The NYU Game Center, which runs the Game Design bachelor and master degree programs at Tisch School of the Arts, recently announced its 2018 Evo Scholarship. Described on the website as “open to anyone who is passionate about fighting games and esports,” the Evo Scholarship is a symbol of support for the fighting games community. Partially funded by players and spectators of the Evo Tournament — one of the biggest fighting game competitions in the world — the scholarship has for the first time allowed one student to attend the center on a full tuition scholarship.
The Game Center was approached by Evo co-founder Tom Cannon who wanted to help players find a career path after playing games, according to Program Coordinator Dylan McKenzie. Cannon felt that the Game Center had the potential to help gamers who wanted to take on a more creative role and transition from player to game designer.
“The fighting game community is diverse in terms of racial diversity and socioeconomic diversity, but games have a lot of work to do in terms of who are allowed to make them,” McKenzie said. “There are all types of barriers to entry — the scholarship is a chance to open the door to individual designers who might not be able to afford an education at NYU. We are telling people that you can do this, you can be the designer.”
The Evo Scholarship was awarded in 2015, 2016 and 2018 and is funded mostly by contributions made through the Evo Tournament.
Brian Chung, a first year graduate student and the first recipient of the 2018 full-tuition Evo Scholarship, attributed a lot of how he understands game design to the gaming community he’s interacted with at NYU. Chung has hosted gaming tournaments and meet-ups for other game creators and worked in online gaming communities. Through these groups and interactions, Chung has learned to prioritize player agency in games and to not let ego get in the way of designing an engaging game.
It was the center’s focus on teamwork and community that motivated him to apply for the scholarship.
“For me, communities of players or communities of creators have always been at the core of my process personally,” Chung said. “Learning to play fighting games was a lot about learning about player psychology and how and why they make decisions under pressure. That made me think about what goes on behind the screen and what it would feel like to create one myself.”
In 2016, fighting game champion Daigo Umehara donated $60,000 of his Capcom Pro Tour winnings to the Game Center to fund the Evo Scholarship. Umehara has served as a guest lecturer and has attended NYU’s annual Spring Fighter gaming tournament.
“I would like to donate all my prize winnings from the Capcom Pro Tour Finals to the community,” Umehara wrote in an email to the Game Center, “It’s simply because I would not have existed without community and I owe you.”
The Evo Scholarship is a show of support from the community for individual game designers. The Game Center focuses on a holistic approach to game design, in the hopes that people will eventually go into the industry and motivate each other to make games that continue to revolutionize the genre.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Oct. 1 print edition. Email Jessica Xing at [email protected]