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's 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 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.
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.
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.
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. At the Game Innovation Lab, he probably puppeteers the long-running ARG Reality Ends Here, or not. We can't actually confirm that an ARG called Reality Ends Here exists...
Martzi Campos - An artist and interactive designer whose works range from VR installations to pop up books that control video games. Her focus is on combining handcrafted objects with digital technologies to create magical interactions and experiences. Her work has been shown at E3, IndieCade, and the Game Developers Conference. She holds a BFA from Rhode Island School of Design in painting and installation art, and an MFA from USC in interactive media and games.
Timothy Lee - An experienced quality assurance manager and director of community management, Tim has worked in the game industry for close to twenty years at companies including Activision, Spiderdance, Numedeon and the Game Innovation Lab. Games that he has shipped include Spiderdance's The Weakest Link, Numedon's Whyville, and Walden, a game from the Game Innovation Lab.
Graduate Research Assistant
Daniel Batista, MFA 2019 – Aeronautics simulation engineer, game developer, programmer, 3D animator, mocap technician and kung fu instructor. Daniel has worked in a variety of interactive experiences, in his latest work as his thesis he tried to raise awareness about mosquito transmitted diseases with this game Epidemic Vectors. While getting his MFA at USC Interactive Media & Games, he was awarded an Annenberg Fellowship and worked as a graduate research assistant in the Game Innovation Lab. At the lab, he worked as a developer on Walden, a game helping in PC, PS4 and XboxOne versions.
Graduate Research Assistant
Rong Deng, MFA candidate 2021 - A game designer and programmer, Rong is interested in games for improving interpersonal relationship and education. Prior to coming to study at USC and joining the lab as a graduate research assistant, she worked as a programmer and producer at Gameloft SE and her own start-up company.
Former staff and Graduate Research Assistants
We're very proud of all the people who have come through the lab over the years -- as students or staff. Here are a number of them (apologies if we forgot to list you ... let us know!)
John Billingsley, MFA 2018 – An independent game developer, John's work on games such as Close Your have been honored by IndieCade and the Independent Games Festival. While getting his MFA at USC Interactive Media & Games, he was awarded an Annenberg Fellowship and worked as a graduate research assistant in the Game Innovation Lab. At the lab, he worked as a developer on The Night Journey game.
Georg Luif, MFA 2018 – A game designer and digital artist, Georg was a developer for the Walden, a game team, with a focus on the PlayStation 4 implementation. While at USC, he also released several original games, including his thesis project, Ruben's Puppets and Gold Rushers, a collaboration with John Billingsley.
Lucas Peterson, BFA 2010 – An experienced 3D environment and character artist for games, Luke brought to life a number of research projects while at USC with his eye for style and detail. He was 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.
Kurosh ValaNejad, MFA Animation 2018 – With over a quarter century of study and practice in 3D computer graphics, Kurosh was the Art Director of the Game Innovation Lab for close to a decade, working on some of our most interesting projects. These included The Night Journey, with Bill Viola, Walden, a game, The Re-Districting Game among others. Kurosh excels in building emotionally evocative virtual environments and also created the Body Scrub project as part of his MFA work in the Animation Division during his time here.
Elizabeth Swensen, MFA 2011 – Currently faculty at UC Santa Cruz, Elizabeth was game designer and producer at the Game Innovation Lab after graduating with her MFA from USC IMGD, Elizabeth 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 as well as an MFA from USC.
Zach R. D., MFA 2016 – 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 Mathew, MFA 2015 – 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.
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.