I recently applied for one of the volunteer positions at GDC 2011 and unfortunately didnt make the cut. After realising the submission write up was only not 1500 characters and not the 1500 words I'd written I cut my piece down to this:
"Videogames are a most unique and engaging form of media. I wrote my A2 essay on Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots. I came to intimately know the game and its themes, I realised that gaming can be so much more than what I initially thought: through interactivity you can experience things in ways no other medium can offer. I am now studying my second year of Digital Animation at the University College Falmouth and I feel its time to meet some people in the industry, hear what they have to say, show them what I have to offer. After all the amazing things Iíve heard about GDC; from the Indie panels to the incredible technical seminars, it sounds like the perfect place to start networking with people who share that view that games can be more. Games are being expanded in small ways by a number of more cerebral and more interestingly designed games; Flower brought a sense of serenity I hadnít thought possible in a videogame, Braid, a cerebral brilliance matched only by its thematic complexity expressed through the gameplay itself. Far Cry 2 showed me how the same philosophy could combat ludo-narrative dissonance by crafting the immersive story around the gameplay, while maintaining the impact player interactions and choices had on the experience. I feel Iíd be a good volunteer as Iíve lead teams on creative projects on both my Media A level and Digital Animation degree. I can also be an invaluable asset to any team and Iím eager to meet and learn from like-minded people."
I wondered if anyone had ever got on this program and could give me some idea of what these people want to see from a candidate so I can do better next year. Thanks.
I've been a volunteer for the last 4 years now, and let me tell you competition is crazy fierce. Last year there were over 2000 applications for 400 spots. A lot of spots are filled by vets, and a lot are filled by people recommended by vets. So it is super hard to get in. Now I don't know exactly how they judge the essays, but I can say what I know from reading other essays of people who have gotten in. You made the essay more about the industry than yourself, talk about WHY you NEED to go to GDC, WHAT you expect to get out of it. Add some humor, show your personality. Make it less formal. Good luck next year!
I also applied and was not selected. They receive many more applications than the number of spaces available. This year there were 1800 applications for 400 positions. It also seems that they tend to select applicants who have previously volunteered and those who have game industry experience.
The 1500 character limit is tough, that's for sure. One of the hardest parts of writing is utilizing the space on the page as best as possible.
After you're done writing, re-read and ask yourself "Can I combine these two sentences into one and not lose any valuable information?"
The first thing I noticed was the large wall of text. In my opinion this is both intimidating and difficult to read, but that's just me, feel free to agree/disagree. Maybe next time spend 3 characters utilizing returns?
And, jumping off what Gshonk brought up, the essay itself read (to me) 70% of how much you like games 15% about yourself and 15% talking about why you should be a CA. These guys can probably safely assume mostly everyone applying is passionate about games, you have to convince them why you would be a better candidate than the rest.
Hope that helps
I agree with Gshonk. I was a volunteer at gdc austin 09. I dont remember exactly what I wrote to be selected but I know if was about me and why i felt being a volunteer would help me get my foot in the door of the industry. It was a great experience and I was able to sit in on alot of sessions that I would not be able to afford otherwise. I made a few contacts thru other volunteers and working some of the events such as the beer bash and just staying after to pickup surveys and asking questions to the people attending and the speakers. Oh and just reading your essay, you made it sound more like a school research paper than why you wanted to be a volunteer.
Like Grant, I have also been a GDC volunteer. You could probably ask 50 of us volunteers and get 50 different responses, but here are my two cents:
--The volunteer program at the main GDC is probably different than at other GDCs (e.g., GDC Austin/Online). I have been to the main GDC only.
--Competition to volunteer is tough. I'm guessing 250+ spots went to returning volunteers, so that leaves 150 spots for 1650 applicants. And that doesn't include recommendations! (Returning volunteers can recommend new applicants. It's not clear how this helps, but you can imagine that it can help a lot.) So if you didn't get in, don't feel bad. Even with a great essay it's probably a crap shoot.
--So what you really want is a great essay and a recommendation. If there's a formula for a great essay, they're not telling us. But, in their shoes, I'd be looking for passion, maturity, authenticity, and humility, specifically a servant's mindset. Why? Passion: duh. Maturity: it's a trade convention, not a fan show like PAX. Authenticity (i.e. personal, not generic): they want people, not robots. A servant's mindset: A volunteer's main purpose is to serve the other attendees and help them to have the best GDC possible (without costing the organizers money). All of the other awesome stuff is cake.
--Also, I would apply early next year. I knew one volunteer who would check the app page each day, and the day it went live, he applied. If you think about it, applying early can indicate initiative, planning, and passion. (FYI, the application form usually goes up in November.)
--Even if you aren't a volunteer, go to the GDC anyway. Financially, the volunteer only saves on the cost of the pass and maybe lunch. So buy an Expo pass or a Student pass. (FYI, the cost of Expo passes goes up after this Monday.) If you've never been to the GDC, there's still plenty to see or do. And you can still network: all the bigwigs still roam the halls and eat lunch at the tables and also go to the Expo floor. And, if you want to know more about the volunteer program, you can then go to the source: Find the CA Lounge, go there, and introduce yourself and just be humble and ask some questions. Maybe you'll meet some people who you click with or who live near you, and maybe they will get to know you well enough to recommend you next year.
--Have multiple people read your essay before you submit it. Having other volunteers read it helps, but even your parents would be way better than nothing.
--You could also try going as Press. I don't know what their press requirements are, but I used to attend conventions writing for my university's paper. A press badge is often better than an "All Access" badge. If your school's paper isn't enough, visit your city paper and maybe you can work with them to write an article on the GDC. (I don't have experience with online press, like blogs or websites. But a friend got in that way: he was local, and some friends at a Euro gaming site wanted someone to cover the GDC. Win win!)
--Even if you don't make it to the GDC (or another GDC), the GDC vault has some of the lectures available for free. They seem to release more free ones as time goes on, too.
Last thoughts: Wow, is the original poster in the UK? (There's always GDC Europe...) If I were choosing volunteers for a program, I would give extra weight to someone willing to fly out from Europe. But that wasn't apparent in your essay. And what's an "A2 essay" anyway? Remember your audience.
Good luck to everyone . . . for this year and next!
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