Fullerton Installed as Endowed Professor

In her new post, the writer-designer will serve as the School of Cinematic Arts’ top interactive game tester.
By Mel Cowan
Interactive Media Division chair Scott S. Fisher, assistant professor Tracy Fullerton and Dean Elizabeth M. Daley celebrate Fullerton's new position as holder of the Electronic Arts Endowed Chair in Interactive Entertainment.

Photo/Steve Cohn
Tracy Fullerton, associate professor and director of the Electronic Arts Game Innovation Lab, was named holder of the Electronic Arts Endowed Chair in Interactive Entertainment Dec. 9.

Fullerton accepted the post at a formal ceremony held at the Robert Zemeckis Center for Digital Arts. Following a keynote address by Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello, Fullerton spoke to the audience.

“I now have a front-row seat to all of the fantastical ideas the coming years of students will dream up,” said Fullerton, pointing to the classic hardwood chair that commemorates her new position. “That means I get to be play-tester number one for the future of interactive entertainment. Something tells me I’m not going to be disappointed.”

USC School of Cinematic Arts Dean Elizabeth M. Daley spoke about Fullerton’s career, calling her a “dynamic force in game design and education for years.”

“She has played a crucial role in the expansion of our interactive media curriculum at the school,” Daley said. “Her direction of the Electronic Arts Game Innovation Lab has helped to set the standard for game-education programs around the world.”

Professor Scott S. Fisher, chair of the Interactive Media Division, lauded the work of Fullerton, her fellow faculty members and the students who exhibited their work that evening. “Their passion for this field is remarkable and the results of the work are extraordinary.”

Fisher, who introduced Riccitiello, noted the executive’s vision for both the company and the industry. “He has overseen a reorganization that has focused on creating incredible gameplay for the widest and wildest audience possible,” Fisher said. “In doing so, he’s energized the entire industry and has given players across the spectrum something to be excited about again.”

Commenting on the work of the students he had seen prior to the ceremony, Riccitiello said, “It was a real eye-opener. I saw game mechanics that I’d never seen before. Games that aspire to be high art in turn inspire me. Too often, ours is a business that can be thought of as a toy, when it really is a form of media.”

Riccitiello also spoke about his company’s relationship with the school. “Frankly, one of the best proponents of our industry is USC. What’s happened under Dean Daley’s and Tracy’s and Scott’s leadership has made a gigantic difference. What they’re doing in providing this level of leadership is creating a cadre of artists that are going to come along with us and help us change just as much as we have over the last 10 years,” he said.

In 2004, Electronic Arts made a multimillion dollar donation to the school to advance interactive entertainment and create a launch pad for the next generation of game design. The contribution, part of the company’s global educational and talent development effort, funded two facets of the school’s Interactive Media Division: the Electronic Arts Interactive Entertainment Program and the Electronic Arts Endowed Faculty Chair.

The interactive program and its Game Innovation Lab are the focal point of games study and research within the Interactive Media Division. The endowed chair, previously held by Electronic Arts chief creative officer Bing Gordon, allows the school to fulfill the intensifying demand for talented game developers.

Before and after the ceremony, interactive media students exhibited demonstrations of their games on the second floor of the Zemeckis Center. Industry members, faculty and staff tried out games such as The Unfinished Swan and Adventures in the Middle Kingdom, and spoke with their creators.

While game designer Matt Korba showed onlookers how to play his Tim Burton-inspired game The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom, game producer Paul Bellezza revealed that Fullerton had another unofficial yet appropriate title among her students.

“Tracy’s our Jedi master,” he said.