From a world where musical abilities are used to fight ghosts to a rescue mission on mysterious floating islands and an exploration journey to defeat the dreaded Anxiety Monster, the 2022 USC Games Expo showcased more than 50 student games, taking players on unique adventures.
The 6th annual USC Games Expo was held on Thursday May 12, 2022 with game developer Jam City returning as the event’s sponsor and media outlet IGN debuting as an official partner.
Ranked as the top games education program in the country by the Princeton Review for over 11 years, USC Games is a joint collaboration program between the USC Viterbi School of Engineering’s Department of Computer Science and the USC School of Cinematic Arts’ Interactive Media & Games Division.
The online event took place on the live streaming service Twitch from 2 p.m. until 12:30 a.m., giving video game lovers more than eight hours of new action-packed quests.
“It’s really the culmination of a full year’s worth of creative development and a lot of complex machinery working in tandem to come out with these awesome, creative, unique games,” said Jim Huntley, head of marketing for the USC Games program and professor of the practice of cinematic arts at USC.
“This is where we show all of that off to the world and really kind of let the world see what we’ve been doing for the last year.”
This year, eight Advanced Game Projects (AGPs) were selected to showcase their work during the expo after undergoing a pitching process to a panel of USC faculty and gaming industry leaders.
Skylost, a 3D exploration and crafting game created by Charlie Anderson, a second-year, USC Viterbi master’s student in the computer science (game development) program, was featured as one of this year’s AGPs.
In Skylost, players are in search of their lost love, Amelia, and try to come up with secrets to find her using craft gadgets as they climb their way through dangerous floating islands while braving wild sky beasts.
Anderson says the game’s concept came to him while on a hike in January of 2021.
“I was hiking to Franklin Lakes through the mountains. I was looking down at this really beautiful landscape of the Sierra Mountains, and I’m like, wow, this is really cool,” Anderson said. “It’d be really cool to traverse or glide through this in a game, and it evolved from there.”
After putting together the concept, Anderson developed a prototype of the game to pitch to a panel made up of USC faculty and professionals from the video game company, Rockstar Games.
From there, he organized a team of more than 30 people to help bring the game to life. Over the course of the last year the team set milestones and presented their game to a USC faculty panel every two weeks.
Anderson says while debuting Skylost to thousands of people at the USC Games Expo can come with a fair share of nerves, it’s also a rewarding and exciting process.
“It is so powerful to essentially make art for someone and have them emotionally respond to it,” Anderson explained. “It’s just a quality experience, especially if they get the particular emotional reaction that you’re going for, hopefully they’ll have a good time.”
At this year’s expo, the games were presented by Geoff Keighley, a leading video game journalist and media figure.
Each of the student games presented this year immersed players into a fantasy world different from the others. Take Social Moth, a game that explores social anxiety.
“This a beautiful game; I love the art style on it,” said Keighley. “It’s a narrative platformer where you play as a small moth contending with social anxiety. The game allows the player to explore themes of mental health, relationships and finding a sense of belonging.”
Skylost, Social Moth and several other AGPs received rave reviews from gamers like Shannon Garcia who took part in the expo. Garcia explained how each game tapped into a different emotional reaction.
“I’m getting emotional whiplash; I’m crying, I’m laughing, I’m scared, but then I’m also intrigued,” said Garcia. “It’s really hitting a lot of beats and I’m enjoying the games.”
Event organizers like Huntley say the expo is also an opportunity for major game companies to find new talent to recruit.
“Back in 2020, this was still a case of no one had ever done a game show online,” said Huntley. “We were the first ones. At the end of the show, which lasted about eight hours that year, we started getting phone calls and emails from senior executives at Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony looking to hire new talent. We definitely keep that in the back of our minds when we’re showcasing the content.”
The 2022 USC Games Expo was held the day before students like Anderson graduated from the program, serving as a capstone project before receiving their degree.
Anderson is now in the interview process to secure a job in the video game development industry and says Skylost taught him invaluable lessons that he will take with him on his post-graduation journey.
The online games featured in this year’s expo are available to download here.
Published on May 17th, 2022
Last updated on May 17th, 2022