Clarissa Joan Middleton

Clarissa Joan Middleton

MFA, Interactive Media & Games '19

Collaborator on Paraspace 
Visit Website »

How has the School of Cinematic Arts changed your view of interactive media? Prior to my studies at SCA, my understanding of Interactive Media was limited to my point-of-view as a consumer. Although I dreamed of designing Interactive experiences one day, it was hard for me to grasp the practicality and feel of life as an interactive designer.

Now as a student of Interactive Media at SCA, my thoughts about the industry are focused on development, production, and specifically design. It has been most exciting for me to now think of myself as a designer with a voice in the field. SCA has empowered me to think about how who I am and where I come from can have an impact on the global experience of Interactive Media moving forward. I love this!

What advice do you have for prospective students looking at applying to your program? Your voice matters! If you are interested in Interactive Media, but you feel like your past experiences don’t quite fit, you are wrong. My background is in finance. I am not a master programmer or a die-hard gamer. What I am is a storyteller who understands the power that Interactive Media, and specifically the medium of play, to successfully communicate an idea. In the world of telling great stories, Interactive Media has the revolutionary capacity like that of the printing press. If you are interested in visual narrative for the purpose of telling a story that you believe the world needs to experience, no matter what your background, Interactive is your future.

How has the School of Cinematic Arts prepared you so far for a career in interactive media? The Interactive Media program focuses on designing interactive experiences with an end-user approach. Our professors challenge us to consider the experience goals we desire for our target audience from the very beginning of development, through production, and post. Interactive Media is a new frontier in the world of storytelling. While there are known mediums like digital games, non-digital games, non-linear storytelling, augmented reality, virtual reality, massive open online courses, and interactive films, it is hard to predict where advanced technology will take our field in the next 10 – 20 years. In light of this, our professors train us on how to think critically throughout the process of interaction design across mediums. Building the muscle to make great decisions as a producer, designer, programmer, or artist is the best foundation one could ever have as a professional in an ever-evolving industry like Interactive Media.

What have been the biggest challenges for you at USC? As a creative person with an undergraduate degree in Finance, my enrollment at The School of Cinematic Arts is akin to the experience of a child at an amusement park. Each week at SCA comes packed with a robust calendar of guest lecturers, private screenings, and other special events in addition to my scheduled coursework. Managing my time wisely has become a challenge as well as an invaluable key to my success. I am learning how to keep my “yes” very limited. Although I would like to, I cannot attend every screening, sign-up for every club, or volunteer for every project. Being a graduate student, a wife, and a mother is a balancing act of passion and discipline.

What in your past has given you inspiration or a unique point of view that you bring to USC? The most amazing part of my life is my family. For the last five years, I have been married to my college-sweetheart, and we have two beautiful children. My obsessive love for our family motivates me daily as an interactive media designer. I am constantly using our family’s need for inclusive entertainment as a design reference for my projects at USC. We are four completely different people in regards to age, gender, knowledge level, and passions. It is very important that we have multiple options for play and interaction across interests. My family serves as a microcosm of the global arena I wish to serve as an interactive media designer post my graduate studies at USC.

What personal projects have you worked on and/or are currently working on? All first year Interactive Media students are encouraged to assist 3rd year students with their graduate thesis projects. I am fortunate to be working with the very intelligent and conscious soul that is Julian Ceipak. Julian’s background is in engineering. His thesis project, Paraspace, is a mixed-reality programming environment that empowers designers with limited programming experience to create interactive scenario prototypes. During the production of Paraspace, I am contributing as a co-designer. I will also be learning more about the world of computer engineering.

To learn more about Julian and his project visit his website: