Game Innovation Lab
Collaboration is our game.
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Collaboration is our game.


Welcome to the Game Innovation Lab

We are the premier center for experimental game design research at USC. Founded in 2004, the lab is directed by Professor Tracy Fullerton. The mission of the lab is to pursue experimental design of games in cultural realms including art, science, politics and learning.

The international success of games that have emerged from the lab, including Cloud, flOw, Darfur is Dying, The Cat and the Coup and The Night Journey, have made it a hub for indie and experimental games culture in Los Angeles. Our Playthink Salons attract speakers and participants from across the city and across disciplinary boundaries.

Associated faculty include award winning game designers Richard Lemarchand (Uncharted series) and Peter Brinson (Waco, The Cat and the Coup) as well as pioneering games user researcher Dennis Wixon. Research staff include up and coming game designers Sean Bouchard, Martzi Campos, as well as the talented digital media artists Todd Furmanski and Lucas Peterson. Graduate student researchers in the lab have gone on to stellar careers at Microsoft, Electronic Arts, Zynga and more.

The lab has a strong history of collaboration with cross-disciplinary experts in many fields, including education and technology. Our commitment to an iterative, participatory process brings users, stakeholders and designers into constant dialogue.

Current projects, such as the FutureBound suite of games Walden, a game, and the ChronoCards History games are supported by The National Endowment for the Humanities, Microsoft Research, The Gates Foundation, The National Endowment for the Arts, The Gilbert Foundation, and The Department of Education.

While there are many areas of game design that the members of the lab community are pursuing, the top-level initiatives of the lab focus on the following areas of investigation:

  • Experimental game design

  • Games and learning

  • Games user research, analysis and metrics

  • Game aesthetics

  • Narrative play

  • Emergent world design

  • Communities of play

  • Convergence and cross-media play

> recent Tweets from @uscgamelab



Play our Games

walden, a game

Play as philosopher and naturalist Henry David Thoreau in his experiment in self-reliant living at Walden Pond. Live off the land, seek out the small wonders and beauties of the woods, and find balance between your need to survive and your desire to find inspiration.


Two games about history on one deck of cards -- Chrono Scouts and Fact Fuse teach middle and high school students about the causes of both World War I  and the American Revolutionary War through practicing historical thinking and creative play.

Graduate Strike Force

Graduate Strike Force is a game about college choice and financial decision-making. The game offers the player freedom to experiment with different potential college options and suggests that colleges can offer tradeoffs among academic reputation, cultural fit, and financial burden.

The Night Journey

The Night Journey, a collaboration between the Game Innovation Lab and media artist Bill Viola, was one of the first experimental art games ever made. It uses both game and video techniques to tell the universal story of an individual’s journey towards enlightenment. 


Mastering the game of college applications takes practice, but, for most people, it is a game we only get to play once. Mission: Admission is a game about that process that gives young people the chance to play and learn about the applications process before they take on the real deal.

The Cat and the Coup

In The Cat and the Coup, you play the cat of Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh, the first democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran. During the summer of 1953, the CIA engineered a coup to bring about his downfall. As a player, you coax Mossadegh back through significant events of his life by knocking objects off shelves, scattering his papers, and scratching him.

Life Underground

The Life Underground game is an educational game for 7th and 8th grade classrooms in which students take the role of a young scientist investigating extreme subsurface environments for microbial life. Players navigate through extreme conditions to lear what characterizes life in each environment.


Future Bound is a game for middle schoolers about career ambitions and self-advocacy. Players take on the role of a student confronted by monsters that represent their doubts and fears. The must seek out career ambitions and related powers to conquer these monsters and prepare for their future.