ESA Foundation

ESA Foundation Opens Doors for Women, Minorities and LGBTQI+ Students

Video Game Industry Scholarship Helps Build More Diverse Pipeline With 2020-21 Scholars

July 23, 2020

WASHINGTON – July 23, 2020 – Driven by its steadfast commitment to diversifying the video game industry, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) Foundation announced today scholarship awards to women, minority and LGBTQI+ college students earning a computer science or video game arts and science-related degree. Scholars receive financial and non-monetary support, including access to influential industry figures and mentors.

The ESA Foundation established its scholarship fund in 2007 to empower and equip future video game creators who aspire to help shape a more diverse and inclusive world by developing games with richer narratives that give a voice to often muted or overlooked communities. Through the scholarship fund’s purpose—which is to open doors for more women, minorities and LGTBQl+ students—the game developer workforce will benefit from having representation from underrepresented communities leading to more diverse leadership, new approaches to design and gameplay, and dynamic characters representing all cultures, gender and sexualities.  

“We’re at a tipping point for positive social change, and the ESA Foundation is committed to powering the dreams of game developers from communities underrepresented in the tech industry,” said Anastasia Staten, ESA Foundation's executive director. “At a time when the industry is exploding with innovation and breaking new ground, these talented young people who identify as women, Black, Latinx and LGBTQI+ are breaking barriers in their own right. Part of our mission at the Foundation is to encourage them along their educational journeys and this year, our new esports scholarship enables us to reach even more brilliant, hard-working students around the country.”

Aside from receiving financial help for education, ESA Foundation scholars form bonds with each other, network with industry professionals, establish mentorship relationships and attend events like the Game Developers Conference and E3, the industry's premier annual trade show. In recent years, ESA Foundation scholarship alumni have gone on to work at some of the industry’s most prominent corporations, including Microsoft, Ubisoft and DreamWorks.

One notable scholar who pays it forward by mentoring new ESA Foundation scholars while advocating for increased diversity in games is Geneva Heyward, a New York University student and video game designer.

“I truly believe that if more queer and Black folks are behind the scenes—programming, designing and writing the storylines in video games—we will see more diverse, non-linear characters conveyed in a realistic yet enjoyable way,” said Heyward. “For us to see tangible change, it starts with empowering underserved video gamers and STEAM students to explore the many cool and rewarding career options this industry offers. And the ESA Foundation plays a big part in helping make that happen for students like me.”

While more than 220,000 Americans work in the rapidly growing video game industry, game developers are mostly Caucasian (69%[1]), heterosexual (79%[2]) and male (71%[3]), according to 2019 data from the International Game Developers Association (IGDA). Seeking to challenge the status quo, the ESA Foundation established a scholarship program 13 years ago.

Today, the Foundation’s mission remains grounded in the need to build and advance opportunities that create a more equitable industry. Data from the Pew Research Center estimates that Black and Hispanic teens spend more time playing video games than their White counterparts, at 83% and 69%, respectively. However, IGDA data shows the imbalance of representation of those working in the video game industry:

Minority groups[4]

Gender and sexuality[5]

Staten added: “As with society overall, there is more work to do in the video game industry to increase diversity, equity and inclusion across its workforce, and the ESA Foundation is proud to be a vocal and active part of the solution. Our goal is to support an evolution that transforms video games into one of the most inclusive art forms of the 21st Century and the way we will do that is to amplify diverse voices and offer a platform for sharing of unique stories and experiences.”

Details on ESA Foundation’s Scholarship

For the 2020-21 school year, 25 exceptional students received awards in three categories – the Computer and Video Game Arts Scholarship; a scholarship co-awarded by Gay Gaming Professionals for service to LGBTQI+ communities; and the ESA Foundation’s newest scholarship for college students competing on esports teams at accredited four-year institutions in the United States.

“I understand first-hand the positive impact scholarship and mentorship have on youth who are pursuing dreams they might feel are out of reach because of who they are,” said Gordon Bellamy, CEO of Gay Gaming Professionals. “ESA Foundation scholarships show these future creators that they are valuable to our industry today, and the added commitment to nurture their growth through community allows them the space to learn, explore and innovate in their chosen craft. Those experiences are invaluable.”

Since its inception, the ESA Foundation has awarded scholarships to 400 students to help foster more diverse generations of video game innovators and problem-solvers. This year’s recipients, listed by scholarship program, are:

ESA Foundation Computer and Video Game Arts and Science Scholarship: for students pursuing careers as video game creators

ESA Foundation LGBTQl+ Support Scholarship, co-awarded with Gay Gaming Professionals: for students pursuing video game arts and sciences degrees while actively supporting LGBTQl+ communities

ESA Foundation Esports Scholarship: for students who play esports on a collegiate team and are pursuing a four-year, academic degree (new this year)

For more information on current and alumni ESA Foundation scholarship winners, please visit


Ava Frakes

About the ESA Foundation

The ESA Foundation awards scholarships to the next generation of industry innovators and supports schools and nonprofits that leverage interactive entertainment technology to create meaningful opportunities for America's youth. It seeks to harness the power of the video game industry to create positive social impact and supports geographically diverse projects and programs benefitting grantees of all ages, races and genders. To date, the ESA Foundation has raised more than $23 million for a wide variety of worthy causes, primarily through its signature fundraising gala, Nite to Unite.


[1] International Game Developers Association 2019 developer satisfaction survey “Snapshot: Gender and Sexual Orientation”

[2] International Game Developers Association 2019 developer satisfaction survey “Snapshot: Gender and Sexual Orientation”

[3] International Game Developers Association 2019 developer satisfaction survey “Snapshot: Gender and Sexual Orientation”

[4]  International Game Developers Association 2019 developer satisfaction survey “Snapshot: Race/Ethnicity/Ancestry"

[5]  International Game Developers Association 2019 developer satisfaction survey “Snapshot: Gender and Sexual Orientation”

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