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Industry giants interact within SCA’s new building

by Desa Philadelphia
The new SCA Interactive Media Building has officially opened. (USC Photo/Roberto Gomez)
Photo: The new SCA Interactive Media Building has officially opened. (USC Photo/Roberto Gomez)

Imagine the entertainment landscape of the future. What does it look like? On June 12, three of the most influential thinkers in entertainment media, filmmakers George Lucas and Steven Spielberg and Don Mattrick, president of Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment Business, tackled this question at an event hosted by the USC School of Cinematic Arts (SCA).

The media titans participated in a discussion before an audience of entertainment industry leaders to mark the official opening of the new SCA Interactive Media Building. The discussion was moderated by Julia Boorstin, CNBC media and entertainment reporter. CNBC will air excerpts of the event.

Ideas that emerged from the discussion centered on how movies would be shown and distributed in the future, and the ways in which video games could become as immersive as possible. Lucas, who built the Star Wars blockbuster films into a global, multibillion dollar enterprise, said moviegoing would become even more of a blockbuster-event experience, comparing it to a $50 or $100 night out, much like going to a Broadway show.

Spielberg, who added that a multitiered price structure might be in the near future, said, “You’re going to have to pay $25 to see Iron Man and $7 to see Lincoln.”

The panelists agreed that video game design was quickly moving toward experiences that were completely immersive, both in the physical and emotional experiences they create. That might mean a reinvention of what games look like, according to Spielberg.

“We are never going to be totally immersive as long as we are looking at a square — whether it’s a movie screen or a computer screen,” he said. “We’ve got to get rid of that. We’ve got to put the player inside the experience.”

Mattrick, whose company recently unveiled the Xbox One games and entertainment system, said the idea is to do whatever it takes to make game play a consuming experience.

Mattrick added that SCA’s educational approach of focusing on the future of the industry would be beneficial to the development of video games and other interactive media.

“The biggest barrier we are going to face is talent — having great people who can work as a team. We have to find the next group of people who can create these blockbuster hits,” he said.

Following the discussion, attendees were allowed to tour the building, where they saw displays of the school’s research projects in areas that include video game design, transmedia, pervasive media and world building. Showcased projects included:

Hunger in Los Angeles: An immersive, virtual reality journalism piece that uses interactive storytelling to depict a tragedy at a Los Angeles food bank. The project was recently featured at the Sundance Film Festival.

Collegeology: Including the games Mission: Admission and Futurebound, the Collegeology Games umbrella takes the daunting task of getting into college and makes it into an interactive, fun experience for students.

PUCK (Place-based, Ubiquitous, Connected and Kinetic): PUCK is an interface that turns a building into a living, breathing storytelling device by using user-generated data from smartphones.

Walden, a gameThe first video game to be given a grant by the National Endowment for the Arts, Walden, a game takes the player into the woods to trace the steps of transcendental philosopher Henry David Thoreau’s time of living deliberately.

Pluff: An interactive stuffed animal for autistic children, which not only gives the youngsters feedback on their behavior, but also collects data for help in their treatment. Pluff was recently introduced in Qatar at the Shafallah Center for Children With Special Needs.

The SCA Interactive Media Building will serve as home of the school’s Interactive Media & Games Division, which has been ranked the No. 1 graduate game design program for four straight years, as well as its Media Arts + Practice and Pervasive Media programs.

A unique educational facility that functions like a mash-up of a media lab, a Silicon Valley startup and a performance space, it is designed to facilitate the integration of learning and creative work, and is outfitted from top to bottom with the best technology, including 4K projection, Oblong g-speak, multitouch presentation screens and industry-standard game testing rooms.

SCA students and faculty will use its reconfigurable, high data-capacity spaces to create video games, interactive designs and for imagining what the next blockbuster products may be.

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