This week, I took the opportunity to check in with Rebecca Gleason, this year’s winner of the G.I.R.L. scholarship. Rebecca is currently in the middle of her studies at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, and we touched base to see how it’s going.
Emily: First of all, I hope you’re enjoying the program, although I understand it’s a lot of work!
Rebecca: Thanks. Yes, it is quite a lot of work! But, it is very rewarding.
Emily: Can you describe what your typical day is like these days? Is it what you expected?
Rebecca: I am trying to stay healthy and maintain a schedule, so I wake up early and go to the gym (otherwise I would be sitting all day). Once I’ve showered and had breakfast, I get going on my homework. There is so much ‘making’ to do in each course that I only really take small meal breaks during the day. We are not only doing digital work, but also creating 3-D designs and hand drawings, so I have paper scraps and odd materials strewn about the place at all times. My classes go from 6:30pm to 9:00pm every night and from 9:00am to 2:00pm on Saturdays.
Emily: You mentioned that you’ve been too busy to even check your email most days. What is it that’s keeping you the busiest at the moment?
Rebecca: The volume of work we are asked to produce is astounding. Right now, we are working on several different projects where we have to diverge and create a multitude of visual explorations that convey a specific mood.
Emily: In your essay submission to the G.I.R.L. scholarship program, you shared some thoughts about women and girls in gaming, and how their relationship with gaming is sometimes different from that of men and boys. Since the readers of this blog didn’t have the opportunity to read your essay, can you describe what key points you felt were most important?
Rebecca: I feel that many women and girls are perhaps more drawn to creative games rather than the “shoot ‘em up” ones. We aren’t as easily captivated by those, as they don’t allow for any real personal exploration. I’m not saying there aren’t any women who enjoy those. They are great escapes and a lot of fun, but in order to want to keep coming back, I feel we need a little more interaction and creative control.
Emily: Before starting the scholarship you mentioned that you would love to work as an artist, but you also mentioned an interest in other areas of game design. Now you’ve had an opportunity to delve deeper into some of the different areas of gaming, have your preferences changed at all?
Rebecca: I have always wanted to do something with my artistic talents, but I also have so many ideas about all aspects of a game. My program is Experience Design and so that can be translated in so many ways. Not only can I contribute to different aspects of game design, but also perhaps the marketing and promotion of the games.
Emily: Have there been any big surprises? Anything that you weren’t expecting, and have only discovered during your studies so far?
Rebecca: No huge surprises yet. Though I have come to understand the importance of suspending judgment and allowing ideas to form and be documented without trying to make them perfect the first time.
Emily: Game design can be a very challenging and demanding career. Do you think there are any specific challenges that are specifically relevant to women in gaming, that perhaps don’t impact men so much?
Rebecca: Perhaps just the lack of women in some areas of design and the perception that it is hard to break into the industry as a woman.
Emily: How about the reverse? Do you think there are any challenges that men face in game design, where perhaps women aren’t as affected?
Rebecca: There is a lot of competition in a field like this. I think men probably feel that quite a bit.
Emily: I’m curious, why game design? Was there anything specific that developed your interest in game design? Is there any particular reason you’re so passionate about it now?
Rebecca: I have always loved the sci-fi/fantasy genre and my art has reflected this interest. Game design seems to be a place where my ideas are realized. I see game design as the perfect outlet for my creativity and for further exploration in ways games can be used.
Emily: You’ve mentioned that Civilization is one of your all time favorite games. I’ve spent many happy days playing it myself, as well as its sequels like Alpha Centauri. Are there any other games that particularly stand out as favorites?
Rebecca: I’ve always loved Zelda and some other older ones like Crystal Castles, and Impossible Mission. I also really like games where I’m learning languages or other things I can use in the real world.
Emily: Are there any women in your life that have been strong role models for you? How do they feel about you pursuing a career in game design, if so?
Rebecca: My mom was always a great role model. She is a wonderful artist and has had a huge influence on my own creative path. She is happy I am using my creativity because there was a time when I had ignored it. She is excited to see what I will bring to the mix and where this path will lead me.
Emily: You mentioned that in the future you’d love to be able to continue to help women enter the gaming industry. Do you have any specific ideas in mind about how you’d like to see women in gaming encouraged?
Rebecca: I think things have really opened up in the past few years as far as integrating a woman’s voice in the industry by marketing to them and creating games especially attractive to them. This awareness is something I’d like to build on so that girls will know that there is space for them to play in this world too. I haven’t been able to think too much yet on concrete ways of doing this, but I’m still exploring many ideas in general so I know it will come.
Emily: Any last words of advice or warning you’d like to leave for future G.I.R.L. scholarship applicants?
Rebecca: I guess I’d just like to say that it is important to keep working on your craft and learning about the world. Real life experiences are what bring the most interest and vibrancy to the table when you are trying to create something. Use this experience as a step towards your goals. Even if you don’t win, what you learn by doing it is just as valuable. Learn what it takes to be great at something and work toward it every day.