My summer internship at Game Innovation Lab (University of Southern California)
June/16 - Aug/16
In 2014, I was granted the Science Without Borders scholarship that would allow me to study and work as an intern in the U.S. for 14 months. After two months of preparatory English classes and three quarters of extensive art, design and humanities classes, in June 2016, I got accepted to University of Southern California to work at the Game Innovation Lab. It was a truly amazing experience to work with people from game industry and experts.
Just a small note: These are mock-ups we did as interns during the summer and doesn’t contain any information about the games they are working on right now.
First of all, it was great feeling to be at the USC campus! The buildings were all in harmony with their scholastic style, as well as contrasting with each other to reveal every department’s study of field.
The picture above is the School of Cinematic Arts and the building by the left it is where the Interactive Media and Game department is based. The Game Innovation Lab is located on the third floor.
On my first day, me and two other interns started working together to redesign a game called Race through Space. Although none of us knew each other from before, we successfully gave new features to the game and even changed the setting/story. Race through Space was a board game version of Up the River. It is a simple racing game with ever-changing board (made of shifting tiles) and a die to walk the tiles. The goal is to bring your rockets to the end of the board (that is fixed) while fighting against the twists and turns on various tiles..
Basically, we kept the core mechanic and played with some rules and changed the setting from “space” to "village". So in our version, instead of running to the fixed main tile, the players need to run to the opposite way, since reaching the main tile now means game over. We kept the tiles with obstacles but added an extra twist: there is a tiles deck where the players could draw a new one if they get a specific number while throwing the die. And this became our final experimental prototype for Race Through Space.
Our second task was to build a paper prototype for an experimental game concept called Rover. Rover is a little robot on a mission to explore unknown planets, collect resources and build structures. The aim of the game was to teach coding for kids with through storytelling.
We started with building an exploration map for Rover. Our first idea involved a die to move Rover and a panel showing Rover's location. To give more narrative to it, we used the storytelling engine, Twine to simulate the control panel and give instructions to the player.
One of the other projects we worked on was the American Revolutionary War version of ChronoCards — an educational card game about the first World War. We mainly researched content for the cards and presented the visuals in the meetings. You can check it out the first version of ChronoCards here > ChronoCards USC
The last project is an interactive tracking game set in a secret world. The aim of the game is to have friends, encourage the players to socialize and exercise by walking distances. The player is motivated to walk and complete small tasks with friends to open new paths and pieces of story. The game is a narrative exercise with the intention to keep you physically and emotionally healthy. I also did a small paper prototype using the app Marvel about how I imagined the game. My experience in UX/UI helped me to be precise in design and although I didn’t have enough time to develop the visuals, the result was interesting enough for me as a creative prototyping exercise.
On our second prototype with Rover, we decided to throw everything away and rethink concepts we came up with and built a new paper prototype. We worked hard on the narrative, focusing on a new way to navigate and control our Rover. We got rid of the grid map and came up with a map with more organic visuals and movement.
It was an awesome experience to work with the GIL team and spend time at the lab. They showed me that we can make meaningful and thoughtful games. It was reassuring to see that I wasn’t wrong dreaming about making games and it being my real passion. It was a pleasure working at the Game Innovation Lab!