Joanna Shen

Joanna Shen

MFA, Interactive Media & Game Design '21

What inspired you to want to study the cinematic arts?

After completing my Environmental Science degree, I wanted to pursue a career that combined my passion for art and my love for the environment. My mentor suggested that game design would be the perfect fit for me to advance my career, and believed I would be able to pick up the technical skills required to pursue it. After taking numerous design courses from various institutions and building my portfolio, I applied to graduate programs to gain a formal education and a deeper understanding of game design. When I found out I had been admitted into the School of Cinematic Arts at USC, I was thrilled.

What scholarship award(s) did you receive directly from SCA?

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Grant for Games.

What has been the impact of receiving a scholarship from SCA?

Receiving the Alfred P. Sloan Grant for Games helped with funding game festival applications, supporting my teammates, and enhancing my pursuit of creating enjoyable environmental-themed games and media.

What activities or student organizations are you involved in outside of the classroom?

Aside from school, I try to keep up with my hobbies such as drawing, dancing, martial arts, making boba milk tea, playing the Chinese harp, baking, hiking, doing crafts, and more! I am also a part of Break On 2, a Latin fusion dance group at USC.

What has been your favorite class or project at SCA thus far?

My favorite class was a Directed Research course with my favorite professor, where I spent a semester researching systems design and embedded design, exploring environmental-themed narratives and world building, designing an environmental game based on my learnings, and creating a digital prototype that would eventually become my third-year thesis project.

What is a meaningful experience you've had while at SCA?

During my second year at SCA, I had the opportunity to collaborate with students from Tokyo University of the Arts and create a game from ideation to completion. I learned a lot about remotely working and communicating with teammates who live in a different country!

What are your career goals after graduation?

After graduating, I want to continue discovering and nurturing my ever-growing artistic vision, whether that means working in a game development studio as an artist and prototyper, or developing my own game with my own team as a creative director. I want to continue developing my repertoire of skills, both hard and soft skills, so that I can become a reliable teammate in any team and setting.

What advice do you have for prospective students looking to apply to SCA?

When applying to SCA, be honest with yourself and express what you’re truly passionate about through your work. As cheesy as it may sound, believing in oneself is truly the first step to being a successful artist. Having confidence in yourself and your ideas, recognizing your strengths, and seeking feedback on your work are all important traits an SCA student should have. Emphasize the thought process behind your work, and make an effort to learn new tools you’ll eventually encounter in the program you’re applying to. (ex. If you’re applying to Interactive Media and Game Design, try learning a little bit of Unity or Unreal if you haven’t used game engines before).