Sony Online Entertainment has awarded Rebecca Gleason of Indianapolis the 2009 G.I.R.L. Scholarship, which gives $10,000 to the game and art design student to go toward her college tuition. In addition, she will also be a paid intern for up to 10 weeks on Free Realms!
The Gamers in Real Life scholarship encourages students to enter career paths in the creative and applied arts, which will hopefully result in the development of games that are more enticing for women to play. More than 160 students applied for the scholarship, and the finalists were asked to submit original concept art for new Free Realms environments and characters.
You can read an interview with Gleason on the G.I.R.L. Web site or after the jump. She even discusses how she came up with her Free Realms concepts for her submission.
Q: Explain what it feels like to be the G.I.R.L. Scholarship winner?
A: I'm blown away! I feel so honored to be given this opportunity and I intend to make the most of it by really diving in, absorbing what I learn and working to promote the mission of the G.I.R.L. program.
Q: How did you come up with your G.I.R.L Game Design Competition submission (artwork & essays)?
A: It was very difficult to narrow my ideas down to just one. Since we were asked to come up with an idea for Free Realms™, I had to take into consideration the overall style of the game and come up with a unique environment that is simple and recognizable, yet holds endless potential as an entire universe in itself. My inspiration came from a common fantasy I have shared with many other girls and plays on the excitement of discovery and the fear of the unknown. Many of my previous concepts for my own projects have been much grittier and detailed, so it was nice to round it out a bit and create something colorful and a little more lighthearted. In my essay, I reflected on the gaming industry's past, present and future and how it corresponds with my own life in many ways. I explored my thoughts on women and girls in gaming and how their relationship with gaming is sometimes different from that of the guys.
Q: What do you hope to do after you graduate and why?
A: I'm still exploring my options. I would love to work as an artist and play a part in creating new styles, characters, and environments that break the mold; however I would also love to develop whole gaming experiences that bridge the gap between education and entertainment. I feel that gaming is on the brink of something huge and I am excited by the advances in communications and science in general. It would be a wonderful adventure to work on cutting edge games that push the boundaries of the gaming experience and also act as a tool for understanding our own universe and ourselves. There are some other, more specific ideas that I will have to keep under wraps until a later time.
Q: What is your favorite online game and why?
A: Maybe it's my love of history and science, but I am completely drawn in by the strategy game Civilization™. I enjoy games that allow you to create your own worlds and that offer many different experiences to choose from. I love the graphics in Guild Wars®, and have also really enjoyed exploring Free Realms over the past few months. Different aspects of different games appeal to me, so therefore it's hard to pick one favorite.
Q: During your internship with SOE, what do you hope to learn?
A: I am so excited to have the opportunity to intern with SOE! I hope to learn more about the overall process of game development, how a team interacts and plays off one another, what ideas make it to the table and why others might not. I also hope to understand where the industry is headed from the inside and how I might be able to create new avenues in gaming that not only provide entertainment, but allow for more individualism, self-expression and the ability to connect with more people.
Q: What kinds of skills have you learned from playing video games?
A: I have had varying experiences with video games and somewhere in there, there's a certain kind of insight I've gained. With that insight comes the ability to play an active part in your own entertainment, to master some part of yourself and pick up on cues that will lead to your success. Gaming has helped me become more decisive, analytical and observant.
As a side note, I'd just like to thank SOE, the G.I.R.L. program and everyone involved for this most amazing gift of opportunity. It means so much to me to have the kind of support that had been lacking before – to have so many people say "we believe in you." I hope that this program continues to be recognized as an important step for women in gaming and that its awareness brings even more opportunities for talented students, both women and men, to showcase their potential and bring new creativity to the gaming world. I will always be grateful for this chance and I plan to use my experience to give back to this program in the future. Words could never convey the gratitude I feel, so I hope that my actions over time will.