The gaming world Renaissance continues this week with an exciting new announcement from the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) Foundation. In its 2020-2021 scholarship season, the ESA Foundation is introducing the first-ever college eSports program for women and minorities.
Yes, it’s true—kids can now pay for college with their video game skills!
We’ve written before about the growing commitment to diversity and inclusion in games. The ESA Foundation is a longstanding leader in this commitment, recognizing the growing demand for tech-savvy employees in the games industry, as well as the necessity to draw these creators from a variety of backgrounds.
The ESA Foundation’s new scholarship brings their offerings for game design-focused careers up to three well-rounded options: the Computer and Video Game Arts Scholarship, a scholar program co-presented with Gay Gaming Professionals (GGP), and a new scholarship for college students who will play esports on their university’s team while pursuing a four-year college degree.
“The ESA Foundation is devoted to empowering the next generation of video game creators and fostering an industry in which those creators reflect the players they’re making games for,” says the ESA Foundation’s executive director, Anastasia Staten. “We’re excited to expand our scholarship offering this year to include underrepresented students passionate about eSports, which has quickly become one of the most popular forms of entertainment. But it’s also important that aspiring game creators get to tell their unique stories in ever-more-creative ways.”
If you’re not familiar with eSports, you might be surprised to hear it’s one of the fastest-expanding entertainment industries in the world. Competitive video gaming—otherwise known as eSports—became a billion dollar industry in 2018, with highly-publicized tournaments streaming to millions of viewers worldwide as professional international teams clash over titles like Fortnight, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, and Overwatch.
Outside of eSports, the video game industry employs more than 220,000 people in the United States alone, and opportunities to study skills related to games development are growing faster than ever. Just five years ago, around 200 colleges and universities offered programs and degrees related to games. Today, there are almost 500.
The expansions in the games industry prompted critical questions about diversity and inclusion. In an industry traditionally dominated by white, cisgendered males, the voices of women, minorities, and members of the LGBTQIA+ community were conspicuously missing from tabletop discussions. Today, organizations like the ESA Foundation work tirelessly to close the gap between minority gamers and professional development opportunities.
It’s important work. Games development is also a traditionally overworked industry, with chaotic (and sometimes predatory) work environments, pay structures, and access to resources. The growth of crowdfunding has helped many games from independent minority developers get off the ground, but there is still a massive gap between under-heard voices and triple-A games studios.
The ESA Foundation opened its doors in 2007, providing nearly 400 Computer and Video Game Arts Scholarships over the course of a decade. In 2019, the ESA Foundation partnered with Gay Gaming Professionals to offer an additional scholarship for students who planned on serving LGBTQIA+ communities. The fact that the ESA Foundation is rounding out its diversity-focused scholarship offerings with a new commitment to eSports showcases the impact of the growing industry—and proves that eSports are anyone’s game.
It’s been inspiring and astounding to watch the games industry evolve in the ways it has in the last decade. When we call it a development “Renaissance,” we’re not exaggerating: new advances in technology, new commitments to education, and the growing pool of talented, diverse individuals ready to lend their creative skills to games development are all creating a colorful, vibrant industry that’s able to handle the difficult conversations and pushes for change it might have ignored only a few years ago.
To learn more about the ESA Foundation and their scholarship offerings, visit their website. Applications for all scholarships close March 2, 2020 at 11:59 PM PST. Applicants will be notified of selection results by mid-June 2020 and funds will be disbursed by August 2020.
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