Sony Online Entertainment recently announced that applications were open for their third annual G.I.R.L. scholarship and MMORPG caught up with SOE and the last two winners to see how well the program has done and where it's gone since its inception in 2008.
G.I.R.L is an acronym for Gamers In Real Life and was created with the goal to positively impact the way females are depicted in video games, and to create and influence content to be appealing to women. The scholarship program is designed to educate and recruit more women into the field of video game production and design, although it is not strictly limited to women. The chosen scholar receives $10,000 that is paid to their school for their program expenses such as tuition, books, room and board, and a paid internship to an SOE studio of choice.
"Yes, there have been male applicants over the past two years who have been qualified and even a few made it to the semi-final round!" said Sara Kaplan, Manager of Corporate Communications at SOE. "We love how men show their support for the G.I.R.L. program just as much as women do!"
The first scholarship winner Julia Brasil had to submit a piece of concept art, a level design for Everquest 2 and two essays. Although the monetary award was very nice, she was more interested in the internship opportunity.
"It was a great experience," said Julia. "I knew that working in the game industry would be really cool, but I also didn't have any idea what it would really be like. The game industry is like this cool but nebulous thing. I also wasn't really sure whether I wanted to concentrate on game design or art and the internship helped me focus. I found that I really enjoyed building environments and characters and that's where my studies are concentrated in now, game art."
Rebecca Gleason, the 2009 winner also submitted essays and created two characters and an environment for Free Realms. She is looking forward to the internship.
"The program I'm in is a general broad program and the game industry is like this big mystery. I know I want to do something in games, but I'm not sure of the direction I want to take."
Rebecca hopes that the internship will help her decide. "Winning the scholarship was the best day of my life! I'm really excited and can't wait to start the internship."
The scholarship was originally offered only to Art Institute students and SOE refers to the first offering as a learning process.
"We considered that a trial run," said Sara, "to see if it was something we could offer for years to come. After Julia Brasil was announced the first recipient, we got so many inquiries such as "when is SOE planning to announce the next one" and "where can we sign up?"! We were shocked, but at the same time extremely pleased that our goal of creating these opportunities for students was finally coming to fruition."
That the scholarship is now administered by a scholarship management service, Scholarship America in its third year, shows how dramatically the number of applicants has grown. The scholarship is now open to all schools with video game programs. Based on feedback from the past two years, the submission portion of the competition has also grown easier. This year, applicants have to submit a piece of original art electronically in jpg format. Eligible semi-finalists who make the art cut will have to further submit:
- Two (2) pieces of concept art;
- A brief caption describing each piece of concept art; and
- A five hundred (500) word essay describing why the entrant wants to work in the video games industry, how the entrant could improve the image of women within video games and how the entrant's improvements could facilitate the creation of games that more women will play.
Why a piece of art, we wanted to know and asked if a piece of code had ever been submitted.
"It's more of a "creativity requirement"! By asking for an existing piece of artwork, it allows us to see if the applicant has an artistic, creative or unique side in the beginning of the process, rather than during the submission portion of the competition only. We've seen some interesting submissions over the past two years, so we tweaked it a bit this year and are having students send a piece of art in the beginning," said Sara. "Don't get me wrong, we definitely want students to have fun with this, but we're trying to be as fair as possible to every applicant."
For interested readers, the eligibility rules and application process can be found here, at: https://www.scholarshipamerica.org/gamersinreallife/ Don't wait too long. Submission deadline is February 15, 2010 at 11:59pm PST and only the first 3,000 applications will be considered.
"It's great that SOE has already given two extremely talented female students a foot in the door and the chance to make contacts and connect with other members of the industry," said Sara. "The G.I.R.L. Scholarship is one of the most exciting times of the year for us and we look forward to meeting and mentoring the 2010 recipient!"