USC Games Expo 2019 is a special event in which future game designers, animators, directors, and all the roles in between getting a chance to create a game in a professional environment. No punches are pulled and students have only a year to design, plan, create and market their game with vigorous deadlines and critique by industry faculty. At the expo, multiple student projects were shown, both big and small, but one game stood out because of its message on pollution and plastic waste.
The World of Plasticity
I got to talk to Justin (Age 22), Art Lead of Plasticity, and he told me what players can expect from this environmental conscience game that their team created. Plasticity is a 2.5D cinematic platformer that encourages players to explore a world filled with pollution and only through a player’s actions can they change the future. The players take on the role of a little girl called Noa as she explores the world in the year 2140 filled with plastic waste. However, solving environmental puzzles can change Noa’s world and have a huge impact on her future. I got a chance to play the game and all I have to say that it feels like a viable indie game with a beautifully crafted world. These students made a game with a certain tone that is calm but impactful as you traverse the world and solve puzzles along the way.
This is one of the few games that Danny Bilson mentioned in our interview that he was proud of because “It’s a game about the misuse of plastic in our environment and the danger to our environment if we don’t get a handle on our waste…it’s making a statement and educating [people about waste. Plasticity] has a level of depth that the students applied to it by making a socially conscious game, which gives it some gravity.” Plasticity is also being funded by the USC Wrigley Institute for Environmental Studies and USC Sustainability Green Office Program and is available on Steam!
The Vision and Team
As I talked to the Art Lead, I also talked to Aimee Zhang (20) who is the Game Director of Plasticity and so I asked them a couple of questions about their game, future endeavors and their thoughts on industry crunch.
Kevin Alvarez: “What made you want to participate in the Expo?”
Justin: “This is the capstone project for students in my major IMGD, Interactive Media and Games Division, and we also wanted to show off the hard work we’ve poured into Plasticity over the year and show it not only to our fellow USC students and faculty but to industry and our parents.”
Kevin Alvarez: “What are some of the challenges you had to overcome to get this game out in time for the Expo?”
Justin: “One of the big things is animation, we only had one animator who did an amazing job on Plasticity but this type of game requires a lot of animation.”
Kevin Alvarez: “What are your thoughts on industry crunch now as more stories about AAA development are starting to trickle out?”
Aimee Zhang: “I think it’s definitely a problem but we, here at USC Games, are trying to work against it and find ways to be productive with our time so that way we can avoid the crunch. When production is handled well, people don’t need to crunch and that is feasible and possible even on a small project like Plasticity.”
What’s Next After Plasticity?
Kevin Alvarez: “What do you want to do after you graduate?”
Justin: “I want to be a game designer in the industry and create new awesome games for people to play!”
Aimee Zhang: “I also want to be a game designer in the industry and I already have a job lined up as a fulltime Junior Art Director and Technical Designer after I graduate.”
Kevin Alvarez: “What advice would you give to people wanting to pursue a career in video games?”
Aimee Zhang: “The best thing you can do is by start making a game, prototype, playtest of whatever you can do. You won’t learn until you start trying out stuff for yourself and I know I’ve have learned from my past three years at USC prototyping different concepts and ideas. Always iterating and always playtesting again and again and that experience is important to understand why some aspects of your design worked or didn’t work.”
Kevin Alvarez: “What are some of the games that made you want to follow a career in video games or favorite games you’re currently playing?”
Aimee Zhang: “That’s a hard question! Some of the games I like and take inspiration from are What Remains of Edith Finch, Journey, ABZU, Inside, and Papers, Please. Currently, I’m playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild but I know as a whole I love games that have a strong emotional resonance with the player and tell a unique story.”
Kevin Alvarez: “Thank you for your time!”
So there you have it! Plasticity is a great demo and it’s amazing what these students were able to accomplish in less than a year while also balancing work, family and their classes. The team behind this game were young and eager but are also knowledgable on the current state of the industry as a whole. They are aware of the risks and investment challenges of getting a product out but are confident that they will meet those challenges and strive to create stellar games. You can download Plasticity on Steam right now and check out it out.
Be sure to check out my other interviews with the student developers behind End of the Line and Empath at USC Games Expo 2019. Thanks for reading and don’t forget to check out my interview with USC Games Chair Danny Bilson, Shades of Magic author V.E. Schwab, and Black Panther’s Quest voice actor James Mathis III. For more great interviews, reviews, editorials, and news stay tuned to CultureOfGaming.com, or check us out on OpenCritic.com.