Denius-Sams Gaming Academy FAQ, part 1: Applications

17 Feb

I’ve been getting a bunch of questions from people interested in the Gaming Academy. Rather than answer them individually, I figured I should put together an FAQ. This, and all subsequent FAQ sections, will eventually get posted on the DSGA website but, for now, here are the answers to the most common queries, starting with the application process:

Q: Where do I apply?

A: Apply at the DSGA website here: http://moody.utexas.edu/gaming-academy/apply

Q: What is the deadline for applications?

A: The current deadline for submission of applications is May 1, 2014. We will begin notifying accepted candidates on June 1, 2014, with notifications being made on a rolling basis after that date. Classes begin on August 27, 2014. Based on the quality and number of applications, these dates are subject to change, but consider them binding at this time – best not to wait until the last minute.

Q: What are you looking for in a letter of intent?

A: Part of the reason we ask for a statement of purpose is to see what you think the Denius-Sams Gaming Academy can do for you in your current or hoped for career. Part of the reason is to see what you think you can bring to the program. We’re looking for original thoughts, not rote responses, but some of the specifics we’ll be looking for are: Why you’re interested in the DSGA instead of just going out looking for a job. Why you’re interested in leadership and what makes you think you’re well-suited to a leadership position. It probably can’t hurt to provide examples of times in your life when you’ve found yourself in leadership positions (or explain why such opportunities haven’t come your way). Mostly, tell us what you think makes you well suited for admission to our unique program.

Q: Should references be put in the same place as the portfolio?

A: Yes, references should be put in the same place as the portfolio. If, as may be the case, your references are not comfortable providing you with the actual reference we may accept their contact information so we can contact them ourselves. Bear in mind that this should be the exception and may say something about your chances of admission to the program.

Q: What does a QA portfolio look like?

A: The key to a good portfolio is proof of skills. For a QA person, that could mean test plans you’ve created, bugs you’ve written up, process suggestions you’ve made and so on. Provide us with the best evidence you can muster of the skills you bring to the development process and how those skills can be utilized during all phases of a game’s development.

Q: Are mobile games acceptable portfolio pieces?

A: We’re happy to accept mobile games as part of a portfolio. These can be submitted in the form of playable games or, like all portfolio submissions, in the form of reasonably extensive video captures. Regardless of game type, be sure to submit supporting documentation describing your role in the projects you submit.

Q: What would an applicant without the suggested education require in order to be accepted?

A: We are not going to teach people the nuts and bolts of making a game – we expect candidates to come in having already received training and having some experience in this area. The most important thing you can do is show us that you have such experience. After that, we need to see interest in and potential for leadership. Make sure we understand what “leadership” means, in your eyes, and how the Academy can help you accomplish your goals. Finally, don’t embellish your credentials – that’s why we insist on letters of reference!

Q: Is there an acceptable age range for applicants and participants?

A: There is no cut-off age or age bracket. Any adult with appropriate talents and ambitions is eligible for admission.

Q: Must you have programing skills and a portfolio of games to be admitted to the program? Do you have to be a programmer to apply?

A: You do not have to be a programmer. Certainly, technical skills are important for anyone creating software—and games are software. However, we will be looking for people with a range of skills in the areas of programming, design, art, audio, testing and production. Candidates need not be expert specifically in any one of these or in all of them. With regard to the portfolio, it is important that candidates prove their proficiency in some aspect of game development and the best way to do that is to showcase work done on a game. It doesn’t have to be a demonstration from games that have shipped. It can be mods to an existing electronic or (less effectively) something related to a tabletop game.

Q: How do you demonstrate leadership potential in your application?

A: Part of being a leader is being able to think on your feet, think for yourself and self-start. It is our plan not to tell people explicitly how to prove their leadership qualities or leadership potential. This is part of the application process. There is no one answer, no right or wrong—we ask applicants to answer for themselves what it means to be a leader and how they embody those qualities. Communicating that answer to us through their application materials will be an important criterion in the application process.

Q: When I apply for the academy, should I focus on my greatest strength or my balanced skill set?

A: The answer is both. We need to know what you’re best at and what role you want to play in the development process (during your time with the program as well as in the professional world). However, generalists can be particularly valuable on a 20-person team, so providing information and evidence of your overall skillset may increase your chances of being admitted to the program.

Q: Out of the 20 people accepted, what will the composition of the group be?

A: The selection process will be based on two criteria: Leadership potential, as determined by application materials, and the ability to contribute to the development of a game in a specific capacity. In a sense, the selection process will be similar to the process one goes through when assembling a professional game development team – each person must be excellent in some aspect of the craft in order to ensure the success of the development process. In other words, we’ll be looking for programmers, designers, artists, audio personnel, producers – people who can contribute to the process while learning about leadership.

Q: Would applying after the Game Developers Conference put me at a disadvantage? I would really like the opportunity to talk with a staff member before I send in my application.

A: There’s no advantage or disadvantage to applying for the program before or after any specific date or event. Just get your application in before the April 15th deadline. Evaluations of applications will take place on a rolling basis (and may even be extended past April 15th, depending on the number and quality of applicants) but acceptances won’t be communicated until after June 1st.

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