March 14, 2013

USC Games Has Big Night at BAFTA Awards

BAFTA Honors SCA Alumni-Created Games

By Valerie Turpin

London recently got a little warmer when several of the School of Cinematic Arts alumni indie gamers gathered for the 10th British Academy Games Awards on March 5. USC alumni games The Unfinished Swan and Journey both took home awards, including Outstanding Debut Game, Outstanding Game Innovation and the Game Design award.

Still from The Unfinished Swan

The Unfinished Swan, developed by alums Ian Dallas and Max Geiger ‘08, received the awards for Debut Game Winner and Game Innovation. Swan follows the adventures of a young boy who finds himself in a pure-white world that can be revealed when the player splashes paint to reveal his surroundings.  

Ian Dallas ‘08 explained how his time within the Interactive Media and Games Division contributed to his ability to experiment in school before transitioning into the industry. “The original idea for The Unfinished Swan came out of a gameplay prototype I made while in the IMD graduate program, so USC was definitely a big part in making this game possible. For me personally, the most helpful thing I learned in graduate school was a basic familiarity with all the various disciplines that go into making games -- everything from game design, to animation, to 3d modeling, to graphics programming. By making things myself I made mistakes a lot faster and cheaper, which helps a lot when you're creating an experimental game. The fact that the design program at USC is complemented by strong programming, art and animation programs is a big part of what makes it such a great place for game developers.”

Still from Journey

Journey, which recently swept the Interactive D.I.C.E. with eight wins, collected the Original Music, Artistic Achievement, Game Design, Audio Achievement and Online Multiplayer awards. The interactive parable/online adventure allows the player to venture through sand dunes, ancient ruins, caves and howling winds along the way to the mountaintop, but the experience is rooted in discovering who you are, what this place is and what is your purpose.

“The education of [the Interactive Media and Games Division] and SCA gave me great insights into the history of various entertainment media,” said Jenova Chen, Journey’s designer and co-founder of thatgamecompany. “The fundamentals I learned from filmmaking, screenwriting and critical studies inspired me to look at videogames through the lens of narrative arc and emotional impact. The student project we developed in school gave me a calling to make videogames with positive changes to help others.”

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts is an independent charity that supports, develops and promotes the art forms of the moving image by identifying and rewarding excellence, inspiring practitioners and benefiting the public. In addition to its Awards ceremonies, BAFTA has a year-round Learning & Events program that offers unique access to some of the world’s most inspiring talent through workshops, master classes, lectures and mentoring schemes, connecting with audiences of all ages and backgrounds across the UK, Los Angeles and New York.

Both The Unfinished Swan and Journey are available through PlayStation 3.

For more information on BAFTA and to view a full list of winners and nominees, please