IM Forum for 4/15/15: Experiments, Prototypes, Previews

Speakers: IMGD 2nd Year MFA Students
Time: Wednesday, April 15, 4-5:50pm
Location: USC’s School of Cinematic Arts Interactive Media Building (SCI), Room 206

Please join us for a special event this Wednesday April 15 at 4:00-6:00PM in SCI 206 when the second year MFA students will be presenting their experiments, prototypes and previews of next year’s IMGD Thesis projects. This will be a dynamic, hands-on opportunity to experience and critique a variety of interactive experiences at a crucial moment in their development. Don’t miss this preview of things to come.

Interactive Media Forum for 4/8/15: Diversity in Games

Title: “Diversity in Games”
Speakers: Anne Toole, Ekta Kumar, Stephanie Preovolos, Janine Tedford, Brian McDonald
Time: Wednesday, April 8, 4-6pm
Location: USC’s School of Cinematic Arts Interactive Media Building(SCI), Room 108

USC Interactive Media and Games Division in partnership with the International Game Developers Association invites the USC community and general public to a discussion and presentation regarding diversity in the games industry. The speakers will be presenting facts and strategies to promote diversity and educate others on how to be an ally.

Anne Toole, IGDA Board Member and Women in Games SIG Co-Chair
Anne Toole is a writer of games, television, webseries, and short fiction. Her credits include the Emmy-winning webseries THE LIZZIE BENNET DIARES and the WGA-nominated dark fantasy game THE WITCHER. Due to her transmedia experience, Anne has spoken at the inaugural Nokia OpenLab 2008 as well as about game design at GDC Europe, GDC Online, South by Southwest, the Login Game Conference, and Comic-con International. In addition to her work with the IGDA, she was appointed by the West Hollywood City Council to serve on the city’s Women’s Advisory Board. Anne graduated from Harvard with an ever-so-useful degree in Archaeology and suffers a minor zombie obsession.

Dr.Ekta Kumar, Director of USC Center for Women and Men
Ekta Kumar, Psy.D, has been named Director of the Center for Women and Men. Dr. Kumar comes to USC from the Loyola University Maryland counseling center, where she provided sound leadership in responding to sexual assault and other campus crises, provided individual, couples and group counseling, and served as a consultant and trainer for multicultural communities. She has facilitated numerous workshops including issues involving LGBTQA, gender and women of color, and she has presented at national conferences and published in national journals.

Stephanie Preovolos and Janine Tedford, Blizzard Entertainment, Human Resources

Brian McDonald, Game Designer at Activision / Infinity Ward
Brian McDonald has been an out-and-proud force in the game industry since 2008. He has worked on world class properties from Call of Duty to Hannah Montana, created award winning personal projects, and is a mentor with the IGDA mentors program. On the job, he is an outspoken proponent of diversity and inclusion who helped successfully push for female avatars in Call of Duty multiplayer. Brian earned a BS in Psychology & Computer Science from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) and currently works as a gameplay designer for Activision / Infinity Ward in Los Angeles, California. More info at — follow me @latestevolution

Interactive Media Forum for 4/1/15: Drew Murray & Marcus Smith, Insomniac Games

Speaker: Drew Murray & Marcus Smith, Insomniac Games
Time: Wednesday, April 1, 4-6pm
Location: USC’s School of Cinematic Arts Interactive Media Building(SCI), Room 206
Title: “Expect the Unexpected: Lessons from Directing Sunset Overdrive (and becoming old men in the games industry)”

It’s not every day that you are offered the opportunity to do “whatever you want” and that freedom can be a blessing or curse. Marcus & Drew will discuss the challenges they experienced trying to do something different, from the obstacles of communication to the unexpected expectations of running a AAA console title in this tumultuous period.
Drew Murray is the Game Director of Sunset Overdrive. After aborted careers as an artist, chef, and attorney, Drew heard Jay Leno making fun of a new game design program at The Guildhall at SMU in a monologue and immediately enrolled. Drew joined Insomniac Games in July 1995 and has worked on Resistance: Fall of Man, Ratchet & Clank Future: Tools of Destruction, Resistance 2, and Resistance 3.
Marcus Smith was the Creative Director of Sunset Overdrive. Before that, he fulfilled the same role on Resistance 3, was Project Manager of the first two Resistance titles. Prior to starting at Insomniac, Marcus worked for Mark Cerny’s design consultancy, Cerny Games for nearly five years. Marcus started his career in video games in 1995 working on ‘Steven Spielberg’s Director’s Chair’, more ‘video’ than ‘game’, but it was an educational experience. It also means Marcus is super old.

Interactive Media Forum for 2/18/15: Justin Shacklette, Parker Lowrey, Spencer Stirling (Activision)

Speakers: Justin Shacklette, Parker Lowrey, Spencer Stirling, Activision
Time: Wednesday, February 18, 4-6pm
Location: USC’s School of Cinematic Arts Interactive Media Building(SCI), Room 206
Title: Big Data in Games

Justin Shacklette is a Principal Data Scientist in Activision’s Game Science division. He spends his days building analytic services to support Activision’s multiplayer online games, such as Call of Duty. Prior to joining Activision, Justin spent ten years developing enterprise software for web, mobile, and cloud applications. In his younger years, Justin earned his doctorate in physics before turning to development. His Evil thesis advisor had him working day and night on a portable laser beam system that could be mounted on the head of a shark. Needless to say, it didn’t work out.

Parker Lowrey is a PhD mathematician and data scientist currently working in the Game Science division of Activision. Parker has extensive analytics experience ranging from helping found a bioinformatics startup in Austin, Texas to Assistant Professor of Mathematics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Beyond mathematics, his expertise spans large scale computing, machine learning, and statistics. When not researching new machine learning techniques or model building, Parker can be found destroying n00bs on the video game battlefield.

Spencer Stirling earned his PhD in mathematics and quantum physics in 2008, then spent the next four years managing a research group modelling exotic cold materials for quantum computers. Switching to industry in 2012, Spencer developed computer vision software for the satellite imagery, focusing on designing scalable algorithms (in C++ and Python) for large-scale mosaicing of the earth. Now with the Game Science division of Activision, he develops algorithms and statistical models to catch all manner of cheaters for the Call of Duty franchise.

Interactive Media Forum for 1/21/15: Jeremy Bernstein

Speaker: Jeremy Bernstein
Time: Wednesday, January 21, 4-6pm
Location: USC’s School of Cinematic Arts Interactive Media Building(SCI), Room 206
Title: Sequence Structure for Games- Beyond 3 Acts in Narrative Design

3-Act Structure—Hollywood’s dominant paradigm in film narrative—has often been adopted as a guideline for game narrative. But 3-Act structure meshes poorly with the requirements and vocabulary of gameplay design. Fortunately, there are other paradigms, including one taught right here across the hall in the USC School of Cinematic Arts Screenwriting program… Though created for film and other linear media, “Sequence Structure”, can easily be adapted for use in games, melding seamlessly with game elements such as mission objectives, experientiality, and gameplay loops, paving the way for even stronger narrative in the next generation of games. Join USC Screenwriting alum, games industry professional, and TV writer Jeremy Bernstein for a talk and discussion, as he walks you through the basics of Sequence Structure with a specific eye to how it adapts to games.

Jeremy Bernstein is primarily a television and video game writer, who has also worked in game design, feature films, and comic books. And the pharmaceutical industry. Seriously, he’s had a weird career. His TV credits include TNT’s hit shows Leverage The Librarians, while his video game credits include both Dead Space 2 and Pretty in Pink. That’s right. Dead Space 2 and Pretty in Pink. Jeremy wields Masters degrees in both Biochemistry and Screenwriting (the latter earned right here at the USC School of Cinematic Arts). He has been writing stories and designing games since he was eight years old. He’s much better at it now.


Course Announcement: CTIN-499 – Documentary and Activist Games

Filmmaker John Grierson famously described documentary cinema as “the creative treatment of actuality.” Documentary films can illuminate unseen processes, broaden our awarenesses of the past and present, and challenge us to make a better future. How might games achieve similar ends? What can interactive media do in the realms of non-fiction, documentary, and activism that other kinds of media cannot? How can we use games and interaction design not only to document “actuality,” but also to intervene on it, and to shape the world to come?

This course explores the past, present, and future of documentary and activist interactive media and games. Students will approach the topic from a variety of perspectives, drawing on art practice, cultural studies, game studies, cinema studies, urbanism, and more. Informed by these historical and theoretical contexts, students will workshop documentary and activist games of their own.

Coding experience welcome but not required. Limited enrollment. Course open to graduate students and upper level undergraduates.

Interactive Media Forum for 11/12/14: Alyssa Padia Walles

Speaker: Alyssa Padia Walles
Time: Wednesday, November 12, 4-6pm
Location: USC’s School of Cinematic Arts Interactive Media Building(SCI), Room 206

Alyssa’s career in the video game industry includes re-launching the Atari brand, developing international distribution markets for Sony PlayStation and negotiating national sports league agreements for Backyard Sports. At Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, she was a member of the senior management team that launched PlayStation across Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Eastern Europe and the Middle East. As Senior Vice President at Infogrames/Atari, Alyssa played a significant role in the integration of both GT Interactive and Hasbro Interactive.

In addition to her work with multi-national corporations, Alyssa spent a number of years focused on her own start-up: Big Screen Gaming. Big Screen Gaming was a proprietary gaming platform that combined console-style gaming with the premium experience of movie theater sound and visual quality.
As a consultant on business strategy, development, sales and marketing (through her company Amplitude Consulting, Inc.), Alyssa has influenced brands such as Fisher-Price, Nimbus Games, Leapfrog and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. She is currently COO of Information Humanities, Inc. a digital media company the digital media company that publishes Glo Bible.

A USC Cinema graduate, Alyssa is a founding member of Long Beach TEC (a digital media incubator), mentor on behalf of the USC Marshall School of Business, and serves on the Board of Directors of Atari, S.A.

Interactive Media Forum for 11/5/14: Nauman Javed, Gaikai

Speaker: Nauman Javed, Gaikai
Time: Wednesday, November 5, 4-6pm
Location: USC’s School of Cinematic Arts Interactive Media Building(SCI), Room 206

Nauman Javed is a computer engineer presently working at Gaikai, a Sony Computer Entertainment company, on integrating its revolutionary video game streaming service to all kinds of consumer electronics devices, from smart TVs and cable/satellite set-top boxes to tablets and smart phones. He earned his Ph.D. in Computer Engineering earlier this year from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He has worked in the research and development of various large-scale distributed computer systems, ranging from defense command and control systems to networked radar systems and other cyber-physical systems. Among some of his avocational forays was his development of a language understanding software system to be used on a robot. In his spare time, he enjoys consuming good literature in cognitive science and neuroscience.

Interactive Media Forum for 10/1/14: Danny Bilson

Speaker: Danny Bilson
Time: Wednesday, October 1, 4-6pm
Location: USC’s School of Cinematic Arts Interactive Media Building(SCI), Room 206

Danny Bilson is a writer, director and producer based in Los Angeles. After a long television and film
career at Warner Brothers, Disney and Paramount, Bilson served as a senior executive at both
Electronic Arts, and THQ. Danny has experience developing transmedia properties in film, video
games, TV and comic books. He is currently working at Walt Disney Imagineering on a number of
projects as well as developing a new animated property in partnership with Film Roman. Bilson has
been on the faculty of the USC School of Cinematic Arts since 2005, where he teaches Narrative
Design as well as Screenwriting.


Interactive Media Forum for 9/10/14: Richard Lemarchand

Speaker: Richard Lemarchand, USC School of Cinematic Arts
Time: Wednesday, September 10 , 4-6pm
Location: USC’s School of Cinematic Arts Interactive Media Building(SCI), Room 206

Great opportunities for innovation, experimentation and self-expression lie in wait for game designers as they create experiences for the game players of the future. Join Richard Lemarchand, former Lead Game Designer on the Uncharted series, and now a professor in the USC Games program in Los Angeles, California, for a look at the cultures and identities that will shape the technology, business and art of tomorrow’s games.

Richard Lemarchand is a game designer, a professor, a writer, and a public speaker. Between 2004 and 2012, Richard was a Lead Game Designer at Naughty Dog in Santa Monica, California. He led the design of all three games in the Uncharted series including Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, and Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, winner of ten AIAS Interactive Achievement Awards, five Game Developers Choice Awards, four BAFTAs and over 200 Game of the Year awards. His work as a designer in the console game industry spans more than two decades, and the games he shipped include influential series like Gex, Pandemonium and Soul Reaver. A passionate advocate of indie and experimental games, Richard has been involved with the IndieCade International Festival of Independent Games for several years, organizes the annual GDC Microtalks, and is also a former faculty member of the GDC Experimental Gameplay Sessions.