Olivia (Liv) Morales is a sophomore at USC Games in the Interactive Media & Game Design program. She is an avid writer, interested in the narrative aspects of game design. Liv is a student assistant for the Advanced Games Projects (AGP) course and also one of the founding members of the first ever USC Girls in Games Club.
Here are some highlights from our talk with Liv, edited for brevity and clarity.
What is your favorite medium to create for?
Writing is my passion. I know that no matter what I end up doing, writing will be involved. I’m fascinated with storytelling in games. I see a lot of potential in this area that I don’t think is utilized completely. I would love to eventually be a narrative designer or a creative director for story-driven video games.
What is USC Girls in Games?
Girls in Games is a new club that we’re starting through the USC Games program. It started with a conversation my friends and I had. We realized there wasn’t a club for girls who are specifically interested in video games–professionally and/or socially. There’s several clubs at USC that are for girls in STEM or entertainment. But I think gaming and the games industry is such a specific culture. The experiences of those who identify as female in gaming are unique. We can’t label them the same as girls in technology or girls in cinema. So, I thought it would be a really fun idea.
We’re super excited about Girls in Games. Once things have a sense of normalcy again, we’re hoping to have a variety of club activities. For now, there’s a lot we could do with online communication and creating a community that we didn’t have before.
You’re not just running the new club, you’re also a Student Assistant in USC Games’ prestigious Advanced Games Projects (AGP) class. What do you do in that role?
In AGP, there are different SAs for different disciplines like usability, production, or engineering. I work as a Lead SA alongside my best friend and fellow USC Games student Gail. We basically oversee work with lead faculty to manage how the class operates. We talk to everyone, which is probably my favorite part of the job. I’ve gotten to meet faculty who I’ve never interacted with before. I get to talk to students who are doing these amazing projects.
SA’s don’t work directly on the games, but learning about other projects’ trials and tribulations is insightful. If I ever do an Advanced Games Project, I will know so much already. I’m really grateful for the experience altogether. Before joining AGP, I wasn’t super involved with the faculty and the other students. Now I get to work with amazing people and learn so many amazing things.
Do you have a favorite USC memory so far?
The people I’ve met have been the best thing for me. I’m in awe of the faculty at this school and the friends I’ve made along the way. It blows my mind that I never would have met them if I hadn’t come to USC Games. Before, I had a fear of being a girl interested in video games. Especially coming into this school, I felt like I didn’t know enough. I worried that I hadn’t done as many projects as other people or knew as many coding languages. But at USC, I’ve met so many people that have so many different talents across the spectrum. That’s my favorite part of USC: being able to attend the Cinematic Arts school is unbelievable! My interactions with games and film students have been really great; the backgrounds that these people come from is insane.
Why did you want to study game design at USC Games?
A lot of people I know grew up with video games in their household. That was not my experience. I just kind of discovered it on my own. I was watching a lot of Let’s Plays on YouTube because I didn’t have a console of my own. As I watched more and more games, I was amazed at their complexity. I learned there are other types of games besides platformers or shooters that also have the same characters and storylines that you see in a TV show or a movie. Once I had that realization, I started to pivot into games. I realized that I really liked the other layers that come with storytelling and game design. When you bring interactivity into an art form, it becomes something else entirely. I really liked focusing on player experience as well as narrative. That’s why I set my sights on game design.
Do you have any advice for people applying to USC Games?
If you’re thinking about applying, I would say apply. Don’t discount yourself. I did not think I was going to be able to study at USC Games. I didn’t have a long portfolio of games that I made. I had computer science knowledge, a writing background, and a theatrical background. I thought that USC was beyond a reach for me. I was intimidated by the admission rates that I saw online. I told my mom I wasn’t going to apply the day that the portfolio for IMGD was due. But she told me that I was being silly and encouraged me to do it!
When I got my interview, my whole world changed in an instant. Before, I didn’t think I had anything to offer. But through my interview and through the admissions process, I really had a boost of confidence in myself and my skills. I’m so grateful that I applied and got into this school. Now, I can say with confidence that I’m a good writer and communicator. I know that because I got into USC and USC Games. I’m here now! If I’m here, you can be here, too.