Asher Volmer Asher Vollmer is a graduate of the Interactive Media & Games Division at USC and has been featured numerous times on cinema.usc.edu for his accomplishments in the field of gaming. Vollmer is currently the Game Designer for an independent development team called Sirvo. Many of his games have found commercial and independent success, including Threes!, Puzzlejuice and Semi-Automatic. Vollmer was named by Polygon as one of the 50 Admirable Gaming People of 2014 for his work on Threes!, and was additionally nominated for the same game at the 2015 Game Designer Choice Awards in the Best Handheld/Mobile category. While imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, in the case of Threes!, Vollmer has discovered just how inspiring the concept of his idea is with the emergence of replicas including 1024 and 2048 that gained rampant popularity just weeks after Vollmer launched his program. Vollmer’s development and design experience includes previously working at thatgamecompany with fellow alumnus, Jenova Chen. Vollmer was with the company from August 2012 to April 2013 and decided to leave the in order to explore his own path in the industry of indie gaming. Other experience Vollmer gained prior to thatgamecompany includes working as a Designer for fantasy gaming company, The Odd Gentlemen, and as a Flash Game Prototype Designer at game development startup, Broodworks. Currently, Vollmer is developing a new strategy game called Close Castles. Demoed on an Xbox 360, Close Castles is a multilayer game where players can build three types of structures out of castles located in corners of a grid map. These type of castles include towers that fire at incoming enemies, houses that make "loyal subjects" and markets that make money. Players start in corners of a "grid map" and are represented by castles. Vollmer says the game's name is inspired by castles built too close to one another, therefore starting a mutually assured destruction scenario. For more information on Vollmer, please visit: http://ashervollmer.tumblr.com/home.
Sean Plott Sean Plott is more commonly known by his online handle “Day9″. Prior to coming to USC, he was a professional StarCraft: Brood War player, playing in events such as the World Cyber Games and Pan-American Tournament. While an M.F.A. student in the Interactive Media & Games Division at USC, Plott developed the strategy show “Day Daily” as his thesis project. He has since become one of the most recognized e-sports commentator for StarCraft II, with his show having grown into a full time business. As CEO of Day Daily, Plott makes gaming video content and provides commentary for eSports events including BlizzCon, MLG, ESL and DreamHack. Plott hosts the Geek & Sundry show, Spellslingers, based on the popular card game playing Magic: The Gathering. In 2013, Plott joined startup Artillery as a Game Designer and Strategist, developing various browser-based realtime strategy games including Project Atlas. Plott was also recognized by Forbes in 2014 as one of 30 Under 30: The Brightest Young Stars In Video Games.
Paul Bellezza Paul Bellezza has spent the past seven years of his career working as a Product Manager on League of Legends at Riot Games. Currently he leads a cross-disciplinary team of engineers, game and UX designers, artists, story writers, publishing and QA folks to make memorable and entertaining experiences for LoL players. And in the late hours of the night, he unabashedly main's the champion: Tahm Kench. Prior to his time at Riot Games, Bellezza was co-founder and CEO of The Odd Gentlemen developing The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom from a student game into a commercial launch on XBLA and PC with 2K Games. In a previous life, he was a high school biology teacher and a QA Tester on the legendary title: Barbie and The Magic of Pegasus. Paul has an M.F.A. in Interactive Media from USC's IMGD and a B.A. in Psychology from UC Berkeley.
Susana Ruiz Susana Ruiz is currently an assistant professor at UC Santa Cruz. Her award-winning M.F.A. thesis project, Darfur is Dying, is one of the foundational works of serious play, having been honored with the Games For Change Audience Award, the Adobe MAX Award for Social Responsibility, Honoree status in the Webby Award Activism Category, and the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences’ prestigious Governors Award. This project, which was in collaboration with USC, MTV Networks, interFUEL and the International Crisis Group, was presented to members of Congress at Capitol Hill during the National Online Town Hall Meeting on Darfur. Ruiz’s work is recognized worldwide as traversing the intersections of cinema, games, art, ethics and activism. She co-founded design studio Take Action Games (TAG) in 2006 with the launch of Darfur is Dying and continues to grow a portfolio situated at the confluence of game design, participatory and social justice culture, non-fiction storytelling and transmedia practices. TAG has since worked with various social justice organizations including the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women and the International Crisis Group. A graduate from the Interactive Media & Games Division at the School of Cinematic Arts, Ruiz was awarded the Ph.D. Achievement Award from USC in 2013 and is currently a doctoral candidate in the Media Arts and Practice (iMAP) program. Ruiz is a Games For Change Advisory Board Member, a Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory (HASTAC) Scholar and a Courtney Ross - AOL/Time Warner USC Fellow.
Matt Korba Matt Korba is the creative director of the new King's Quest series and the founder of the multi award winning game studio The Odd Gentlemen. He co-founded the studio in 2008 after his USC graduate thesis project, The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom, got picked up by 2K games. Since then the studio has shipped over 40 SKUs on various platforms and has worked with Disney, Neil Gaiman, and Sierra Games. Matt enjoys creating narrative games for a family audience that can be enjoyed by a wide audience. Other developments by The Odd Gentlemen include iPhone apps, Flea Symphony and Agent P DoofenDash, and PlayStation Home game, Slap Happy Sam's Stage Show.
Kellee Santiago As President and Co-Founder of thatgamecompany from 2006-2012, Kellee Santiago developed one of the most prominent brands in independent and innovative game development, pushing the communicative possibilities of video games as a medium. She recently took a position as Head of Developer Relations for OUYA, and is a partner in Indie Fund, which aims to support the growth of games as a medium by helping indie developers get, and stay, financially independent. Santiago credits her experience at USC for developing her belief that games can simultaneously be both deeply engaging and wildly entertaining and for motivating her dream to share this idea with the rest of the world. Santiago graduated from the M.F.A. Interactive Media program at USC where she teamed up with fellow student and subsequent business partner, Jenova Chen, on the student-created game, Cloud. The game went on to become critically acclaimed and landed Santiago and Chen a three-game deal with Sony Computer Entertainment America, Inc. to develop downloadable games for the PlayStation Network. The three titles, flOw, Flower, and most recently, Journey, were each record-breaking commercial successes and award-winning titles (AIAS Game of the Year, BAFTA awards, GDC Game of the Year). Santiago speaks around the world at video game, business, and entertainment conferences on innovation in games, games as art, entrepreneurship and better methods for video game development. In 2010 she became a TED Fellow, and was recognized as one of The Ten Most Influential Women in Games of the Decade. Santiago was also the Chair of the IndieCade Festival Awards Jury from 2011 to 2012 and was more recently nominated for the Microsoft Women in Games Lifetime Achievement Award. For more information on Santiago, please visit: http://kelleesantiago.com.