October 7, 2013

Tracy Fullerton Honored at IndieCade

By James Crawford

The pioneering work of USC School of Cinematic Arts Professor Tracy Fullerton was celebrated this week at the Red Carpet awards for IndieCade 2013. The annual celebration of the year’s top independent video games—the largest in the country—kicked off by honoring the best in visual design, gameplay, storytelling, interactivity and more with a ceremony at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in downtown Los Angeles.

Tracy Fullerton

IndieCade capped the night by recognizing Electronic Arts Chair of the Interactive Media & Games Division Fullerton with the Trailblazer Award, given to a prominent established professional who exemplifies “distinguished accomplishment and significant influence over a career of game creation…and captures the independent spirit” of gaming. Past recipients have included Tim Schafer (Secret of Monkey Island), Megan Geiser (The Girl Game Movement) and Elan Lee (Microsoft Game Studios).

Fellow game designer and SCA Professor Richard Lemarchand (formerly of the Naughty Dog studio) fittingly introduced Fullerton, and praised her for her work in interactive cinema and television, social gaming and transmedia. Fullerton has “not only been dreaming big dreams,” said Lemarchand, “but has been doing the hard work to turn those dreams into realities, for herself, and for everyone around her, for the entire duration of her game design practice. The trails that Tracy has blazed into the future burn brightly for all of us who love games.”

Fullerton has been a leading figure at IndieCade for many years, having been the recipient of several Red Carpet awards for her work on Night Journey and Reality Ends Here. Yet her importance to gaming goes far beyond individual accolades. Through her USC teaching and her studio, Spiderdance, Fullerton has mentored many other game designers whose work currently leads the field. “As I got to know Tracy, I could see that the same creativity and ingenuity she put in her own game design work,” Lemarchand enthused, “she was now also pouring into figuring how to train and mentor the young game designers of tomorrow. So many of our lives have been touched by the unwavering effort that Tracy puts into her teaching.”

Fullerton was visibly moved by the IndieCade tribute, and came close to tears several times during her acceptance speech to an overflow audience. She praised the community of supportive independent gamers and designers that made her work possible—giving the lie to the old maxim that “you can always tell the pioneers by the arrows in their backs.” And since her early days at USC’s Interactive Media & Games Division when this gaming community was still very small, Fullerton has always believed that “We can change the kind of games that are in the world if we can change the context and community in which they are built.” With that belief in mind Fullerton’s contributions over the past decade have extend to founding USC’s Game Innovation lab, with a mission to explore experimental gaming in the realms of science, politics, art, and learning.

Fullerton also thanked her mentors, her fellow IndieCade travellers—and also her parents, who always believed in her, even though she knows “they still don’t really get what I’m doing.”