Bryant Young is an alumnus from USC who graduated from USC Games in 2017 and Viterbi’s Master of Computer Science program in 2020. While at USC, he began development for the VR experience Our America. Currently, he’s working full-time at Scopely while simultaneously working with his team at Fishean Studio to release the project.
Here are some highlights from our talk with Bryant, edited for brevity.
You’ve only been out of school for a year, but for those readers who haven’t met you, can you tell them who you are?
My name’s Bryant Young, currently a Software Engineer at Scopely, one of the most successful mobile gaming developers and publishers in the world. I also run a company with a couple of people I graduated grad school with. In undergrad, I was studying game design, graduated 2017 and my most recent graduation was 2020 from Viterbi’s Master of Computer Science.
Where did the idea for your game Our America come from?
Our America is a project that started actually in my undergrad as direct research, and from there I used it as a prototype to create what the project’s become now, which is a VR experience about being Black in America. You go through the experience with the two characters in the game’s imagery, the father and son. They’re on their way to school, and the player experiences the racism and anxiety that Black people go through regularly.
Was Our America always intended to be a VR experience?
The problem that I find with playing an experience like this with a controller is that it’s no longer a truly immersive experience. It becomes more of a game. You’re not really living it and it’s a lot easier to disconnect when you separate something because it’s on a screen. It’s a different experience in VR, because you feel like you’re sitting in the car driving your son to school, versus feeling like you were playing someone who’s driving their son to school.
Have you talked to others in the Black community about this game?
A lot of the actors are Black, and they all really liked the script and said “Yeah, this is how it actually is. This is what happens.” When people come to test out the project, they usually resonate with it. There’ve been times, like on the internet, people will say “This is a ‘whole project’” regarding how emotionally jarring the experience is But the internet is the internet. You can’t win everything and you just gotta accept the things that people think about it. Not everyone’s going to agree with the way I tell the story.