Tracy Fullerton – A game designer with more than two decades of experience developing games that push the boundaries of expectations, Tracy is the guiding force behind the Game Innovation’s Lab® mission of experimental design and its playcentric method of development. In addition to her role in leading this premiere research center for games, Tracy is also Chair of the Interactive Media & Games Division of the School of Cinematic Arts and Director of USC Games, a cross-disciplinary collaboration between the Schools of Cinematic Arts and Engineering.
Peter Brinson – An experimental game designer with a focus on art and politics in games, Peter’s games have been exhibited in venues including Indiecade, Games for Change, Meaningful Play and Joue le Jeu at La Gaîté Lyrique. His games include the documentary game The Cat and the Coup and the indie game Rehearsals and Returns.
Richard Lemarchand – An award-winning game designer interested in innovation and creativity, game storytelling techniques, and games as art, Richard comes to USC from a stellar career in the game industry. Prior to joining the School of Cinematic Arts and the Game Innovation Lab®, Richard was the Lead or the Co-Lead Game Designer of all three Uncharted games. He is a frequent speaker on topics of experimental games and play and a passionate advocate for indie games.
Bonnie Ruberg is currently a Provost’s Postdoctoral Scholar at the University of Southern California in the Interactive Media and Games Division. In 2015, she received her PhD from UC Berkeley in conjunction with the Berkeley Center for New Media. Bonnie is also the lead organizer for the annual Queerness and Games Conference (QGCon).
Jose Sanchez – An architect, programmer and game designer, Jose is an Assistant Professor in the USC School of Architecture. His research ‘Gamescapes’, explores generative interfaces in the form of video games, speculating in modes of intelligence augmentation, combinatorics and open systems as a design medium. He is also the director of the Plethora Project (www.plethora-project.com), a research and learning project investing in the future of on-line open-source knowledge.
Michael Sweet – An award winning composer and sound designer, Michael is currently an associate professor at Berklee College of music, of which he is an alumnus, and where he has led the development of their video game scoring curriculum. His professional work has received a BDA Promax Award for Best Sound for a Network Package, Best Audio Award at GDC Independent Games Festival, and nominations for multiple Game Audio Network Guild awards. Michael has collaborated with the Game Innovation Lab® on The Night Journey project as well as Walden, a game.
Channel Summers – A pioneer in game audio, Channel is an evangelist for innovation in expressive game experience through its use in design. Currently part time faculty in the Interactive Media and Games Division, Channel previously led the design of the Xbox audio capabilities, and runs the music production company Syndicate 17 in Seattle. She is a tireless advocate for young women in games and lectures to game students worldwide.
Jeff Watson – An award winning artist, designer and Assistant Professor at the USC School of Cinematic Arts whose work investigates how game design, pervasive computing, and social media can enable new forms of storytelling, participation, and learning. Jeff’s work has received coverage from Kill Screen, Wired, ARGNet, Fast Company (Co.Exist), G4TV, Engine29, Culture Hacker, and Henry Jenkins, among others. His pervasive game Reality Ends Here, won the Impact Award at the IndieCade International Festival of Independent Games. Jeff is also a director at Situation Lab (situationlab.org), a design research laboratory working at the intersection of narrative, space, and play.
Dennis Wixon – A pioneer in user experience research, Dennis is interested in games for learning and health. Prior to coming to USC, he managed user research teams at Microsoft, including the Games User Research team which developed RITE (Rapid Iterative Testing and Evaluation) and TRUE (Tracking Real-time User Experience) methods. TRUE was very successfully and notably applied in the development of the Halo franchise.
Sean Bouchard – A game designer and technology lead at the Game Innovation Lab®, Sean’s work has been featured at festivals including the Independent Game Festival, the IndieCade Festival, the Meaningful Play Conference, and TEDxUSC. Prior to joining the lab, he was a research programmer and analyst at the USC Institute for Creative Technology developing educational training environments for the Department of Defense. Sean has a BA from Pomona College and an MFA from USC.
Todd Furmanski – A game designer and research programmer at the Game Innovation Lab®, Todd is a specialist in virtual reality, emergent algorithms and their use in procedural content generation, and digital media history. Todd’s work includes collaborations with Bill Viola, Tracy Fullerton, Alex McDowell and Kurosh ValaNejad, as lead programmer for Walden, a game, the Leviathan project The Night Journey, and Body Scrub. He is also a PhD candidate in the School of Cinematic Arts iMAP program.
Lucas Peterson – An experienced 3D environment and character artist for games, Luke has brought to life a number of research projects at USC with his eye for style and detail. He is the lead artist for Walden, a game, the FutureBound suite of games and the ChronoCards history games. Luke has a BFA degree from USC’s Roski’s School of Fine Arts with an emphasis in drawing and design. His interest in video games stems from a long history of gaming and a passion for entertainment and the interactive experience.
Elizabeth Swensen – A game designer and producer at the Game Innovation Lab®, Elizabeth has organized and led multidisciplinary teams of researchers, developers, students, and teachers on projects for the Gates Foundation, the Department of Education and Microsoft Research. Her games have been honored and exhibited in festivals including Games for Change, IndieCade, and the Independent Game Festival and she was recently named by Forbes as one of the top 30 under 30 in entertainment. She has a B.A. from Willamette University and an MFA from USC.
Jesse Vigil – A game designer, writer and entrepreneur, Jesse is co-founder of development studio Psychic Bunny. His credits range from critically-acclaimed web television to award-winning impact games to experimental interactive projects and his work has shown at Indiecade, Games for Change as well as film festivals such as SXSW and Dances with Films. Now that he’s joining the Game Innovation Lab® full time, he will be doing incredibly cool stuff we can’t talk about yet.
Current Graduate Research Assistants
Martzi Campos – A game designer and artist with a BFA in Painting from the Rhode Island School of Design, Marzi is an MFA student in Interactive Media interested in new forms of storytelling and games working with Richard Lemarchand.
Zach R. D. – A game designer with a strong focus on experimental games, Zach is an MFA student in Interactive Media working on The Night Journey project. Prior to coming to USC, Zach graduated from Brown University with a B.A. in Computer Science.
Alex Matthew – A game designer and programmer for Walden, a game, Alex is an MFA student in Interactive Media focused on expressive game design. Prior to coming to USC, he graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a degree in computer science, emphasizing games.
Former Graduate Research Assistants
Andrea Benavides, MFA 2014 – A game designer who has recently graduated from the USC Interactive Media & Games division, Andrea has been a graduate research assistant in the Game Innovation Lab® for the past several years focusing on the FutureBound suite of games for college access.
Jenova Chen, MFA 2006 – One of the most successful young game designers working today, Jenova is the Creative Director and Co-Founder of thatgamecompany, known for its award-winning games flOw, Flower and Journey. While at the Game Innovation Lab®, Jenova was a game designer on several of the lab’s earliest projects, including the IGF student game award-winning games Dyadin and Cloud.
Vincent Diamante, MFA 2007 – A game designer and composer, Vincent is best known for his beautiful scores for Flower and the Cloud. While at the Game Innovation Lab®, Vincent worked on several of the lab’s earliest projects, including Cloud. He also teaches audio for games at USC and wrote the concept music for Walden, a game.
Richard Emms, MFA 2014 – An experience engineer at Oculus VR, Richard has recently graduated from the USC Interactive Media & Games division. While he was at the Game Innovation Lab®, Richard was a game designer and programmer on the FutureBound suite of games for college access.
William Graner, MFA 2011 – Founder and game designer at Crater House, an independent game developer with titles including Shaq Sky Slam! and The Kraken. While at the Game Innovation Lab®, William worked on math games for middle-schoolers funded by the Department of Education.
Shaun Kim, MFA Animation 2012 – A layout artist at Pixar Animation Studios, Shaun has worked on titles including Monsters University, Toy Story That Time Forgot, Lava and The Good Dinosaur. While at the Game Innovation Lab®, Shaun worked as an artist and animator on Walden, a game.
Anna Lotko, MFA 2014 – A game designer at Disney Consumer Products, Anna is a recent graduate from the USC Interactive Media & Games division and the founder of Localite Games. While at the Game Innovation Lab®, Anna was a game designer on the FutureBound suite of games and a game runner for the premiere season of Reality.
Rick Nelson, MFA 2007 – A programmer and designer, Rick was the lead developer for several of the lab’s earliest projects including Dyadin and Cloud. He also co-developed the internal game engine for the game’s projects, dubbed Bushido. After graduating, he went on to work with thatgamecompany on flOw.
Sean Plott, MFA 2011 – More commonly known by his online alias Day, Sean is an e-sports commentator for StarCraft II and a former professional StarCraft: Brood War player, known for his daily netcasts titled “The Day Daily”. While at the Game Innovation Lab®, Sean created math games for middle-schoolers funded by the Department of Education.
Daniel Ponce, MFA 2011 – Founder, game designer and artist at Crater House, an independent game developer with titles including Shaq Sky Slam! and The Kraken. While at the Game Innovation Lab®, Daniel worked on math games for middle-schoolers funded by the Department of Education.
Michael Rossmassler, MFA 2009 – A senior game designer at Kiwi, working on mobile games. Since graduating, he has worked on titles including Dragon Age Legends for EA, Farmville 2 at Zynga, Dragon Skies and Paper Streets for Breaktime Studios. While at the Game Innovation Lab®, Mike was a game designer on The Night Journey and created early prototypes for Walden, a game.
Susana Ruiz, MFA 2006, PhD iMAP 2014 – An assistant professor at UC Santa Cruz, Susana is best known for her ground breaking MFA thesis project Darfur is Dying. She returned to USC for her PhD in the iMAP program, working on a number of projects including a game for the ITVS Women and Girls Lead initiative.
Kellee Santiago, MFA 2006 – One of the most successful young game designers working today, Kellee is well known as the Co-Founder of thatgamecompany and for her award-winning work on the games flOw, Flower and Journey. She is also a partner at Indie Fund and leads developer relations for Ouya. While at the Game Innovation Lab®, Kellee was a designer and producer for several of the lab’s earliest projects, including Cloud and Darfur is Dying.
Nahil Sharkasi, MFA 2010 – A program manager at Microsoft Studios, Nahil has been developing games and interactive entertainment for Kinect on Xbox 360. Her credits include Kinect Fun Labs, Build-A-Buddy and Kinect Star Wars. At the Game Innovation Lab®, she was a designer and producer for Participation Nation, a history game produced for CPB in collaboration with KCET and Activision.
Ben Stokes, PhD Annenberg 2014 – Not technically a graduate research assistant in the lab, we claim Ben as one of ours due to his extraordinary network analysis of the Reality game project. Ben recently defended his dissertation and is currently a post-doc at the UC Berkeley School of Information. He has accepted a position at American University for fall of 2015.
Glenn Song, MS Computer Science 2005 – A software engineer at Electronic Arts, Glenn worked on several of the earliest projects at the lab, including Cloud and Dyadin. After graduating, he went to work at Electronic Arts and a decade later he is still there, having worked on MySims, Sims 2 Pets, The Sims 4 and more.
Logan Ver Hoef, MFA 2014 – A game designer and programmer who has recently graduated from the USC Interactive Media & Games division, Logan has been a graduate research assistant in the Game Innovation Lab® for the past three years focusing on Walden, a game. His MFA thesis project, The Observatory, is an exploration of environmental storytelling.
Simon Wiscombe, MFA 2013 – A game designer and artist, Simon’s work has been presented at Los Angeles’ Museum of Contemporary Art, Games for Change, DIY Days, and IndieCade. At the Game Innovation Lab®, he was a designer on Reality Ends Here, which won the Impact Award at IndieCade’s International Festival of Independent Games in 2012.