The Potential of Play: Game Innovation, Expression and Learning


August 31, 2007


Tracy Fullerton


University of Southern California


In the shadow of the commercial game entertainment industry, independent and serious game makers are exploring the nature of games, play and learning in projects that have the potential to change the way that our society views and values participatory media. At the Game Innovation Lab at USC, we have challenged ourselves to ask the most difficult questions we know how to ask about the future of games. For example, can we make a game about the genocide of a people? Can we use them to promote understanding and participation in our system of government? Can we use game technologies to explore the journey to spiritual enlightenment? Can we bring to life an important piece of American literature as a game? Can we make games that evoke universal human emotions such as joy and wonder in nature?

Recent projects that have come from these questions include the award-winning Darfur is Dying, Cloud, flOw, The Redistricting Game, The Night Journey, and a new history and civics game being created in collaboration with KCET and Activison. This session is an outline of a playcentric process of game innovation and a discussion of the potential of this medium to address critically important subject matter, inspire activism, promote learning, reinforce values, and transmit ideas and concepts only expressible in a dynamic, participatory media such as games


Tracy Fullerton

Tracy Fullerton, M.F.A., is a game designer, educator and writer with fifteen years of professional experience. She is currently an Assistant Professor in the Interactive Media Division of the USC School of Cinematic Arts where she serves as Co-Director of the Electronic Arts Game Innovation Lab. Tracy is the author of Game Design Workshop: Designing, Prototyping and Playtesting Games, a design textbook in use at game programs worldwide. Recent credits include game designer for The Night Journey, a unique game/art project with media artist Bill Viola, and faculty advisor for the award-winning student games Cloud and flOw.Prior to joining the USC faculty, she was president and founder of the interactive television game developer, Spiderdance, Inc. Spiderdance’s games included NBC’s Weakest Link, MTV’s webRIOT, The WB’s No Boundaries, History Channel’s History IQ, Sony Game Show Network’s Inquizition and TBS’s Cyber Bond. Before starting Spiderdance, Tracy was a founding member of the New York design firm R/GA Interactive. As a producer and creative director she created games and interactive products for clients including Sony, Intel, Microsoft, AdAge, Ticketmaster, Compaq, and Warner Bros. among many others. Notable projects include Sony’s Multiplayer Jeopardy! and Multiplayer Wheel of Fortune and MSN’s NetWits, the first multiplayer casual game. Additionally, Tracy was Creative Director at the interactive film studio Interfilm, where she wrote and co-directed the ‘cinematic game’ Ride for Your Life, starring Adam West and Matthew Lillard. She began her career as a designer at Bob Abel’s company Synapse, where she worked on the interactive documentary Columbus: Encounter, Discovery and Beyond and other early interactive projects.

Tracy’s work has received numerous industry honors including an Emmy nomination for interactive television, best Family/Board Game from the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences, ID Magazine’s Interactive Design Review, Communication Arts Interactive Design Annual, several New Media Invision awards, iMix Best of Show, the Digital Coast Innovation Award, IBC’s Nombre D’Or, Time Magazine’s Best of the Web and the Hollywood Reporter’s Women in Entertainment Power 100.

More info and project screenshots at: