USC wins top awards at Independent Games Festival

Games centering on a mysterious solar system and human empathy receive accolades at the 17th annual event.

March 05, 2015 Tanya Abrams

USC captured two of the top awards at this week’s 2015 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, the largest gathering of the indie video game industry.

The 17th annual Independent Games Festival handed out its grand prize for best independent game on March 4 and its best student game award to two video games from USC.

Outer Wilds, which was a thesis and advanced games project at USC, won the Seumas McNally Grand Prize for best independent game and its accompanying $30,000 cash prize. The game, which also won the Excellence in Design Award, gives players 20 minutes to explore a mysterious solar system trapped in a time loop at the end of the universe.

Close Your, an undergraduate USC game, won best student game. Eight such games from around the world were selected as finalists for the student showcase this year. Two were from USC: Close Your and a•part•ment.

Close Your, which also won the IndieCade Developer’s Choice Award in 2014, is an interactive experiment in human empathy in which players are immersed in the life of a character suffering from memory loss.

Every time the player blinks in real life — there’s a Webcam watching — the character’s life flashes before the players’ eyes, forcing them to make sense of the world. The experience moved one player to tears

Other GDC nominees from USC included PRY, which was nominated for Excellence in Narrative, and Threes, which was nominated for best handheld/mobile game in the Game Developers Choice Awards.

The university also had a strong presence at the panels; more than half a dozen USC presenters shared their gaming expertise at the conference.

USC has been ranked the No. 1 game design school by The Princeton Review for five consecutive years. The joint USC Games program is a collaboration of the USC School of Cinematic Arts’ Interactive Media & Games division and the USC Viterbi School of Engineering’s Department of Computer Science.