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Two events capture the creativity of USC Games program

GamePipe Showcase and Demo Day offer a look at the billion-dollar games that may soon be played around the world

Trailer for Vanishing Point, spring 2015

For USC Viterbi School of Engineering Professor Michael Zyda and his students in the USC Games program, the annual GamePipe Showcase is the culmination of more than a year’s worth of collaboration, creativity and computer design. It’s also the students’ introduction to a host of industry scouts who may purchase and produce the games for mass audiences, as well as hire program graduates to design, program, illustrate, write and produce the games of the future.

“These students are on their way to making billion-dollar games,” said Zyda, director of the USC GamePipe Laboratory.

This year’s showcase, one of two signature events that took place under the banner of USC Games, was held on May 13 in the school’s new GamePipe Laboratory. The event featured the work of multidisciplinary, collaborative teams of programmers, engineers, artists and game play designers. The event displayed and demonstrated games they conceived, designed and built for various platforms, including work from USC’s mobile, networked artificial intelligence, immersive and advanced games courses.

The scouts were out in force

Demo Day, a companion USC Games event, took place on May 12 in the Norris Cinema Theater and The Gallery in the USC School of Cinematic Arts Complex, where large teams of students from the advanced games class showed their work before an audience including fellow students, friends, families and scouts.

The type of talent highlighted at Demo Day and the GamePipe Showcase is perhaps the best representation of USC Games’ No. 1 place in The Princeton Review’s 2015 video game program rankings, an enviable position the program has claimed for six straight years.

USC Games is a collaboration between the USC School of Cinematic Arts’ Interactive Media & Games division and USC Viterbi’s Department of Computer Science.

Our students’ impact on the game industry is pretty high.

Michael Zyda

“Our students’ impact on the game industry is pretty high,” Zyda said. “Their games are played by 2.5 billion players internationally. Building the games is exciting for them and they love it.”

Each fall and spring, USC Games events showcase student work to industry leaders and help students make professional connections, obtain internships and land jobs after graduation, said Tracy Fullerton, associate professor and chair of SCA’s Interactive Media Division and head of USC Games and the USC Game Innovation Lab.

Over the past decade, we’re seen the game industry turn toward independent voices.

Tracy Fullerton

“One of my goals in coming into academics was to bring independent voices to the game industry,” Fullerton said. “Young designers are interested in innovation. Over the past decade, we’re seen the game industry turn toward those independent voices.”

Recruitments from far and wide

In some cases, team members are recruited from departments and schools across USC, from art schools such as the Otis College of Art and Design and the Laguna College of Art + Design, and even from countries like New Zealand and Scotland.

“Coordinating the work of outsourced, diverse artists was challenging but ultimately rewarding,” said senior computer science and computer engineering senior Neetu George, lead artist for a seven-member team that worked on Toward the Stars, a multiplayer online space adventure game demonstrated at the GamePipe Showcase.

Zachary Metcalf, an electrical engineering major who graduated in May, worked on Polyseum, a first-person shooter game that premiered at the showcase. Metcalf already has a job lined up as a game engine programmer with San Diego-based Rockstar Games.

An avid Super Smash Brothers player as a child, Metcalf said the year he worked on the 17-person team producing Polyseum changed his life.

“We’ve made something we’re really proud of,” he said.

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Two events capture the creativity of USC Games program

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