The NYU Game Center today announced the inaugural recipient of the department’s Evo Scholarship in support of competitive game design. Tony Kao, a Chicago-based illustrator and graphic designer, will receive over $20,000 towards his studies at the NYU Game Center in pursuit of a Masters of Fine Arts in game design.


The Evolution Championship series (Evo), the largest and longest-running fighting game tournament in the world, partnered with the NYU Game Center to create the first ever scholarship to support the study of game design last year. The Evo Scholarship will be awarded annually to an applicant who best demonstrates an active participation in the fighting game community, as well an interest in game design with a focus on innovating in the field of competitive games. Financial need is also factored into the selection process.

Another first for the Evo Scholarship is its unique approach to funding, which is entirely fan-based. All proceeds from gamers purchasing tickets to watch the online stream of the Evo tournament are donated by Evo toward funding the scholarship, enabling thousands of fans to support a member of their community to go pursue graduate study in the gaming field.

“At Evo we feel a sense of duty to support fighting game players not only in their competitive lives, but in their personal and professional growth as people,” said Tom Cannon, the founder of Evo.

“Tony embodies exactly the candidate we were hoping to attract with this scholarship – a committed gamer and a talented designer who jumped at the opportunity to pursue game design at a deeper level,” said Frank Lantz, chair of the NYU Game Center. “Creating a class with diverse backgrounds, including students who are connected to thriving play communities like fighting games, is pivotal to what we do here at the Game Center, so we’re extremely grateful to the Evo and the fighting game community for making it possible for Tony join the MFA program this Fall.”

Like many fighters before him, Kao’s journey started with a notable defeat. Having dominated his local arcade, Kao traveled to seek out more formidable opponents, but he was given a rude awakening when a more veteran player, Rashad Miller, bested him entirely in a series of matches. This drove Kao to dive even deeper into fighting games, dedicating himself to the training, study, and discipline required to become a competitive game player. After college, Kao considered giving up fighting games to dedicate himself to his career, but soon realized that he couldn’t leave behind the community and passion that his had spent so much of his life building.

“As I was watching the Evo stream, an advertisement popped up on screen and it was the Evo scholarship,” said Kao. “There’s no other way I can describe it but to say it was a sign.”

Kao will graduate with a Masters in Fine Arts in Game Design in spring of 2016.

The Evo Scholarship will be awarded annually, with the amount determined by the money generated by purchases of the live stream of Evo; the greater the online audience for the event, the larger the scholarship amount. This year, Twitch - the video platform that makes the broadcast of Evo possible – will also become a sponsor, contributing all of their proceeds from Evo to the scholarship.

Evo 2014 will take place July 11-13. Those interested in helping fund the next Evo Scholarship can subscribe in here:

Individuals interested in applying to the Evo scholarship for the next academic year should send an email to or visit our website.

About the NYU Game Center at Tisch School of the Arts
The Game Center offers a two-year Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) degree program that explores the design and development of games as a creative practice, and plans to launch a BFA program by fall 2015. The curriculum is centered on the creation of games and includes game design, criticism, programming, and visual design. For more information, visit the NYU Game Center online.



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