A Message for New Students

September 2nd, I was invited by USC’s MEGA organization to deliver a welcome talk to kick off their year of programming. I had to abridge my talk for the sake of time, but if you’re interested in reading it, here it is in its unabridged entirety.

Hello everybody, my name is Kevin Wong and welcome to MEGA.

During my time here, my friends and I organized a company called “team ok”, and by uniting a community of game developers, we built Chambara. Chambara won the BAFTA Ones to Watch Award and was nominated for Best Student Game at the Independent Games Festival. It exhibited at festivals worldwide before releasing on PlayStation 4 this summer to positive reviews.

Let me say that you are amongst good people, filled with integrity, talent, and the courage to follow their dreams.BfvzMV[1]

You may come from different majors and schools, different backgrounds, identities, skill levels, and ranges of interest in games. Whether you’ve been playing games since you were little, or have only recently entered into this baffling microcosm, you all have a home here at MEGA.

The people here will be your friends, collaborators, teachers, family. Together, you may embark on a great adventure that will intersect with the paths of many other people. There, you’ll discover truths about you, your friends, and the world.

While I was a student, I served on the MEGA board for the 2014-2015 term, and together, we organized events to unite the USC Games community with other communities across campus and Los Angeles. Attend these events and connect with like-and-differently minded people, you’ll help each other on the path to your future.

That said, if you’re looking for pointers on how to use your time here well, I have a few ideas that I’d like to pass on to you.

ONE.

Engage with the community, in and out of USC. Los Angeles has such a wonderful community of games people, and no matter what’s your relationship with games, you’re bound to find someone cool that you’d want to connect with.

Los Angeles is home to A-list YouTubers, a vibrant VR scene, indie games collectives like Glitch City and LA Game Space, curated art spaces like Giant Robot, electronic music groups like Galaxy Swim Team and Zoom Lens, academics exploring the intersections of games with other forms of art, and renowned companies like Riot, Naughty Dog, and Konami that make games admired everywhere.

We host events like E3, IndieCade, and GamesBeat that attract people from across the world. This city overflows with exciting and creative people, and count yourself amongst them. You are part of this scene, so get to know people here, share and receive knowledge, and build the community. MEGA can help you do that.

That said, do respect the community. Be gentle with others and treat them how they’d like to be treated. This means doing stuff like respecting people’s pronouns and not making assumptions about them. There’s etiquette to be upheld when you’re working with others, and interrupting people, dominating conversations, and generally leaving little room for others is toxic. One way to help is by becoming a good listener, which might be one of the most constructive ways you can grow here.

TWO.

Be considerate with the projects you take on. As you build visibility in the community, you might find yourself invited onto projects like AGPs and thesis projects. You have goals, an identity, stuff you’re into and a loose interpretation of what you want to do with your time here, recognize that.

Even if every project you take on helps you grow, not every project you do will help become the kind of person you want to be. So be selective with what you agree to, what roles you take, and curate experiences to move you forwards. Don’t tether yourself to relationships with people and projects that you don’t need unless you’re trying to get a taste for what’s out there and what your potential futures could look like.

This can manifest as a person who was a great artist in high school wanting to become a better coder, or someone who wants to have a large portfolio of small, personal work but not getting to do that since they end up agreeing to only big team projects. Four years isn’t a long time, and you should use that time productively. Take time to ask yourself, “Who am I, and why am I here?”, that could help you consider what projects make sense for you more smartly.

So, what I’d like to leave you with. Thank you for giving me your time and inviting me to speak here. I hope you have an amazing time, and if you’d like to talk to me more, I encourage you to contact me on Twitter, where my handle is @thatkevinwong.

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MEGA Digital Fliers

First of all, I’m still writing new stuff intermittently. A lot has happened in the last few months, especially in regards to Chambara and the BAFTA, and I have a lot of things that I’d like to reflect on in my life here. 

This year, I served on a student organization at USC called MEGA, which exists to serve and grow the games community at USC and surrounding areas by hosting a variety of events like game jams, guest speakers, and game nights, as well as facilitating communication between students and administration with townhalls and open forums. Over the course of the year, we held events ranging from the largest Global Game Jam in the United States to a yoga/interpretive dance session set to visuals from Proteus. MEGA exists less as a professional group for developers, but more of as a social community for folks to have fun and enjoy each others company while making bonds that will be meaningful.

MEGA is run a bit like a cabal with no solid roles. If something needs to be done, then someone can do it. Some weeks, I’d be planning whole events, other weeks I’d be retrieving food for guests, and many weeks I’d be handling communications and advertising.

IMG_0442One thing that Brendan LoBuglio started that ended up being a lot of fun for board members to do was create animated digital fliers in Unity that would be posted around all the screens in the games building. These would typically be goofy, tacky, and adorably ostentatious, establishing an identity and brand for the club while significantly boosting awareness of our events. We still did print fliers, but these were unique.

I ended up making a lot of these over the course of the year. They were great fun to make and allowed me a space to be weird with many of Unity’s graphics features. Here are the ones that I made.

This was the first digital flier I made for a weekly series of events where people could bring in their games for play testing. I made it entirely using assets downloaded from the Unity Asset Store.

This was from an anti-Gamergate game jam we held calling for diversity, positivity, inclusivity, and hope. Its one of the simpler ones I made using a Valentine’s Day texture applied to a spinning inverted torus.

I made this for a competitive game night we held when Super Smash Bros. 4 came out on Wii U. The first animated flier using stolen assets ripped from commercial games, the cast of Super Smash Bros. is rolled up into a Katamari and flies into the sun. Very fun to make.

Made this for an end-of-semester exhibition of highlight games from the Intermediate and Immersive Games classes at USC. I emailed each of the folks selected to showcase asking for assets from their games and set them through a turbulent ride through a tunnel of Great Artist images before landing on a sunny shore, which is how Intermediate typically feels like for a lot of people.

In the new year, I started using sound in the fliers. I was super excited for the Global Game Jam and set a spinning Earth on the back of a space whale (an element in my games that started at last year’s Global Game Jam) as shooting stars screech by and the Rainbow Road theme song plays. The result was something super giddy, reflecting how much this event means to me.

The Community Game Jam was for a game jam styled like an Exquisite Corpse. Exquisite Corpse is a surrealist art practice where participants would draw on a piece of paper, fold it partially, and pass it on to the next person, who would continue the chain by adding onto the drawing. The result was a collage of collective subconsciousness. We adopted this structure for this game jam by asking participants to take 30 minute turns at computers making a game in Unity before passing their workstation on. We playtested this format by making that week’s digital flier with four authors over the course of two hours. This mashup of space whales, burning trees, ticker tape, and Sailor Moon music was the result. Exceptionally terrifying when played at night when you’re alone in the halls of the games building. Many of the games from that game jam ended up with this style.

These two digital fliers are the culmination of all our work on MEGA and the ultimate expression of our aesthetic as a group. The first one I made in a few hours using assets stolen from Metal Gear Rising: Revengance and every single goofy edit I could possibly make. I deleted eyebrows, used Great Artist for textures, warped colors, and slowed down music from the Sonic Adventure 2 tribute album. As my term ends this week, this would likely be the last flyer that I would get to make on the board, so this was less themed around the week’s events and more around the identity that the club developed over the course of the last year.

The next one in the video was made by Sean Wejebe, and uses 3D models of current boardmembers in a giant roulette deciding. Whoever gets chosen by the spinner is shot out of cannons to the tune of “Escape from the City”.

Above banner by Jocelyn Kim