Alumnus launches mobile gaming platform
Two former School of Cinematic Arts students have created a system to make gaming more of an inclusive, community environment.
Bryan Edelman and Benjamin Skaggs of the Interactive Media and Games Division, designed and developed Colossi LLC., a system that allows groups of all sizes to interact through simple games. Skaggs, who was pursuing a bachelor’s degree in the SCA, has taken an indefinite leave of absence to continue working on the company.
Earlier this month, the duo gathered nearly 100 students to square off in an interactive smartphone game that unfolded on the big screen in the SCA auditorium.
The duo hopes to someday have 10,000 people participate.
“We design and develop the largest crowd scale games that have ever happened,” said Edelman, who graduated with an M.F.A in game and interactive media design in Spring 2015. “We are able to support tens of thousands of people with our architecture.”
According to Edelman and Skaggs, Colossi’s long-term business model involves marketing to arenas, large events and their advertisers. Instead of watching a sponsored car race on the big screen, such as during a USC football game, the pair hopes Colossi will allow observers to play along.
“We have a fundamental belief that people want to interact with things,” Edelman said. “People want to have some type of agency in what they watch when they watch it. Ads haven’t gone there yet. When there’s down time at a basketball game, people aren’t looking at the big screen — they are on their phones. Our business model takes interactive things into the world.”
Smartphones made it easy for those at the USC Makers of Entertaining Games Association kickoff event on Sept. 4 to connect immediately to the Colossi interface just by opening a website. Brendan LoBulgio, a member of MEGA and the event coordinator, spoke about Colossi’s simplicity.
“All we really had to provide was an HDMI cord,” Lobuglio said. “And people really got engaged. They were standing up and banging on their desks.”
LoBuglio described two of the games played at the event. “Puck Race” involved swiping a character through a maze, and “Color Wars” involved filling as much area as possible on the screen with a trail of paint. The group played in large teams, and each game was short. Each round ran for about a minute.
“Colossi is a group of games that operate in a shared interface, and the content of each game is different,” LoBuglio said. “The team dynamics were also different for each game.”
According to Skaggs, Colossi games are big, exciting and fast, but they are also meant to bring people together. Edelman and Skaggs set out to create something that more than two people could enjoy at a time.
“We loved bringing people together to play games, but we were asking ourselves: Why make something only a handful of people can play?” Skaggs said. “Why can’t we get 100 people to play? That should be possible.”
This is not Edelman and Skaggs’ first collaboration. The pair actually met and began working together three years ago. Colossi began as Edelman’s M.F.A thesis project, and Skaggs is currently taking leave from his undergraduate career at USC to pursue the project.
“We’ve failed countless times, but through all that failure we’ve designed some simple games that are super engaging and easy to understand, that can make even 1 in 10,000 feel like they have agency in the outcome,” Edelman said.
Edelman and Skaggs attributed trial and error to the bulk of their success with Colossi and reccommended that any entrepreneur start creating.
“Just make stuff. Start making things,” Skaggs said. “We are both serial makers. You can always make it better, or move on to something else.”
Originally published at dailytrojan.com on September 16, 2015.