The Assembly Committee on Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism and Internet Media held a panel Friday entitled “California’s Video Game Industry: Staying on Top of a Changing Game” in the School of Cinematic Arts.
The aim of the event was to examine what the video game industry looks like and how important California is to the industry’s present and future, as well as the role universities will play in training the next generation of workers.
The panel, which included committee members Adrin Nazarian, Dana Mitchell, California State Assembly members Ling Ling Chang, Matthew Dababneh and Reginald Jones Sawyer, was led by Committee Chair Ian C. Calderon led the panel.
The event began with an overview of the video game industry led by Erik Huey, senior vice president of Government Affairs for the Entertainment Software Association, Tracy Fullerton, director of USC Games and Kevin Klowden, managing director of the Milken Institute’s California Center and managing economist of the Milken Institute.
Huey spoke about California’s history as a pioneer in the video game industry, as well as how the industries already located in California make the area a hub for innovation in video games.
“California is the spiritual home of our industry,” Huey said. “This industry really started here with Pong. We really are the bridge between the tech community in Northern California and the entertainment community in Hollywood.”
Fullerton went into further detail about how the schools within USC work together to make USC a leader in interactive media.
“As we all know, games are a vastly multidisciplinary endeavor,” Fullerton said. “So while we have our degrees in the Cinematic Arts — our M.F.A.s, our B.A.s, our minors, our Ph.Ds — we consider ourselves part of a family of USC games with Viterbi School of Engineering and their graduate programs and bachelor’s programs. All of these students work together across their disciplines on the same projects. We also work with the art school at USC Roski. Just recently, we’ve brought on a new cross-disciplinary degree with the Keck School of Medicine for games and health.”
Fullerton also discussed the future for games at USC.
“In the future we’re planning on degrees in games and learning,” Fullerton said. “These are all fields that are beyond just entertainment in games, and we need to be prepared to educate the next generation of designers into interventions in health and wellness and education that use all of the fantastic abilities of games to engage us to make our lives better.”
The event continued with a discussion on how California can strengthen its position in the video game industry led by Peter Marx, chief technology officer for the Los Angeles Mayor’s Office of Innovation, and Will Koch, deputy director of California Competes Tax Credit Program.
Marx explained how L.A. has evolved from being a place that was originally considered unfriendly to buisnesses becoming a hub for startups.
“Here in L.A., we’re quite lucky,” Marx said. “We love to be number one in everything. As it turns out right now we’re actually the third largest startup ecosystem in the United States, according to a report that came out a couple of days ago. We have more startups than any other metro. Quite frankly, we also have the largest level of employment of any city. And I don’t want to compare us to the Silicon Valley, but in the city area, L.A. is doing pretty well.”
Dababneh concluded the event by highlighting the importance of incentivizing developers to stay in California.
“This isn’t about one movie or one TV series that we’re trying to lure back,” Dababneh said. “It’s about brick and mortar jobs. It’s about the students here at USC deciding they’re not going to Austin or Salt Lake City or another state to start their business.”
Clarification: This article previously stated Tracy Fullerton was the director of the USC Game Innovation Lab. Fullerton was serving on the panel in her role as the director of USC Games.