Tracy Fullerton is transported into the painting.

A Fieldtrip to LACMA

January 30, 2015

LOS ANGELES, California – My colleagues from the USC Game Innovation Lab and I spent the morning at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) conducting the most rarest of research activities by looking closely at actual source material. We were there to see, then deconstruct*, the seminal works of the Hudson River School – as represented by the exhibit Nature and the American Vision – whose aesthetics of beauty and politics are a primary reference for Walden, a game.

I was reminded Immersive Environments and Virtual Reality are rooted in Painting.

Game Designer Tracy Fullerton is transported into the painting.

We scattered and swarmed; as we fell into discussion and into the world of the paintings. Our virtual ferry ride up the Hudson River was guided by the School’s founder, Thomas Cole, who shared with us his favorite vistas. We delighted in Turrell’s luminescence before returning to actual reality for lunch off a truck.

Lead Artist Lucas Peterson goes for a hike at sunset.

* Deconstructing Hudson River School Paintings
P. O. V. & Composition:
….slightly above eye-level, as if standing on a boulder.
__The horizon line is drawn below the center of the composition.
Light & Color:
….creates a sense of depth.
….holds detail even in the brightest and darkest areas, like HDR (High Dynamic Range) Photography.
__The foreground uses deep, rather than dark colors.
__The middle-ground uses a vivid color palate, and pools of light.
__Distant terrain and the sky use a pastel color palate with luminous, slightly over-exposed lighting.
__Atmospheric haze softens the image, pushing focus to areas without the haze.
__The sun is rarely rendered.
Man & Nature:
__Including man and man-made objects provides a sense of scale.
__Man is not glorified and is in harmony with nature.
__Nature has a glorified grandeur and hyper-realistic quality

“The love of the natural world shines through in these works. Because when I get up close to them, I’m admiring the effort to move between the big and the small, and the reality and the grandeur. It almost feels like moving between what you see and what you feel.” – Lucas Peterson

Luke and Research Assistant Alex Mathew discussing the use of light.

Designing Magic

In a recent interview I was asked the question: How do you design magic? When I describe StoryPops, the cross screen digital pop-up book that I’m working on (see video ^), I often use the word magic to explain the effect it has on users. The feeling of magic is something we’re all familiar with, but what’s the secret recipe for making it?

When I was asked this question about designing for magic, my mind immediately jumped to the contrast between the strange and the familiar. I believe that magic comes from making the familiar strange and the strange familiar. When we subvert the expectations of a user in ways that are surprising and playful, we are designing for magic.


Players and Professors Story

Last week, the Game Innovation Lab participated in the Players and Professors event hosted by the Pullias Center for Higher Education, our partners in the Collegeology Games project.

Sean Bouchard and Elizabeth Swensen demonstrated FutureBound and Graduate Strike Force, the two latest games in the project, and I gave a talk on play and learning. For more info and pictures of the event, here is a story on the Rossier site:

Lovely review of Us and the Game Industry

Over the past few years, Stephanie Beth has been following several indie game developers – including thatgamecompany. Her crew spent a day at my house last year during the Journey launch party. They were lovely people and it looks like they’ve made an equally lovely film. I haven’t seen the final version, but hope to at some point! Here is a quote from the first review of the film:

“No game has made more of an impact in the mainstream than Jenova Chen and ThatGameCompany’s existential Journey. The game’s protagonist—described as a “soul” avatar—is more akin to a spirit than any human form. The being moves about the screen gracefully, venturing from desert starkness to mountain serenity in a palpable metaphor of life. At times, the avatar meets other souls along the way (played by other users finding themselves in the same digital word), moving and interacting with them through visceral communication. As the game unfolds throughout Us and the Game Industry, it seems as though Chen has created more of an epic poem than a video game.”

More here.


If you are visiting SIGGRAPH 2013 this year, make sure you stop by and support your fellow students, alumni and faculty at the following venues:

Mark Bolas is giving a talk in the business symposium on Partnering with Academia.

Erin Reynolds has a poster for NeverMind and she is an ACM Student Research Semi-Finalist.

The Creative Media & Behavioral Health Center (CM&BHC) is showcasing  Skyfarer: A Mixed Reality Shoulder Exercise Game (with bonus Studio Talk by Marientina Gotsis and Vangelis Lympouridis), and the Mixed Reality Lab (MxR) is showcasing An Autostereoscopic Projector Array Optimized for 3D Facial Display at Emerging Technologies.

If I missed anyone, plug your venue here. We look forward to seeing you 🙂

CM&BHC publications

We are proud to announce the following publications:

Thin, A. G., &  Gotsis, M. (2013). Game-based interactive media in behavioral medicine: creating serious affective-cognitive-environmental-social integration experiences. In Design, User Experience, and Usability. Health, Learning, Playing, Cultural, and Cross-Cultural User Experience (pp. 470-479). Springer Berlin Heidelberg.

Tate, E. B., Spruijt-Metz, D., O’Reilly, G., Jordan-Marsh, M., Gotsis, M., Pentz, M. A., & Dunton, G. (2013).  mHealth approaches to child obesity prevention: successes, unique challenges, and next directions. In Translational Behavioral Medicine, 1-10.

Zhang, C., Gotsis, M., & Jordan-Marsh, M. (In Press). Social media microblogs as an HPV vaccination forum. Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics9(11). PMID: 23842072

Gotsis, M., Lympouridis, V., Turpin, D., Frangoudes, F. Maneekobkunwong, S., & Jordan-Marsh, M. (2013, July). Skyfarer: a mixed reality shoulder exercise game. In ACM SIGGRAPH 2013 Studio Talks (p. 2). ACM.




The Night Journey at MODA

A lovely description of The Night Journey here in a review of the MODA show: “Video artist Bill Viola collaborated with game designer Tracy Fullerton and others at the USC Game Innovation Lab to create a blurry, impressionistic landscape based on Viola’s videos; contemplation and stillness, rather than frenetic action, are rewarded with unexpected, beautiful visions. You might say that this is what would happen if Pac-Man became a philosopher.”

The Night Journey is also on exhibit at the Phoenix Art Museum right now, as part of the Smithsonian Art of Video Games show, and at ZKM in Karlsruhe, Germany.