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A New Scholarship Aims to Inspire More Female Game Designers

NYU Game Center and the Barlovento Foundation are looking to encourage creative girls.

by Mike Steyels
Dec 4 2016, 1:05pm

Image courtesy Rachel E. Morris

The image of the teenage boy in a dark room playing shoot 'em up video games is an entrenched stereotype, yet studies now show that women enjoy video games nearly as much as guys do. But if there are so many girls playing games, why are there so few of them developing them? Females developers account for just 22% of the industry.

The NYU Game Center would like to fix that. While the school says females already account for over a third of their student population, they’d like to bring even more into the fold. To that end, they’ve created a full tuition scholarship for three female-identifying MFA students through a new Barlovento Foundation grant. The recipients will be chosen by the entire faculty, in collaboration with the foundation.

As the gaming industry matures and becomes an increasingly important form of cultural communication akin to painting or film, work created by both genders becomes ever more important. The Game Center, under the chairship of Frank Lantz, views their mission as primarily cultural and not strictly technical.

Illustration for enrollment flyer by James Harvey via NYU Game Center

The industry views artistic roles in game development to fall under positions like game designer, visual artist, and user experience/interface design. But the Game Center views creativity more holistically. “It’s an overall creative process in which all of the different disciplines that come together to develop a game are artistic if the whole project is driven by a shared vision and creative goal,” Lantz tells The Creators Project.

The Center has been working to get something like the scholarship in motion for a couple years. The collaboration between Barlovento and NYU came about through Vanessa Briceño, a former Game Center student who is the foundation’s president. The Foundation first began in Colombia supporting rural women, but their mission has expanded to encompass the broader promotion of women's equality and support for women in tech.

There’s a strong artistic ethos running through the school. “Many of my colleagues prided themselves on artistry and looking deeper into game design as a means of expression, exploration and communication,” she says, although is quick to point out that the scholarship is not focused on anything other than helping women enter the gaming industry at a higher level.

But as games become more artistic and meaningful than just “time-wasting entertainment,” their breadth of content becomes accordingly important. Promoting a diversity of creators can only help shape more well-rounded games. “As people become more adept with any media, they start to look at how to push its boundaries,” she says. “So photographs became art, and paintings became art, and books became art. It’s the same with games. A number of my colleagues made games exploring abuse, mental issues, eating disorders, and anxiety while at the Game Center.” Unfortunately, many fail to see commercial release. For now, anyway.

Clip from Boss, a game designed by Vanessa Briceño, Winnie Song, and Zack Zhang

To learn more about the NYU Game Center click here

Follow Mike Steyels on Twitter: @iswayski

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