Long-time Professor Danny Bilson Takes Up Role As IMGD Chair, Launches New USC Games Initiatives

Napoleon Martinez

After 13 years as faculty, Professor Danny Bilson has taken up the mantle of Chair of the Interactive Media and Games Division (IMGD) at the USC School of Cinematic Arts (SCA).

An accomplished veteran of the industry and long-time professor, Bilson will lead the program in a concerted effort to further game development at USC under the umbrella of USC Games, the joint-educational program that includes collaboration with the Computer Science (Games), Roski School of Art, and other programs.

Bilson aims to revamp programs within IMGD that will reinvigorate the efforts of USC Games. “My first priority is to build out USC Games as an entity that can support all of the great games made across this campus,” said Bilson. 

One of these initiatives will be the inaugural USC Festival of Games, a end-of-year celebration in the spring that celebrates and showcases USC’s brilliant student work. It will feature the work of Advanced Games Projects from both IMGD and CS Games as well as curated student work from multiple groups including Gamepipe, MAP and others. The goal is to create what Bilson calls the “most inclusive show we’ve ever had.”  

“Wherever great games are built here at USC, the best will on display.  When we get all of our amazing content under one tent, I think we can put on a heck of a show.” Said Bilson.

Bilson also plans to institute new programs that support art and animation for games through further collaboration with the SCA animation department and CS Games. These programs will work to fill out a much needed segment of the game production coursework in addition to what is already offered.

This is only the beginning of Bilson’s work in the program, much of which he has already begun to put into action in just his first weeks of office. He also doesn’t think that it stops at him, as he urges students and faculty to be a part of this ongoing process. “… our doors are always open for discussion and feedback.  My basic metric for success is, ‘Are we doing better than last year?’” Said Bilson. “We all strive for continuous improvement and ways to better serve the students and the art form in general.” 

Emeritus Chair Tracy Fullerton asked Bilson to take up the role as someone who has watched the program grow under both her leadership as well as that of the Founding Chair Scott Fisher. “Honestly, I felt a certain responsibility to my friends and co-workers here to apply my leadership experience to the department,” said Bilson.  “…when I was asked it just seemed like the right thing to do; to use my skills to support the faculty and students to execute their visions and support their tremendous talents.”

Bilson started teaching at SCA part-time in January of 2005 and has since gone on to teach multiple undergraduate courses, including acting as head of the Advanced Games Project class in IMGD. A prestigious and successful writer from the film and television world, Bilson’s background provides him the industry experiences and connections that will push the program further.

“Often the best ways to solve problems and support a program like this is through creative thinking.” Said Bilson.  “My professional career has always been in leadership roles from an executive producer, writer and director in television, to a senior executive at both Electronic Arts and THQ… I have always been a creative leader and this is a very creative field.”

As the new leader of the program, Bilson will continue to work with industry professionals across the game industry who want to continue to help and support the program. “I look forward to hosting more industry veterans to share their professional experiences with our students and ultimately support our work here.”