February 11, 2013

Thatgamecompany’s Journey Sweeps Interactive D.I.C.E. Awards

SCA IMD Alums’ Game Takes Home 8 Interactive Academy Awards

Key art for Journey

The Interactive Media Division (IMD) at the USC School of Cinematic Arts is known for bringing an unparalleled level of artistry and innovation to video game design. thatgamecompany, which was co-founded by alumni Jenova Chen ‘06 and Kellee Santiago ‘06 exemplifies this approach, with highly-artistic games Cloud, flOw, Flower and, most recently, Journey. On February 16th, Journey was the big winner at the D.I.C.E (Design, Innovate, Communicate, Entertain) Awards, which are presented annually by the not-for-profit Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences (AIAS) to honor outstanding achievements in interactive art form. Journey was the Awards’ most recognized game, with eight wins: Game of the Year, Outstanding Innovation in Gaming, Outstanding Innovation in Art Direction, Outstanding Achievement in Original Music Composition, Outstanding Achievement in Sound Design, Casual Game of the Year, Outstanding Achievement in Online Gameplay and Outstanding Achievement in Game Direction.

"I'm incredibly grateful that the game we put our hearts and souls in was loved by our dear peers from the industry," said Chen. "We want to create timeless interactive entertainment that makes positive changes to the human psyche worldwide."

Chen and Santiago started working together as students, and their first successful game, Cloud, was produced while they were still at SCA. Cloud became a viral success, crashing the School’s server. Journey is their third and most successful commercial game from thatgamecompany, the production company they started after graduation, and is published by SCEA Santa Monica Studio. Their other games flOw and Flower were also commercial hits.

Art from Journey

“For the Interactive Media Division, this is a validation of our teaching philosophy and our belief that creative young developers can really make a difference in the industry,” said IMD Chair Tracy Fullerton. “Journey's success is a strong sign that indie games are going to be a big part of the future of the industry. Now, more than ever, we need the kind of creative innovation that comes from independent thinking and experimental developers.”

Mirroring IMD's goals for indie filmmakers, Chen explained how his interest in video games blossomed while studying at SCA and helped lead to Journey's success. "My video game design philosophy and the passion behind starting thatgamecompany are all grown from my study at USC," said Chen. "The education of IMD and SCA gave me great insights into the history of various entertainment medium; the fundamentals I learned from film making, screenwriting and critical studies inspired me to look at video game through the lens of narrative arc and emotional impact."

Journey is an interactive parable, an online adventure in which the player takes on the role of a mysterious avatar making their way across a vast landscape towards a distant mountaintop. The journey begins in a sprawling desert filled with ruins of an ancient civilization. Unlike more mainstream games, the experience is not rooted in violence or competition. The player encounters various obstacles as they travel across the desert and through shadowy depths haunted by dragon-like creatures. Along the way, they will meet another traveler, whose journey intersects with theirs. Together, they can explore this ancient mysterious world, communicating only by voicing a single musical note. Even with this limited interaction, or perhaps because of it, the relationship formed with the player companion is rich and meaningful. If they are separated along the way, many players experience a sadness and regret not generally achieved in gameplay.

Journey was nominated for eleven D.I.C.E awards. Another SCA-affiliated game The Unfinished Swan, which was created by alumni Ian Dallas and Max Geiger ‘08, was nominated for two awards.

“I don't think it is possible for me to be more proud of what these IMD alumni have done with the lessons we try to instill about innovative design process, bringing players into the process early and often, and reaching out to new markets with fresh and unexpected concepts,” added IMD Chair Fullerton. “thatgamecompany is an amazing example of creative thinkers who were given the resources and support to do the kind of work we need to drive the industry forward.”

For more on thatgamecompany, visit their website:http://thatgamecompany.com/