SAE student and IGDA scholarship winner at Melbourne International Games Week 2018


5 Mar 2019




SAE student and IGDA scholarship winner at Melbourne International Games Week 2018

5 Mar 2019

Student Takeover alert! SAE News guest contributor, Sammy Stanford, from SAE Perth, describes his IGDA Scholarship win and encourages others to pursue the grant.

Should you apply for an IGDA Foundation scholarship? Sammy Stanford says YES!

TBH, if you’ve never heard of MIGW of the IGDA, then, IMO, there aren’t enough acronyms in your life, just FYI. All jokes aside, I had the chance to discover ‘MIGW’ and ‘IGDA’ through the amazing scholarship I received, and the opportunities it gave me.

So first, what is MIGW?

Melbourne International Games Week (MIGW) is the largest digital games event in the Asia Pacific.

Each year, around the end of October, Melbourne plays host several large games conferences, including Unite, Games Connect Asia Pacific (GCAP), and PAX Australia, as well as other games related functions, including the Australian Game Developer Awards (AGDAs), MegaDev, and several other smaller events.

So then, what’s the IGDA Scholarship?

The International Game Developers Association (IGDA) is the largest non-profit members organisation in the world. Based in the US, but with chapters in countries all over the world, including several here in Australia, the IGDA seeks to support and empower game developers around the world in achieving fulfilling and sustainable careers.

One of the ways the IGDA supports game developers is through their various scholarship programs. In this case, myself and 11 other IGDA scholars from across the world received flights to Melbourne, accommodation for the week, tickets to all the major conferences, several studio tours, Q&A sessions with amazing industry professionals and a mentor in our particular field of games development.

So what did I get to do during this amazing opportunity? To save time I won’t go into every detail of the week, but I have included links to each of the events and details on some of the people who impacted on my experience so you can go check them out!


Although Highscore was not included as part of the scholarship, I couldn’t resist attending, since it was an event aimed specifically at video game audio, my chosen field, and hosted by APRA (more acronyms?), Australia's major music rights organisation representing over 100,000 members who are songwriters, composers, and music publishers.

The day was filled with panels and presentations given by a variety of guest speakers, including composers, sound designers, producers, programmers, developers, and representatives from the IGDA, APRA AMCOS, gaming studios, and government funding bodies. Suffice to say that their knowledge proved to be absolutely invaluable to all the attendees.

Studio Tours

As an aspiring game developer, the opportunity to tour game studios and chat with the various developers was very exciting. It was especially helpful to see the difference between an indie and a AAA studio.

Lisy Kane, the producer from League of Geeks, an indie studio most known for Armello, showed us around the studio and introduced us to various members of her team. It was great being able to see how they managed all their projects, what their workspace looked like, and get to know how various members got involved in the industry.

Q&A Times

Some of the best memories I have of my MIGW are from our various Q&A sessions. We had the tremendous opportunity to meet with some incredible people from the international games community and to learn from them and their experiences. From indie studios to Leighton Grey, to the head of the IGDA, each person gave us a unique perspective on the wider games community, as well as encouraging us on our own journey.

Probably the best part of these meetings was that they were usually over breakfast, which made the whole atmosphere so relaxed and really humanised our special guests. That’s not to say that they needed humanising, but I definitely find it easier to talk to someone, and potentially ask them tough questions, when there’s a drink in your hand and food in your belly! 

My Mentor

During MIGW, each IGDA Scholar was paired with a mentor in their chosen field of games development, which for me meant sound design. I was pretty stoked to find out that I got paired with Michael Theiler, from Kpow Audio, who’s worked on titles like ‘L.A. Noir’, ‘The Forest’, and ‘Mirrors Edge Catalyst’.

He probably won’t like me saying this, but I really think Michael went above and beyond as a mentor for me. Not only did he put up with me every time I would run into him at various events during the week, which was stalker level, but he also organised for me to meet with his colleagues.

Knowing music composition was my strength, he introduced me to Aaron, who is an incredibly accomplished composer. It was during this session, sitting down with the Kpow guys, that I learned the most about my future career. They indulged my barrage of questions and told me all the practical things about their hardware, software, workflows, and even their pricing. 


Games Connect Asia Pacific (more acronyms?!) is Australia’s premier game development conference. Held every year during October, the conference spans two days and features a range of talks by industry luminaries. GCAP strives to deliver thought-provoking, creative and innovative sessions covering topics ranging from programming, art and design, to business management.


Penny Arcade Exhibition Australia (that’s the last acronym… I promise!) speaks for itself really.

It is a 3-day event with two oversized showrooms filled with video games, tabletop games, tournaments and demonstrations of all kinds. There are panels, shows, and interactive activities all day every day.

Look, if I try to explain it any further I may just ruin it for you, so if you haven’t been to PAX yet, then I definitely advise that you check out their website and go see it for yourself!

So what did I actually get out of this scholarship? 

I’m not exaggerating when I say that applying for the IGDA Scholars program was the single greatest thing I have done for my career thus far. I’m still in touch with my mentor, the other scholars and so many people I met. It doesn’t end with attendance at the festival! It’s an ongoing experience which I know will help my transition from study into work.

Why? Well, it wasn’t because of any single conference, panel, Q&A session, studio tour, new found friendship or connection, but it was the experience as a whole. By the end of MIGW I had tremendous mixed feelings of fear, courage, confidence, and excitement.

Fear - because while being surrounded by so many talented, experienced people, I naturally began to feel inferior in my own abilities. Although that didn’t last long.

Courage - as I learned from each person I met, I became more and more inspired to hone my skills and to grow as a sound designer. 

Confidence - I am now more confident than ever that the digital games industry is where I want to work, and that is a perfectly valid choice of career.

And excitement - to get out in the game's world, make connections, make new friends, and make great games! 


Find out more about IGDA Foundation here

IDGA Foundation


Author Sammy Stanford

Sammy Stanford

Sammy is a music teacher, composer, and sound designer from Northern NSW.

Currently living in Perth, he has written music for public art displays, advertising, and VR Rollercoasters. Sammy loves creating music and sound that really captures its audience and creates a memorable and immersive experience.

Sammy currently studies a Diploma of Audio at SAE Perth and intends to enrol in a Diploma of Games once completed.