobe after high fiving in line, and mocking how much “collusion” we had all been accused of over the past year. Hearing the struggles from the empty chair, my friends around me began passing tissues as we felt the pains from our lives echoed by these strangers – silenced by the violence they faced in this industry, and forced out by everything we cope with and are surviving. This was catharsis for all of the pain that we are forced to keep silent, hearing prominent stories of survival. #1reasontobe is about celebrating the resilience of women in this industry, and the reasons we continue to make games in these communities. Missing that any year feels like missing a way to heal. I left GDC cementing old friendships, and fostering some new ones. I’ve been able to track my major changes in life so far to every GDC I’ve been to – and so far, it’s too early to tell what GDC15 has done to change my life path. But there was something special in the amount of community around me – in the ability I had to connect with old communities, as well as the new knowledge I found that coalesced in my new community of Intel Scholars, and the various mentors that we had. As I finish my last month of class, and prepare for the future ahead, I still find my mind drifting to what will happen at the next GDC – and I am eternally grateful to Intel for giving me the ability to be at GDC2015.

Miranda Bradley

I’m not exaggerating when I say that attending GDC changed my life for the better. Because of this experience, I’ll be starting a 6 month internship in May with an amazing company that will jumpstart my career. This experience affected me in a huge number of ways on top of that. I’ll go through the week to attempt to cover it all. Before GDC, all the Intel scholars were invited to join a facebook group where we all got to know each other and give/ask for advice. We got questions answered about networking, business cards, resumes and other things we needed feedback on or felt uncertain about. Because of this group though, there was a sense of bonding that happened before we even got to the event. Everyone in the group is doing such amazing work, and getting to know them some beforehand made meeting them all the more exciting.

Our first inperson meeting was already filled with a sense of support and belonging as a result. Cat, Kip, Sela and Renee were all really excited to have us there and everything they did for us throughout the conference was amazing. On the first day of the conference, I attended a bunch of talks. We had a private Q&A with Kate Edwards where we learned about localization and why it’s so important. Her stories were of things I had never considered and it’s all stuff I’m glad I learned. Kip Silverman was amazing enough to arrange additional Q&A’s with us, and I managed to catch the second half of the one with Melissa Fierce. She gave us advice on networking and confidence that was much needed on the first day. Through the day I also went to a few of the “math for programmers” talks and got to spend time with some friends who were also at the conference. I was shy about networking on the first day, but kind of considered it to be my time to test the waters and see what the exciting, but scary, but still exciting thing called GDC was all about.

On Tuesday, Mark Korbin shared his experiences in working around the world. As someone who really wants to experience living in different places, I was excited to hear a detailed perspective on what this could be like. Later in the day, I went to listen to Kitty Powers speak about her experience creating a mobile dating game that was a little nontraditional. She also made us aware of a party at DNA lounge that would take place later that night. Another talk that really stood out to me was about failure. Three developers were bold enough to stand in front of a huge crowd and share stories in which they messed up. This talk taught me two important things. The first was that failure is seen by many in the game design community as something that everyone experiences and can learn from; something that soothed my nerves about my own mistakes and made the developers there feel more relatable. The second is that many in the community are interested in doing better by learning from mistakes. The final talk at that panel by Ben Esposito was about learning the hard way how to properly share the experiences of others. He told a story about his desire to tell the world about a small community that many had never heard of and his experience of ultimately learning they didn’t want their story to be told. He shared what he did wrong in his desire to empower an underrepresented population and explained how it should have been handled instead. This sent a clear message that the game development community wants more stories and is trying to figure out how to share them. This example illustrated why adding more diversity to the industry is so important. Ben’s ultimate message was that the way to share these stories was to let the underrepresented share them themselves. Someone who hasn’t lived those experiences directly doesn’t know what they might be missing.

In the evening, we all went to the IGDA networking event. My friend Sebastian and I showed off games we worked on together and with other students at Georgia Tech. As someone who is generally shy about approaching strangers, this event was the perfect chance to meet a lot of people. So many people approached us and played our games that I lost count. It forced me to get in the mindset of speaking with people I didn’t know. Dancing at the DNA event later that night helped me loosen up more and left me ready to take on more networking. I highly recommend nervous future scholars try this strategy! Wednesday was when the expo floor opened. During my time excitedly exploring all the booths, I came across the booth for Side Effects software. I had applied for a summer internship working on game assets in Houdini a few weeks prior to the conference, so I approached the booth to introduce myself. The gentleman I spoke with worked on the team I was applying to be a part of and recognized my name from my portfolio. We swapped cards and had an interview the week following, during which I was offered an internship with their company. Meeting him in person allowed me the chance to leave a personal impression on him.

Thursday was the busiest day of the conference. We started off the day with a Q&A with Sheri Graner Ray, who shared some of her personal experience and taught us about modeling and explorative learners. I went from there to the Diversity Advocacy Workshop that Sheri and Kate Edwards were helping to lead, though we had to leave a little early though to attend the Microsoft Women in Games Luncheon. This was another phenomenal networking event that future scholars should definitely be a part of. Everyone was eager to speak with one another and I was able to meet a good number of women doing really exciting things. One of the speakers at the event spoke about imposter syndrome and encouraged us to share a time when we weren’t feeling so sure of ourselves with someone at the table. Another mentioned the importance of acknowledging failures in the same way we do success. The lunch gave me further confidence and sense of belonging. From here, I went to the #1 Reason To Be talk. This talk was incredibly inspiring, and I was sure to share it with friends after getting back home. I especially enjoyed hearing Sela speak at this one. I related a lot to many of the things she said and her message really stuck with me. I even made a new friend because of it by following her advice to tell someone next to you something that seems obvious about them. After the talk, I rushed over to the Intel VIP dinner. I got to see the tail end of the presentations of a few awesome student games and then shared some really amazing food with Kip and other scholars. From there I went to the screening of Game Loading , which I’m embarrassed to say I fell asleep in (due to being exhausted, not the content).

Friday was a time for winding down and saying farewells. We started off the day with a Q&A from Her Interactive’s CEO, Penny Milliken. She advised us to learn some of the financial side of business and told us about the evolving audience and stories of Nancy Drew. Afterwards, I made my last rounds around the expo floor and met a few more people. I stopped in to the annual IGDA meeting as well as the women in games SIG meeting. I was able to attend another one of the talks Kip arranged from Professor Ellen Beeman. She told us about some of the legal details that go into running a small game company and gave us general advice about how to produce successful games. Later, we all met up for group photos, where we each received a free Leap Motion device. I’ve been really excited to try it out and plan to as soon as the semester finishes up. From there we had dinner and said our last goodbyes. I’m not particularly good at those, or at expressing to people how awesome I think they are. I left kind of awkwardly, but I hope they all know (YOU ALL ROCK!!!). l still hold the feeling of pride I had at getting to meet all of these amazing women. I love seeing what they continue to create through what they share on Facebook and am rooting for all of them. I definitely feel I made friends that I hope to keep for the rest of my career. Everyone I met at GDC made me excited and proud to be joining this industry. I can’t imagine myself doing anything else. I remember (before GDC) sitting in groups at school that were working on games and feeling a little freaked out, like I shouldn’t be there. I had been slowly working up the confidence to convince myself otherwise, but being at an event where I was surrounded by people who were so relatable and supportive and inspiring gave me progress over a week that was more than I had reached in two years on my own. Because of this opportunity I’m more confident, I have a better sense of the industry, and I’m beginning a career. I couldn’t be more thankful. I hope to be able to volunteer my time towards this scholarship in the future in any way possible and to be more active in general.

After I finish my relocation to Santa Monica, I want to find a service where I can teach underrepresented individuals to code and/or make games. I want to pass what I’ve learned forward and continue to meet more amazing people being brought in to this industry. If there’s anything you guys need, contact me because I want to help. More people should have the chance to get this experience. Thank you for everything.

Jessica Bull

The day I received my Golden ticket, “the IGDA Intel scholar”……let’s just say there was a lot of jumping….I was excited! The trip was my first trip by myself, a definite eye opener, something I’m so glad I did by myself. I don’t think I would have met as many amazing people as I did, had as many incredible experiences or learnt as much as I did. Rocking up the the event the day before to recive the GDC pass and Intel scholar badge that I would wear for the entire week was so exciting, it was the beginning of something amazing and something I would never ever forget. I was so proud to have the pass and badge hanging around my neck for the entire week , being the only Australian scholar, an Australian women in games, as I strolled in and out of talks, parties and around the streets of San Francisco. To witness such an impressive and prodigious event, at this time in the gaming industry and culture it was the best feeling that I can not describe in words. Meeting the other Intel scholars with their diverse knowledge and wisdom, seeing the passion and the drive in their eyes, honestly only reinvigorated my love of this community, completely removing any lingering jet lag I had, giving me the drive to just ‘get amongst it.’ The events are my jam. I love networking and going to every event possible, I think on average I went to two or three events per night, talking to so many people, many of whom I have stayed in contact with, the networking really making my trip special.

One of the best events I went to was actually the Australian crossy roads party, where I worked at the door, giving me the opportunity to chat with many very inspiring and talented people. Although I had met many people at events around Australia, it helped me create a tighter bond with the Australian gaming community , with the hope of continuing to expand and strengthen the Australian gaming family. All this is wonderful and amazing but I wouldn’t have been able to have this incredible opportunity if it wasn’t for the help of Intel and IGDA getting me to the other side of the world to part take in one of the biggest gaming events in the world, GDC I miss you!!!!! Would I come back next year? I’ve already stared saving.

Bethany DeRight

When I head home after an often hectic day at Bethesda Softworks, I carefully count my steps to my car. I count them because I want to cherish every single one, every single footstep that led me to work for my dream company in the first place. In the forefront of my mind, I feel lucky. Somehow, out of the thousands of applications, mine was chosen for a scholarship to attend the 2015 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. Maybe the stars aligned. Maybe the leads woke up on the right side of the bed that day. Whatever the reason, I was going to run with it. But this wasn’t your regular IGDA Scholarship. This was something entirely different, something that has changed my life forever. I was sure I wouldn’t get it.

After applying, January rolled around and I knew in my gut that something was strange – I hadn’t received a rejection, but the 2015 IGDA Scholars had already been chosen. I got the acceptance email while eating dinner, a moment I’ll never forget. The email outlined the offer – on behalf of the IGDA Foundation, in partnership with the Intel Diversity Initiative, I would be attending GDC 2015 as an Intel Scholar. I was going to be joining an incredible group of women and underrepresented minorities in the industry. My heart swelled.It was the chance of a lifetime. My week was a whirlwind – personal, one-on-one talks with industry leaders, lunches with new friends, and late nights spent exchanging business cards around a table of drinks.

The Intel Scholars and I were given an All-Access pass to the conference. We were able to attend daily, morning Q&As with some incredible men and women of the industry. After chatting in the quiet room, sipping coffee and stuffing our faces with a bagel or muffin, we all scattered to the far corners of the Moscone Center to catch our anticipated panels. Separated but still very aware that we were all here together. In the same space. Reaching for the same things – change, visibility, a way to help or shift the stale dynamics. Some days, we all met for dinner. Others, we met for drinks and networking. We were also able to attend the IGDA Networking event, where the line to get in wrapped around the entire Children’s Creativity Museum and where some of our own Scholars were able to present their own games!

Some of the best experiences, by far, were the ones arranged by our Intel representative, Kip Silverman. Through his tireless efforts, the IGDA Intel Scholars got to hang out on the Intel Bridge each day and have personal talks with inspiring men and women in the industry.There aren’t enough words to describe the feeling of being surrounded by women who share the same love for games, community, and acceptance as you do. It’s passion, love, and peace of mind mixed with a sense of accomplishment and garnished with the commitment to doing something we all love. I owe absolutely everything to the IGDA and Intel Scholars program. I’ve forged lifetime relationships with so many brilliant and remarkable and talented people. Whether you identify as male or female or as anything in between or whether we met on a rooftop terrace or a bathroom or because we had to share a lunch table, you are a connection I will have for the rest of my life.To Luke Dicken, Cat Wendt, Kip Silverman, Sela Davis, and the many inspirational mentors who made my time at GDC 2015 as an IGDA Intel Scholar so extraordinary, I accept the challenge to empower others and change this industry for the better. If that’s a way to show my endless thanks, I’ll do it. For now, I’ll sign off to continue to volunteer my time and efforts as the Women In Games International’s new eSports Community Manager!

Caroline Guevara

My experience at GDC was nothing short of amazing, inspiring and uplifting. Being part of a group with 28 other talented young women from the video game industry, which was led by equally inspiring individuals, was a moment I will not forget. I was at a point in my career where I doubted this was the path I wanted to choose as there are not as many women in the field. I felt as though I should be looking for more “appropriate” less ambitious fields that I might have a better chance getting into. However, after my first day at GDC where I met a few of the girls from my group and attending the first few sessions, this is where I knew I could make a difference. One of the most memorable talks I went to, which one of the scholars was a panelist, spoke of how to increase diversity in game design education. One sentence that spoke out to me was that “Diversity attracts diversity,” something that should almost be common sense if one wants to keep fields such as the game industry alive, thriving and inviting. This was just one of many talks that I went to that reaffirmed my passion for making games, both commercial and educational.

Throughout the next 4 days of the conference I attended mostly narrative summit talks that spoke of how to engage your audience on a deep personal level. From these talks I was able to take away some very important and valuable information to use in my thesis project. One of which was to let the player use their imaginations to fill in the gaps where games don’t fully draw out a picture (such as background stories or horrific scenes left at a black screen). In addition to these talks, I had the pleasure of getting my portfolio reviewed by a member of WB Games. Just attending that one portfolio review helped me tremendously. Immediately when I got back to Pennsylvania, I was able to weed out the weaker parts of my portfolio and highlight what I am of capable of through my strongest pieces. Already, I am seeing a difference in how people look through my gallery commenting on my skills. I don’t think this might have been possible had I not attended GDC. The last bit I want to highlight are the amazing opportunities that were given to my group while at GDC, such as Xbox’s Women in Gaming Luncheon.

Every morning we had the pleasure of having private round table discussions with industry leaders, who gave us words of encouragement and advice on the game industry. It felt special knowing that the coordinators of our group were looking out for us. They even went as so far as trying to schedule in even more veteran game designers, both men and women, to have one-on-one talks with us throughout the week. Being able to network with such incredible people was an honor. This was my first GDC and I am hoping that it will not be the last. I enjoyed every part of it, from the networking events to the casual hangouts where we spoke about our life endeavors and aspirations. I have no doubt in my mind that I will be meeting these talented and driven women down the road as successful professionals.

Jess Hider

GDC is an amazing experience. Last year my friend Caitlin Goodale was an IGDA Scholar so when applications opened this for this years scholarships, she pushed me to apply and I’m so glad I listened. I was chosen to attend GDC as an IGDAF Intel Scholar, a new scholarship providing an all-access pass, travel stipend and Q&A sessions with industry professionals, as well as parties, showcases and t-shirts! This year was the first time I attended GDC and it has really changed my life. While I was there I attended roundtables and sessions where I could learn about the cutting edge practices about my discipline, animation, which isn’t something I could learn anywhere else. Afterwards, I talked to many of the speakers or attendees about their work, my work or something random and built networks, connections and friendships, that will last past the conference. I also found that the knowledge I gained from GDC has fed back into my work, shaping my dissertation and honours project. Game animation in particular is under-documented, so having vault access, which comes as part of an all access pass, made a huge difference to my research.

My favourite part of GDC was meeting the other scholars. Most of us had never met before, but by the end of the week we were so close we were crying when saying goodbye. I feel honoured to have been part of a group filled with talented and inspiring people from all over the world, including the organisers from IGDA and Intel. It is incredibly motivating to see other people working hard to achieve their dreams, and supporting others while they are doing so. In conclusion, I highly recommend attending GDC as a scholar. I will not lie, GDC was probably the most exhausting week of my life; being at the conference from 9-5 and then partying from 7-12 was tiring, but also incredibly fun and rewarding. No matter what year of study you are in, you will gain so much insight and knowledge into your industry. As a scholar, you will also be part of a highly talented group of peers, who will come to be close friends and support you as your career develops.

Jaclyn Huchel

I was very surprised and honored when my professors at school sat me down and informed me that I had been rewarded as an IGDAF Intel Scholar. I had been to GDC the previous year to get an idea of how the conference worked but this experience was so much more. I was fortunate enough to meet many talented developers within the IGDA from the US and overseas. That week of GDC was the most educational and inspiring experience, I have ever had.

The Conference

I had been to GDC 2014 when I won the Gold prize for the Game Narrative Review, so this wasn’t my first time attending. It was the first time I attended where I was going to get the opportunity to meet other scholars and attend talks from designers at summits and companies at talks I admire.The best part of the conference talks was definitely the Level Design in a Day summit. I got to learn a lot from Level Designers in the industry, how pipelines worked, how to apply certain practices to my level and how a problem was solved creatively between departments. I was very happy that by attending, I got the opportunity for industry professionals to look at my portfolio and give me feedback on how I can improve myself and my designs. Networking is the most important thing to do while working here and being able to attend so many talks and summits gave me that opportunity and the courage to do so.

The Scholars

I was very honored to meet the other scholars and I liked that there was a Facebook group put together so we could get in contact with each other before GDC started. They are all very outgoing, easy to talk to, and passionate people in the gaming industry. I wish that I could’ve gotten to know them better but we all had so many things we wanted to go to in a short amount of time. I hope to see them again maybe next year at GDC or working side by side in the industry.

Morning/Noon Meetings

One of my favorite parts of the scholars experience was being able to have morning Q&A sessions with some amazing people from the industry. I really liked that we could have an hour to listen and ask questions with the people directly and have time to talk to them afterwards. It was a nice, easy-going, open environment that was great chance to get more in-depth with questions. Brittany Aubert, producer at 5th cell, was really informative about the different design positions a level designer could get into the industry and learning about how the Star Wars Galaxies/Ultima games was developed by Sheri Graner Ray was really intriguing. Everyone had amazing stories to tell us about their experiences and words of wisdom to pass on.Lastly, I want to thank the people from Intel and IGDA that worked with the scholars and make this whole thing possible. It was an amazing week and I’ve learned so much from everyone I met there. Thank you for your guidance.

Farah Khalaf

This year I had the privilege of attending GDC as an IGDAF Intel scholar. I remember standing in the middle of a train station, almost bursting into tears when I read the email. Right away, I called my mum and my closest friends to tell them about the awesome news. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the program, Intel recently created an initiative to increase diversity in the tech and games industry, pledging 300 million dollars to the cause. I am quite fortunate to have attended my first GDC as a scholar. Having the extra support and mentorship made the experience less overwhelming. Every morning and afternoon, we had scheduled Q + A sessions with industry insiders ranging across many game development disciplines, from localisation to game art. Many of the guest speakers were so excited for us and it was empowering knowing that these people I hadn’t met before were excited for our futures and ready to share all their knowledge with us.

Meeting the Game Developers

My favourite part about the whole experience was meeting new people and the energy that surrounded the conference. I never really imagined being under the same roof as this many game developers. Coming from little old New Zealand, we have a fairly small amount of game developers in comparison to bigger countries. It was like one huge family of people who all love and have a passion for one thing: video games. I got to meet some of my favourite game developers, such as Rami Ismail and the guys from UsTwo, and got some pretty good advice to take back home. I’m very lucky to have this much exposure and support from developers this early in my career.

Meeting the Scholars

Before flying off to San Francisco, I got to know the other Intel scholars through Facebook. On the day I went to pick up my GDC badge, I was greeted with hugs and laughter from a large group of girls, and I felt like I had just been reunited with my clan. It was so good to finally match faces to names, and although I was only meeting the girls for the first time, I felt like I had known them forever. Saying goodbye to these amazing people was the hardest part about this experience, and I’m looking forward to seeing them again in the future.

The awards show

My most memorable GDC event would have to be the Independent Games Festival Awards and Game Developers’ Choice Awards night. I got really great VIP seats, and was pretty much in awe of what was happening around me the entire time. I wish I had played most of the games that were up for nomination! My list of game- to-play is ridiculously long now.

What I learnt about myself

Throughout this entire trip, I learnt so many new things about myself and felt like a slightly different and more mature person when I came back to New Zealand. Actually, this was my first trip out of the country in almost 13 years. I was surprised at how easily my parents let me go. There were moments at the end of my trip when I was completely alone, and yes, it did frighten me a little being alone in San Francisco. However, I’m very grateful for everything I experienced and wouldn’t change anything.One of the most memorable moments about San Francisco would have to be wondering the streets at night with my game dev friends in search of GDC events and parties. On one of the nights we walked around for almost an hour looking for the Unity party before deciding to head back to our hotels. Oh, and I should mention the pedestrian crossing lights are white. That’s something I won’t get used to. At next year’s GDC, I look forward to not being underage! I hardly attended any of the parties I had initially planned to go to because of the US age restriction.

Future Plans

Having attended GDC as a student who is only in their second year of their university degree, I have a better understanding of my future goals. Also, I would like to focus on such as making games and submitting them to events and award shows.

Advice to Students

My main advice to students attending GDC for the first time is be prepared and have a clear plan before you go. It is an overwhelming event for first timers, and knowing what you’re going to be doing to every day is the best thing you can do to make sure you get the potential out of each day in terms of speaker sessions, networking events, parties and gatherings. Also, don’t be afraid to approach people whose work you admire or even turn around and say hello to the person sitting next to you! Everyone is super friendly at GDC, and probably feeling the same as you when it comes to meeting new game devs.To conclude, I would like to say a big thank you to IGDA and Intel for selecting me to be a scholar in their program. You have changed my life tremendously and have helped me kick-start my game dev career in so many ways. Thank you to all the amazing people I met on my GDC journey. You have become my life-long friends and I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for us. I’m getting teary-eyed as I write this. See you all at next year’s GDC!

Sarah Massagee

Going to GDC was probably the greatest experience that I ever and will ever have. I still remember when I found out, there was excitement and joy; then the fear sank in. What if I made a fool of myself? What if I’m not as amazing as the other intel scholars? It was scary, the thought of meeting some amazing people in the industry and wondering if I was good enough. Once I landed in San Francisco, and I got to meet my fellow scholars, all of that went away! I wasn’t afraid or intimidated. These girls were amazing and so friendly. I even met a member of my sorority, which was the last thing I expected! I had a hotel about 3-4 blocks away from the con, and I remember waking up and just walking to the con at which I would be walking around more. Glad I brought some really comfy shoes and opted out of wearing heels.

First thing I did was run around to look at everything! GDC 2015 was in three different buildings, so I had to get a good idea of the layout. It helped later when wanting to meet up with some of my fellow scholars. I did go to some panels, but to be honest, I’m not a fan. I was in a lot of technical art panels (because I’m a rigger) and I found that either the panel was TOO complicated or too easy for my level. The good thing was, I got to meet some pretty awesome people in between each panel!

Then came the parties. Oh my gosh, the parties. The first party I went to was the IGDA party at the children’s museum. I got to talk to some students and to some community managers. After that one, I went straight to the Oculus Rift, WIGI party. Which was fantastic! It was nice because I got to do the Oculus demos before they were released on the expo floor. (So, no waiting in line!) The oculus demos were amazing, and I would do it again in a heart beat. The next night, I went to a hotel room party, which we were kick out of for being too loud. SO, some of us went to the IGN offices instead and continued the party there. It was fun to hang out with some of the guys from IGN and get a tour of the office! Then, the best moment of my life happened. I met people from Blizzard. Yes. My life was complete, or so I thought. Then I was invited to the Blizzard recruitment party! What a great life it is. I got to meet Frank, one of the co founders of Blizzard, and speak to the head technical artist on Heros of the Storm;and of course, there was swag. That was, sadly, the last party of my adventure.

As awesome as those parties were, there was one thing I love more… the expo hall. There were so many amazing things to see there! I got to talk to some unity developers, learned about software I never used before, got a t-shirt with rigging bones on it (thank you, Mixamo. I love you forever for that shirt,) got to meet a fellow rigger from Epic Games, and got so much SWAG! OH THE SWAG! If you go to GDC, remember to bring a backpack to fit all that swag! Some of my favorite parts where all the VR and motion capture technology there! I got to use some facial mocap software and test it out, tested out a leap/oculus combo game (which was fun until I knocked over all of their set up… opps,) then I experienced the Hobbit in a whole new way. Imagine actually being IN the hobbit. OH THE AMAZING AWESOMENESS! GDC was a beautiful and fantastic experience. I recommend it to everyone and anyone. I got to meet some amazing people, experience new things, and learn oh so much. I thank everyone who took the time to make this possible and I thank them for choosing me.

Andrea Suzanne Morales Coto

When I stepped out of the San Francisco Airport, I felt completely bewildered: it was my first trip to the city, my first time at GDC, and most importantly my first time being validated by others in the games industry regarding my dreams of mixing strategic design with game design.In spite of that, for all the talk amongst the industry about the impostor syndrome in female developers, I did not at all feel like one. In fact, this external validation was important not because I needed others to get me to this point, but because years of believing in myself had finally been transmitted unto others in the industry acknowledging my path in games. And that made me feel more empowered than ever before in my life.My passion for games has always felt like one of closing doors and opening windows. Like a push and pull of fate, my 20 years of history with games have been composed of rising and then closely missed opportunities to become a part of the industry, and there have even been moments when my road completely avoided the industry. The stops on the way have been varied: from studying programming, to going into filmmaking, to then steering towards digital marketing, to having a chance to teach board game design, and finally to being accepted by Parsons into the Transdisciplinary Design MFA. But I knew that getting flown into GDC by Intel and the IGDAF was a new definitive milestone for fulfilling what I believe is my vocation on this planet: to work in the game industry as a strategic designer with a social innovation focus.Being an Intel Scholar has allowed me to not only press my nose against the glass of this industry, but finally communicate to those on the other side. And though I still think there’s a long road ahead until I can step inside, it seems like my words are getting louder, clearer, heard.

My objective coming to GDC was one: to analyze the status of the industry regarding strategic design, and to bring my approach to design beyond games as a way to frame the industry’s larger issues, like inclusion, distribution, and new business model generation.My experiences were mostly positive. True, though there is still a lot to be done, I believe the industry is starting to become more aware of its importance in the shaping of our future in the face of climate change, mass migrations, community fragmentation and digital labor. Talks by the likes of Stone Librande, on how game designers don’t focus enough on the broadness of their power as designers (no “game” part in the title), were indicative of the progress being achieved in this sense. Other professionals who talked directly to the Intel Scholars or to myself, like Motiga’s Christin Overton, or Rare’s Calvin Duncan, also mentioned the talent needs and evolution of the industry towards less siloed definitions of “design”. These all, to me, indicate a budding trend in the game design world.Still, even beyond talking to experienced professionals, it was my interaction with the other Scholars that really showed me a change in the zeitgeist of professionalization in games. All of us were so different, and yet most were passionate about several aspects of the industry, and actually quite flexible explaining our envisioned paths to each other. This adaptability of terms and concepts surrounding what we all do made me feel at home as a designer coming from a tangential field. And it inspired me by showcasing the vast amount of views on games that are sheltered by an event as expansive as GDC.

Thanks to the GDC and precisely those diverse personalities that I had the pleasure to encounter, I am now more than ever focusing on how to stop staring into the window and start opening the door of the industry. My questions have become actions, and it is now my resolution to bring the knowledge that I can take from social innovation and strategic design into games. As Penny Milliken said to us during her talk with the Intel Scholars, all a person needs to get into the games industry is a single chance.

Sharon Oh

As I first stepped out of the car and into the Moscone Center, I felt an awful sense of anxiety, dread, and fear wash over me. Here I was at GDC as the first generation of Intel Scholars and all I could think about was that there had to be some sort of mistake. All around me were people much older, much more experienced, and much more talented than I and I expected that any minute someone would pull me aside and explain that there was a mix up and that I actually wasn’t supposed to be there. Later on that week I learned there was a name for this terrible monster that latched onto me: The Imposter Syndrome. Even before the convention had even started I had my anxieties. To the Reddit threads harping on me and my fellow scholar to my own self-doubts, I had heavily debated even accepting the award that the IGDAF and Intel graciously offered to me. But with the push from my friends and family I decided to take a week off of school and head up to San Francisco. I had never traveled this far or been alone for an extended period of time, so taking this leap of faith was something I never imagined doing just months before.

Looking back I don’t at all regret the choices I’ve made and if I were given the option to redo my trip to GDC, I wouldn’t hesitate to do so again! While my experience at GDC was definitely a major internal and external struggle, I am eternally grateful to the people I got to meet and make connections with. I had the opportunity to attend so many panels and learn directly from industry professionals. It even got to the point where at some points of the day I would have to take a break just so I could confirm that I was actually at GDC and that it wasn’t some sort of bizarre fever dream. I learned that I wasn’t the only one suffering from The Imposter Syndrome, and people I had just barely met to veterans of the industry provided support and solidarity in the same struggles. By the end of the week I had become completely different from when I first stepped into GDC. Instead of being scared and alone, I was confident in my actions and surrounded by the immense support of my new found friends. Whenever someone asks me about my time at GDC all I can really do to struggle to capture it into words. Without the support and generosity of the IGDA and Intel, this amazing opportunity would have never happened to someone like me, and I am so thankful to all those involved that worked so hard to make it happen. Thank you so, so much.

Shirley Park

I was an Intel Scholar for the 2015 Game Developers’ Conference in San Francisco California, one of a group made up of about thirty women. The program gives students/recent-grads a platform to connect with our peers and meet industry professionals. This year was the first year of the Intel Scholars program, and I hope it continues. The Speakers Each morning of the conference, Cat arranged for a speaker to come and talk with the group. It was just an hour each morning, and by far one of my favorite parts about the program. Each speaker was able to share their own stories about making it in the industry, and I found each of them to be incredibly inspiring. It also had the happy side effect of beginning each morning of the conference full of motivation.

The Demo On Tuesday, I was able to demo my current game with my development team at the IGDA Networking Event. It was a great night! I was able to share my project with lots of cool developers and get expert feedback on the experience. After demoing, I got the chance to just be at the party, and got to talk to my fellow scholars about their own projects. This was the night I felt most a part of the industry, not just as a spectator but as a contributor. The Scholars Great group! I liked them more and more as I got to know them. Conclusion For any students interested in games who want to experience GDC as a part of a small group of peers, I would recommend taking part in this program.

Kathryn Pustolski

This year I was given the amazing opportunity to attend the 2015 Game Developers Conference (GDC) as an International Game Developers Association Foundation (IGDAF) Intel Scholar.For those unfamiliar with the program, the IGDAF Intel Scholarship is a new initiative created by the IGDAF and the Intel Diversity Initiative, which is aimed toward women studying the game development field. As an Intel scholar, I received an All-Access pass to GDC and a travel stipend to pay for my trip out to San Francisco. In addition, the program provided multiple Q&A sessions throughout the week with various industry professionals as well as a number of other events for scholars.This was not the first time I attended GDC. I was able to travel to San Francisco last year with an Expo pass provided to me by my school. However, through the Scholarship I received this year, I was able to take advantage of the entire conference from Monday through Friday and to experience several talks that I otherwise would not have had access to.

On Monday I was able to go to talks that were part of the Animation Bootcamp and on Tuesday I was able to attend talks that were part of the Technical Artist Bootcamp. The scholarship greatly enhanced my experience with GDC from last year and I am very grateful for this chance to attend the entire week of the conference.>A large part of GDC is networking and the scholarship provided ample opportunities to listen and speak to industry professionals about their experiences in the industry. Through the Q&A sessions reserved for Intel Scholars, I was able to meet a number of amazing people including Kate Edwards, Mark Kobrin, Brittany Aubert, Sheri Graner Ray, and Penny Milliken. In addition to the Q&As, multiple smaller talks by industry professionals such as Christin Overton and Dana Hanna were also put together and held at the Intel Booth throughout the week.It’s difficult to decide which part of the trip was my favorite because I enjoyed all of the events I attended. However, I have to admit networking or meeting the other scholars is definitely at the top of my list. At first I was nervous about meeting the other scholars because I did not know what to expect. However, the group turned out to be extremely kind and supportive. In fact, when I first introduced myself to one of the scholars, I was surprised to receive a hug instead of a simple handshake.

I was fortunate to be part of such a positive, fantastic group and it was difficult to say goodbye on Friday when it was time to leave.Being part of the first group of Intel Scholars was an amazing experience and I’m excited to see how this program will grow in the future. Thank you to the IGDAF and Intel for giving me this awesome opportunity and bringing such an amazing group of women together for GDC!

Cara Ricci

When I first heard about the Game Developer’s Conference, I envisioned it as a very adult, professional, unexciting conference that I was essentially not allowed at because I did not a) have a job in the game industry and b) did not have a portfolio solid enough to get a job in the game industry. Looking at the ticket prices further convinced me of this. I knew that other students had attended, but for $75 dollars and only one day, they must have had to be very good at networking with a fantastic resume to get anything done. I was terrified of networking. My resume was not fantastic. Clearly I did not belong at GDC. It wasn’t until three years later that I changed my mind. Until that point I had ignored many opportunities because I felt like I had no chance. It would be like lying on a resume and then asking for details during the interview—they would eventually figure out that I was not qualified. While I still felt unsure about my abilities—and I could not afford to buy a ticket—I decided I was going to figure out a way to attend GDC. Amongst a handful of lottery, scholarship, and volunteer rejection letters, I received an acceptance from the IGDA, who had partnered with Intel for the first time to send a group of 30 women to GDC with all-access passes. In addition, they would provide access to unique networking opportunities. I was overwhelmed; this was even better than I had hoped for! Even now, after everything has finished, I am still overjoyed that this opportunity was presented to me.

One of the best things about the program was that all the Intel/IGDA Scholars were able to meet each other through a private Facebook group ahead of time; I think this really allowed us to establish stronger bonds once we actually met. I will never have enough good things to say about my fellow scholars; they were supremely intelligent, funny, driven, accomplished, talented, and so, so caring. Some of them were already working on games professionally, others had published papers, and a few were doing some incredible things I had never even heard of before. Some of us had hardships or difficulties happen during GDC week, and it was comforting to know that we had a support group in each other that we could access at any time. Many of us had lunch together or walked with each other at night; I myself even got to spend some time with a few scholars after GDC had ended. I’ve never experienced a group so fiercely protective of each other after so little time—it was vastly different from my experiences at my school and other male-dominated spaces. GDC itself was frustrating in the best possible way. Every day there were at least three things happening at the same time that I wanted to attend. I never thought I would learn about strict time management and prioritization at GDC, but I did! In addition to GDC events, talks, and the Expo floor, Intel had also arranged for talks during the day that were just for the scholars. And the IGDA had arranged Q&A sessions for us in the mornings!
There was so much to do and not even close to enough time, but it was also great to know how many options I had. I especially loved the scholars-only stuff because it gave us more personal time with the speakers—all of them were so inspirational, and I made some great connections through them as well. My highlights of the week were definitely the events that happened separate from GDC, such as the Women in Games Luncheon and Scholar Reception. While I mentioned my fear of networking above, many of these events that I went to were so friendly and comfortable that I had no issue talking to people at all. It wasn’t until hearing more about “impostor syndrome” throughout the week and looking back on the events that I realized my networking fear had a lot to do with my gender identity and feeling unsafe in a room full of men. I thought after dealing with such a skewed male/female ratio for years that I would have become more used to it, but it still made me feel uncomfortable, and being in the minority still made me feel like an impostor. Meeting so many people who were supportive of diversity in the games industry and so many women who were creating games was the reassurance I needed, and I would never have gotten it without being accepted as a scholar. As Intel Scholars, we got a special goodbye dinner which became very emotional very quickly. GDC was a whirlwind of opportunities for all of us, and it meant so much to me to be a part of an incredible group of women who were already making waves of change. Truthfully, I didn’t get to talk to everyone I wanted to, I didn’t go to every event that I would have liked, and I had to go to bed far earlier than expected each night. However, this experience made a huge impact on my life and I am so thankful to have had it—I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Zoë Sams

There are few experiences in life that result in a change in mindset.

For me, the Game Developers Conference 2015 was one of those experiences. At its core, GDC is a conference spanning 5 days, packed with presentations and panels from the best and most promising in the industry. The GDC experience however is far more than that, with the expo hall, career centre, networking, and parties all being an integral part of the week.

I was extremely honoured to be selected as an IGDAF Intel Scholar in the inaugural year of the program. Having initially applied for the IGDA Scholarship, I was both shocked and excited to have received the email explaining that I had the opportunity to attend GDC as part of a new collaboration between the IGDA Foundation and Intel. I immediately began planning, and the following 7 weeks flew by. This was to be my first time outside of Europe, never mind my first time in America, so I wanted to make sure I did it right. I booked my flights, made sure I had a couple of days either side of the conference for sightseeing and additional networking, then eagerly awaited March.

I arrived in San Francisco on Saturday afternoon and was greeted by temperatures exceeding 16ºC – comparative to the height of a Scottish summer. Sunday night was our introductory evening. We picked up our passes, had dinner, received our itinerary for the week and got to know each other a little better. There were 28 other inspiring scholars from a range of disciplines and hearing about their backgrounds was particularly interesting. At 9am every morning of the conference, we had a Q&A session organised by Cat, and smaller meet up sessions throughout the day organised by Kip. Thanks should go to Kate Edwards, Mark Kobrin, Brittany Aubert, Sheri Graner Ray and Penny Milliken for the morning Q&A sessions. Although I didn’t manage to attend all the Intel Meet Up sessions, additional thanks should go to Melissa Pierce, Brian Upton, Dana Hanna, Ross Perez, Caesar Filori, Krissie King, Kristal Murphy, Sonja Coleman, Noah Falstein, Christin Overton and Kiala Kazebee for taking time out to chat to the scholars!

Monday was rather overwhelming for me. I remember standing in Moscone West like a deer in headlights, scared that I was going to waste this opportunity. An hour later I was discussing procedural art and tools programming on my way to a presentation about Sparse Fluid Simulation in DirectX 11 & 12. Although I was nervous, I had no choice but to throw myself in at the deep end and was fiercely determined to make the most of my time at the conference. It certainly paid off.

By the time Tuesday came around, I began to feel more comfortable in my surroundings. It didn’t take long to get the hang of basic networking, and people were incredibly approachable and willing to listen. Once you get over the initial hurdle of introducing yourself, you start to wonder what you were so worried about in the first place. Throughout the week there were many different networking events to attend, such as parties. Never underestimate the importance of parties at GDC, they’re great fun and often have cool stuff too see (with That Venus Patrol & Wild Rumpus showcasing many indie and experimental games) but they’re also important networking opportunities. I met many people who hadn’t purchased a conference pass, but had come to San Francisco just to attend the parties.

While Monday and Tuesday are mostly reserved for conference boot camps, Wednesday is when the Expo Hall opens, meaning a sudden increase in the amount of people around the Moscone Centre. With several different pass types available for GDC, many choose passes only to access the Expo Hall.We were given All Access Passes, which meant not only did we have admittance to the entire conference, but we have full access to the vault. This meant we had far more opportunity to network throughout the week, as we could always catch up on a talk after the conference.

The Expo Hall was full of stalls showing off new technology, games, handing out freebies, or just encouraging passersby to get involved. Here, I got to take part in possibly one of my favourite activities of the week. Two other scholars and I had the opportunity to experience “Thief in the Shadows” using the Oculus Rift at the Unreal Engine booth. Created in conjunction with Weta Digital, the experience was captivating and immersive. Although I had used the Oculus Rift before, the addition of positional tracking really added to the experience, and it was fantastic fun.

Thursday was one of the most moving anduplifting days of the conference. I was lucky enough to have received an invitation to the Xbox Women In Games Awards Luncheon. Along with a great meal, the networking there was invaluable, and I met lots of wonderful people. We were also told that this year, instead of receiving gift bags, the money that would be spent on these was being donated to “Girls Who Code”, a non-profit organisation that focuses on decreasing the gender gap within computer sciences.

Thursday was also the day of the #1reasontobe panel. In its third and arguably most important year, the panel helped reassure me in so many ways that this industry is not as poisonous as it can be portrayed. That yes, there are issues, but things are improving and we must show people of all genders, races and abilities that the games industry is still an exciting and welcoming place to be.

Saying goodbye to the scholars and our wonderful co-ordinators on Friday was extremely difficult. I made some brilliant friends during the week from all over the world that I would have never had the opportunity to meet were it not for this scholarship.

As I said, there are few experiences that can really define us in our lives. Before I attended GDC, I was afraid. I felt like a complete imposter, I had no confidence in my abilities, and I felt that there were others that deserved this opportunity more than I. After the conference however, I felt inspired. My week in San Francisco was one of the most empowering, important, and fun experiences I’ve ever had. I realised that the industry I love is welcoming and that people are so willing to help you learn.

All of the thanks I could ever give goes to the IGDA Foundation, Intel, Cat Wendt, Kip Silverman, Sela Davis, Renee Nejo, Luke Dicken, and every single scholar – both IGDA and IGDAF/Intel – for making this experience so valuable. In addition to this, I want to thank everyone that was kind and approachable enough to take even 5 minutes out of their day to talk to me. Keep making games.

Lauren Scanlan

Thanks to the IGDAF and Intel, I had the privilege of attending GDC 2015 as an IGDAF Intel Scholar. Through the scholarship program, I was not only able to attend a wealth of talks and roundtables about game localization, business best practices, and narrative design; I also found myself in the company of smart and talented women, with whom I shared five amazing days of fantastic Q&A sessions, IGDA-wide networking events, and more. This was my second GDC (having attended in 2014 as a Conference Associate), and so I felt prepared to take on the wonder and madness that is GDC. Not having work shifts this year meant that I could attend as many sessions as I wanted – which was a blessing as much as a curse. I went through the program the Sunday before GDC started, and found that I was often double- or triple-booked for time slots. Thank goodness for the GDC Vault! Once I remembered I could go back and see certain talks, I went to the ones where I felt I could meet interesting people, or get a lot out of being there in person. And boy, did I!! I had a few favorite talks – not the least of which was the Loom postmortem, as it was one of the games from my childhood that left a lasting impression on me and really influenced my love of gaming. Curiosity, Courage and Camouflage: Revealing the Gaming Habits of Teen Girls was an amazing talk given by Ashly Burch and Rosalind Wiseman (author of Queen Bees and Wannabes).

I thought they did an amazing job, through conducting and analyzing an enormous amount of research, of dispelling some of the myths surrounding girls and their playing habits – especially those of teen girls and the boys that want to play along with them. It was a packed room, and an eye-opening discussion for many of the developers in attendance – it’s one thing to be told that girls play games, and another to see the evidence in quantitative data. More in line with my studies and background was Manifest Destiny: Localizing Bungie’s Destiny for the World, given by Tom Slattery. Not only was Tom a fantastic, engaging speaker, who was able to make some of the thorny localization issues very relatable for those unfamiliar with the audience, he laid out his thorough plan for localization that felt natural and integrated with the narrative structure of the game. He also very kindly took a lot of time to answer questions after his talk as well, which was a great opportunity for me to ask him about some of his experiences in game localization. There were a number of talks at this GDC about going into Asia (mostly for the mobile market), which was fascinating on both a localization/culturalization level and a business level.

Unfortunately there was no Localization Summit this year, but the IGDA Localization SIG meeting was packed! It made me happy to see so many people interested in and being a part of the game localization industry. The Loc SIG meeting is where I get to see many of my future colleagues and friends, so it was wonderful to be able to attend this year! I really enjoyed the Intel Scholar morning meetings. Every morning the group met with an industry professional, each in a different field, and got to ask questions ranging from technical or work-specific to personal and career-related. I loved having the opportunity to be able to ask these pros about their experiences, but even more, I learned a lot by listening to the questions of my peers. It was a great chance to hear questions and opinions that were informed by all sides of the games industry, and helped me think in new ways about things I thought I knew well. Without the IGDAF Intel Scholarship, I would have missed out on an experience that was not only critical for my learning and future career, but also on the companionship and camaraderie of the other amazing Intel Scholars. I can’t wait to see where the industry takes us all, but I know we’ll keep in touch and support each other throughout our careers. I can’t thank the IGDAF and Intel enough for allowing me to attend with such an amazing group.

Bobbi K. Schultz

I was an IGDA Intel Scholar for the 2015 Game Developers’ Conference, in San Francisco, California. The Intel Scholars program is brand new this year, to my knowledge, and is a great opportunity for current university students to attend GDC, which caters to all types of fields of interest within the industry. Here is a summary of my most memorable moments from the program and from the experience that is GDC overall. As a scholar, I received an all-access pass to GDC, which is valued at around $2,000, but that was just a small portion of the overall benefits I received during that week. We were given the opportunity to meet up with introductory events, where all of the scholars were able to converse and start forming the bonds we would strengthen over the course of the following week and beyond. We were given the exclusive opportunity to have sit-in Q/A sessions with some of the industry’s most recognizable members. My favorite Q/A was an opportunity to talk with Penny Milliken of Her Interactive (Nancy Drew, anyone?!) We also were invited to exclusive networking events and parties, and we were even allowed the amazing opportunity to give a live demo of some of our best work. I was able to demo my card game, ANTS, in the Children’s Creativity Museum for hundreds of people to experience. It was great exposure and I received ample amounts of useful, valuable feedback on the game itself as well. I was able to meet quite a lot of indy developers at that time, as well as some interesting people in the localization fields, which allowed me to see my card game in a potential new light and broaden its target demographic seamlessly.

The conference itself was massive and almost overwhelming.There was so much to take in, I found myself having to pick and choose which seminar or workshop or talk I wanted to attend more, and which I could view in the vault at a later date. I particularly found great joy and educational value out of the game designer’s workshop. I, and a group of others who I had never met before, were tasked with the immensely challenging, and more importantly, fun, goal of recreating the classic video game, Joust, in a series of quick, paper-prototyping iterations in order to re-invent the wheel, so to speak. We had approximately four hours to disseminate the main mechanic and feel of the game and use that to base the construction of a playable, analog version in an alpha stage. Ultimately, we created a dice-rolling game in which two players compete to come out on ‘top’ of one another in a jouster’s duel while staying within the ceiling and floor restrictions. Each round’s winner would be awarded one egg token and the first player to accumulate five tokens, won the game. It was wonderful to work with all levels of experience and age and come to a cooperative agreement while meeting fast-paced deadlines with deliverable content. All in all, I loved the experience. My fellow scholars were quite an amazing bunch. They were women from all over the globe and they came from all manner of varying backgrounds, and yet they were all immensely talented and intriguing.

I found myself spending more time with them than I had originally thought I would, and at the end of the week, I knew I had made life long friends and peers. The Intel Scholars program was unexpectedly comforting in this regard. I am one of just a handful of females in the game design program at my school, and it was comforting to be in the presence of such a large amount of women who also share my interests in the field. In conclusion, I just want to say that I didn’t really believe I’d get a chance to attend GDC, and the Intel Scholar program afforded me an experience that I will not soon forget. It was quite the revelation when I stood in the middle of the Moscone West Center and I looked around at the sea of attendance drifting this way and that—and I realized just how few females (and furthermore how few transgenders) there were in attendance in comparison to the number of males present. I felt proud to be there, representing not only Bradley University, but also in part representing females in the industry who are still students and are struggling for acceptance. I felt hope when I located the genderless bathrooms, and watched as people took photographs of the signs. GDC may be a conference for game developers at its core, but it is also a conference, and a movement, for equality, acceptance, and change. I feel honored to have been named as one of the first Intel Scholars, and I look forward to future GDCs and the experiences they will offer me.

Mariana Steffen

As far as I’ve seen and heard, there is not one person who has gone to GDC and doesn’t want to go back. That already says something on itself, right?

Well, I most certainly am no exception to the rule.

I was fortunate enough to be chosen as an IGDA/Intel Scholar to go to GDC 2015. For those who don’t know about this program, it’s about diversity and encouraging the participation of minorities into the games industry. I was able to meet 28 wonderfully talented and kind women who are as passionate as I am about games, who are so very committed to their work and to help this industry move forward. I felt humbled.

I had never been to GDC before, and I can tell you nothing could have prepared me for the immensity of it all. I come from a small country where a massive event such as this is not even conceivable. It takes some time getting used to.

The first day was overwhelming. As I made my way to the Center, walking down Howard Street I couldn’t help but notice all those other people making their way to the same place as I. We flowed down the streets of San Francisco and made our way to one of the three buildings that held the Game Developers Conference.

There were always people. In groups or either alone. Coming and going or just standing there engaged in conversation. GDC was flooded with people from all places and nationalities and seeing them converge at this one place, allowing endless possibilities for interaction, was beyond enriching.

GDC offers a lot and there is even more you can take with you in terms of experience, if you live the event fully. For me this meant balancing carefully three of the key aspects of GDC:

  • conferences

  • parties and other events

  • networking

Here, generally one thing always leads to the other. Attending the conferences was paramount in building my GDC experience. More often than not, you engage in conversation with someone there because you know for sure you have at least two things in common: an interest for games and for the topic of the talk. And before you know it, you are networking, which might also result in getting access to parties and events; my next topic.

Parties and events are a constituent aspect of GDC and many are invite-only. To many of these you can RSVP even before GDC, and to many others you can go thanks to friends you met there. These parties and events are great for meeting and chatting to new people, have a good time while sharing with others your life passion: games. I can say I made a lot of friends at GDC, and most of them live on the other side of the world. Isn’t that great? This is also the core of networking: getting people to remember you. And what better way to do it than sharing an unforgettable experience at GDC? Recalling those shared experiences is powerful. If you are fortunate enough, you can meet them again next year, remember the past while in the present and forge a new future with them.

Now, networking on itself can get rather challenging depending on your personality. I am so thankful for the advice I received regarding this because it allowed me to better prepare myself for the task. The most difficult thing I had to do was answer these: “Why would this person want to talk to me? What can I offer them?” Imagine you meet that industry rock star you admire. If you find an answer to this question, there is no one you cannot approach and talk to. Your possibilities are endless. (I ended up having breakfast with my industry rock star!)

Then, of course, there’s the Expo Floor. A sea of people. I know I’ve used a lot of metaphors with water, but bear with me, it really conveys the type of image I want you to see. There were games waiting to be played, dozens upon dozens of company booths displaying their new softwares and hardwares. You can literally lose yourself there.

One of the many perks of being and IGDA/Intel Scholar was the Q&A sessions our amazing tutors set up for us, both the IGDA and the Intel side. Every day we had the chance to go to these sessions and talk with someone incredible. These people shared their experiences, their stories about getting into the industry and also their mistakes. It kind of demystifies success. And I don’t mean this in a bad way. What I mean is you really get to see, first hand, how hard and for how long they’ve worked to get where they are. “You can also make it” I kept hearing in the back of my head. You have to work hard, and then harder than that. And maybe add a pinch of luck.

But I realized that the moment you give up, the moment you say “This is too much for me, I can’t do it” and stop trying, then you won’t move forward. I don’t have the luxury to stop trying. Not yet. Not ever, probably. Because I love this too much.

My deepest thanks and regards to the IGDA and Intel, to our lovely tutors, Cat, Sela, Kip, Rene, and to my fellow scholars, my friends, for making of this week something truly memorable.

Carol Torres Gonzalez

This year I had the opportunity of attending GDC as an IGDA Intel Diversity Scholar. For those of you who may not know, the Intel Diversity Scholarship is a program that was initiated in 2015 by Intel’s effort to increase diversity within the tech industry. I was lucky to join 29 other passionate and talented young women who shared my same enthusiasm for the game industry. Having gone to GDC as a volunteer, I didn’t know what to expect when it came to attending GDC as an attendee. Little did I know that this would be one of the most empowering experiences I’d have till this day. As an IGDA Intel Scholar, you are granted an All-Access Pass for you to use freely throughout the whole conference. This means that all talks, bootcamps, postmortems and roundtables are open for you to join. This is a huge luxury to have, for it gave me the freedom to make the most of my daytime conference experience. Whether I wanted to focus a day on a specific learning subject or be adventurous and assist talks that I knew little to nothing about, I had the freedom to choose and absorb any sort of information available in the conference sessions. This also allowed me to go to sessions where I wanted to meet individuals in a specific field such as programming, design, and so on.

Another benefit granted to the Intel Scholars is having visiting speakers come talk to us everyday. We had a diversity of industry veterans and developers from companies and organizations like Microsoft, IGDA, Google, and Her Interactive visit us during the morning and midday. Most of them shared theirs stories of getting into the industry and what challenges they had to overcome in order to get there. They also brought a variety of topics to share with us. These ranged from game culturalization and localization, self-promotion, art direction, managing your own game company, and so on. After the talks, the speakers would exchange business cards with us and answer any questions that might have bubbled up from the discussion. They would even look over portfolios and provide feedback if you were in the same field (in my case, game art). We were being provided with connections from within the industry that we could stay in touch with. In such a small industry as game development, this is an invaluable opportunity. And that’s another benefit that I’d like to emphasize. By being in GDC the doors that you need to reach are far closer than you’d ever believe. Growing up in Puerto Rico, the idea of working in game development seemed far away. It felt very distant and I wasn’t sure on how I’d be able to integrate myself in that culture. By being at GDC, everyone around you is part of the industry, whether they are leads and veterans in a project, or students just like me. The culture and language synthesizes to a general understanding of the expectations of the industry and what companies are looking for. And the opportunities to get to know and understand developers and teams brings a clearer image of the skills that you’ll need to develop in order to get your foot in the door. Not to mention that you also get to have a lot of fun while learning.

To me that’s the biggest and greatest benefit of going to GDC. It’s the whole industry huddled into one small place for a week. As a student, what more could you ask? I’m incredibly grateful for this opportunity. Three weeks later and I’m in disbelief that it all went by so quickly. Many thanks to IGDA, Intel, the program coordinators and those who placed such a great deal of effort to offer us an incredible experience. I never thought I’d feel so empowered and welcomed during GDC. There is a reason for me to be in this industry, regardless my gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. I am ecstatic to see how this program continues to develop, and hope that its benefits can extend to other minorities who are just as passionate about contributing to the game industry as our group was this year.

Hannah Walker

When your life changes, you feel it. The past couple years have been rough on me. I spent most of my undergraduate career unsure of what I wanted to do with my life, and only right before I graduated did I realize my passion for making games. However, with the many changes in focus, it was getting hard for me to find any break into the industry. I applied for jobs, and sought counsel from all the industry veteran’s whose email I could get my hands on. But emails were not returned and jobs turned me away with my veritable lack of experience. I felt hopeless, and like my dream was going to die.

The events of this past year have been life changing, and I’ve felt it. Admission to the Denius-Sams Gaming Academy brought with it more opportunities than I could have ever imagined, one of the greatest being selected as an IGDAF Intel Scholar. I had never been to GDC before, mostly because I couldn’t afford it. Intel changed that for me, not only did the scholarship give me an All Access Pass to the conference, I also received a stipend to help pay for travel expenses.The suffering of the two years prior was finally counting for something.

Meeting all the other scholars for the first time was awkward, fun, and nothing short of miraculous. If you’ve ever been a part of something much bigger than yourself, you know that feeling I’m talking about. All the scholars are women from all around the globe, and we came together in a camaraderie that transcended such trivial things as not really knowing each other. We asked each other for help, and responses were always positive as each of us jumped at the chance to help each other (not to mention the help we received from our wonderful mentors Cat, Kip, Renee, and Sela). But just being able to talk with other ladies who had had similar life experiences and emotions was so validating and liberating. I finally felt like I belonged and that I wasn’t alone.

The week of GDC flew by so fast, it was like a whirlwind of happiness, learning, and fun. I got to meet so many amazing women from the game industry through morning and afternoon Q&As that were setup for us scholars by Cat and Kip. And those smaller situations really helped me get more comfortable with networking, so throughout the convention I was able to talk to people in larger settings without feeling intimidated.

One of the most amazing experiences for me was connecting with people who have been in the industry for many many years who are fighting for more female representation in games. This was important to me because as a lifelong lover of STEM it has always been my passion to pass that love to young women and get more females into the field. I was able to leave the conference with many ways to get more involved in those efforts, and that alone is priceless.

I met so many people doing so many amazing things, and I BELONGED. That feeling alone changed my life more than anyone can ever know. Because for the first time in my life, I felt confident in who I am and in what I can do. I don’t have enough room to go into detail about all the people I met or the connections I made. But I can say that many of them are connections and relationships that I believe will last a lifetime. All it takes to change a person’s life is a single moment, and I was given a whole week of those. Now instead of feeling hopeless and dreading the future, I am excited for the journeys that lie ahead of me. I have a renewed faith in myself and I know that one day I will look back on my life and I’ll be able to pinpoint a lot of my good fortune on the life changing moments that happened at GDC 2015.

Minni Wiitala

My stay in San Francisco was a memorable one. I was sharing a room with fellow scholar and CA volunteers. I knew that the days would be quite full, but during the GDC, GDC was all you do, live and breathe. It was a real challenge timing everything in advance to make most of what is available. I used the GDC app mostly, with glances to the official schedule book. I had the opportunity to attend producer roundtables. Those were one of the most interesting experiences of all the programs available as developers were sharing their views openly among peers. Above everything else I believe in being curious and asking questions. Though at times a popular even was full before I got there, the only way to see it was as an opportunity to get to know the people in the waiting-line while figuring out what to do next. Definite highlight of this year’s Award Show was Hironobu Sakaguchi receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award, not to mention the intro video for it.

Additional Scholar Events, like receptions, made sure we never ran out of things to do outside the official GDC program. Our mornings started with exclusive meetings where special guests were telling the tale of their career. Intel provided us with similar special guest talks throughout the day at their booth. Scholars were also given a game demo opportunity during the IGDA gathering in case we had interesting projects to show. I had been working on Shadow Corps with my team and we got a lot of positive feedback from it to take back to the studio. Over scholar dinners was a lot of sharing on advice like where to find useful things or how to improve on networking. A special treat was revisiting the games of my childhood with the Game Museum exhibition.

I left with many memories, new friends, a deck of business cards and a busy social media profiles so I’m certain this had a positive impact on my career. Thank you to all the sponsors and volunteers that made this possible.