Viterbi, SCA to host inaugural Games Expo in May

Over 100 games designed by the students from the USC Games Program, a collaboration between the School of Cinematic Arts and the Viterbi School of Engineering, will be showcased at the inaugural USC Games Expo on May 9. Hosted by the mobile game developer Jam City at the Cinematic Arts Complex, the event will expose attendees to the rise of mobile gaming.

Embedded is a virtual reality photography game about journalistic choice and how media shapes public perception. Photo courtesy of

Recognized as one of the top game design programs in the United States by The Princeton Review, the USC Games Program has a history of promoting student-developed projects. One of the games that will be presented is Friendshrimp, a single-player, 3-D third-person adventure game. The game revolves around the antics of a mantis shrimp that assists employees at an aquarium with capturing other “rogue shrimp.”

“The game is narration based with a humorous voiceover, instructing or cautioning the shrimp on how to progress through the game, and reacting as his advice is heeded or ignored,” Friendshrimp executive producer and co-lead engineer Arshea Bimal said.

With the expo’s collaboration with Jam City, students will have the chance to work closely with experts in the gaming industry to perform demos of the games they have worked on throughout the past school year.

Bimal is currently enrolled in “CSCI 529: Advanced Games,” which requires students to put together a yearlong master’s capstone project. Students taking the class develop their own games, and the launch of the Game Expo provides them with a platform to present their work.

“It’s one of the longest and most detailed game development classes in the computer science games department,” said Bimal, a computer science graduate student.

Additionally, students enrolled in “CSCI 526: Mobile Games,” “CSCI 524: Networked Artificial Intelligence” and “ITP 485: Programming Games Engines” will also have games on display to demonstrate the engineering aspect of the expo. Projects across disciplines like business and communication will also have the opportunity to be showcased.

“There will be all kinds of other projects,” USC GamePipe Laboratory Director Mike Zyda said. “We have our yearlong advanced games lab, we have the cinematic arts interactive media program, we have students from the computer science games program, we have students from the Marshall School of  Business MBA program, we have students from the Annenberg Communications management program. The Games Expo encompasses all games efforts on campus.”

According to Zyda, students who develop games through the “Advanced Games” class have the benefit of a year’s worth of input and design. Other student projects, however, were selected based on their projected level of completion by the date of the Game Expo.

“As a professor, you know which games are the best,” Zyda said. “We try and invite our best, and our students when they know that they are going to be demoing in front of large numbers of industry people, they work hard to make the games look fantastic.”

Zyda said he is worried that attendees may be overwhelmed with the number of games on display, but the Game Expo’s proximity to graduation will attract a broad audience for developers to demo them.

“Students will bring their parents,” Zyda said. “Large numbers of industry people will come, many of our past students as well.”

As a student in the “Networked Artificial Intelligence” class, Yunxiang Fei, a computer science and electrical engineering graduate student, hopes the large body of onlookers will take time to view his game, Aniki Fight, on display and gain from it.

“[We will show] the [artificial intelligence] part of our game as well as some specific features,” Fei said. “[Then] the audience can feel even [a] little game may have lots of things to be accomplished.”

According to Bimal, everyone participating in the event — and her team, in particular — is looking forward to engaging different perspectives when they have attendees demo Friendshrimp.

“The Game Expo is a good way expose our game to a lot of people,” Bimal said. “We’re hoping to get a lot of great feedback on our game.”