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Danny Bilson to run USC film school's games division

Tracy Fullerton moves out of leadership role while the former THQ exec runs the games department

The University of Southern California is one of the top game design programs in America, and the educational institution is aiming to take its program to the next level with new leadership from former THQ executive Danny Bilson. As reported by GamesBeat, Bilson has been brought on to run USC film school's games division, otherwise known as USC's School of Cinematic Arts Interactive Media & Games Division (IMGD), where he'll be the new chair. Bilson is not new to USC, since he's been on the faculty of the USC School of Cinematic Arts since 2005 and has taught screenwriting, narrative design, and has been leading the Advanced Games Project. Now Bilson reports to Elizabeth Daley, who's the dean of the School of Cinematic Arts, the entire film school.

Tracy Fullerton, who previously headed IMGD and decided to move out of leadership, will continue to oversee the Game Innovation Lab while working on her own projects (like Walden). "She's going to continue to pursue her research, do some teaching, and step down from leadership. Part of my job is to make sure there's a great place for Tracy to continue her work. That's part of the role, I think," Bilson said.

"I'm extremely happy to see Danny taking on this role," said Fullerton. "It speaks to the depth of our organization that we have such a great team. I'm looking forward to focusing more on my own games as director of the Game Innovation Lab and working with Danny to continue to grow the program as a whole."

In describing the USC Games program and his own take on what he'll be fostering in aspiring game creators, Bilson discussed the importance of research, but also production. There's an obvious commercial aspect that he learned from his publishing days at EA and THQ that cannot be ignored.

"If I was to describe the place, I'd call it a culture of thoughtful innovation. We're a research university," he commented. "Even in games, testing new design ideas, testing the limits without commercial pressure. Part of the mission is to expand the universe of games and the way we look at games. At the same time, being part of the USC film school, our culture there for 50 years or more has been of professionalism, of relationships with industry, and mapping a lot of the way we teach to the way people make, in this case, games when they leave USC.

"The one thing I tell my students all the time, especially in production, especially in advanced games, is that we're going to run this the same way I ran studios in the commercial world. You'll come across all of these different aspects and all of these different kinds of feedback - and pressure, obviously - but when you get outside and go beyond USC, nothing will be for the first time. You'll have seen that before in school. 'I remember that kind of feedback. I remember those prioritizations.' Certainly I teach that way."

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James Brightman avatar
James Brightman: James Brightman has been covering the games industry since 2003 and has been an avid gamer since the days of Atari and Intellivision. He was previously EIC and co-founder of IndustryGamers and spent several years leading GameDaily Biz at AOL prior to that.
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