Skip to content

MA Integrative Projects

MA in Cinematic Arts with emphasis in Media Arts, Games & Health Integrative Projects (CTIN 593)

The non-terminal nature of the degree does not require that the students undertake a single research project from beginning to end and defend it (contrary to a doctoral dissertation). The MA integrative project is quite different from our terminal 3-year MFA where students lead the development of a single entertainment media experience or product, experimental or commercial, or produce original theoretical scholarship, all of which must be presented and defended.

The final semester of the MA degree prepares students for their next career step, whether in industry or academia, with activities that showcase their transdisciplinary and polymathic nature. 

We do not make the full details of these projects publicly available because they often contain proprietary, private, or embargoed content and they are works-in-progress. The range of projects varies because they are tailored to the unique needs and skills of students. Below are brief descriptions of our recent alumni projects:

Christina Lelon | Spring 2018

Summary: Formative research activities (literature review, theoretical framework, participatory design with stakeholders, concept prototyping, evaluation) of the game Listen - a more engaging and efficient way to train clinical psychologists and the general public in metacognitive empathy skills.

Deliverables: 3300-word reflective and technical report, playable concept game prototype using Twine platform.

Rationale: Christina was the study manager for Skyfarer and also a concept developer for many lab projects. As an aspiring concept developer, she wanted to showcase her skills of working with a client (i.e. faculty at the Psychology dept) to respond to a challenge they set forth with a unique concept that was grounded in theory. She produced a low-fi demo and early concept spec.

Sydney Rubin | Spring 2019

Summary: Manuscript co-editing for multiple completed studies and contribution ongoing game projects.

Deliverables: Manuscript drafts (multiple co-authors), 2500 word reflective report on seven game project contributions, and how they intersected with positive psychology.

Rationale: Sydney is a skilled writer who understands how entertainment media and positive psychology can intersect. Her experimental training also helped her quickly become proficient in usability testing. She thus emerged as a valuable collaborator on many game projects that have been shown at festivals (e.g., Healing Spaces, Cute Animals and Tough Questions) as well as co-authored published papers and reports. Whether she led a concept design or contributed in other ways, it was important to capture how her training influenced her impact.

Fabian Bock | Spring 2020

Summary: Formative research (literature review, theoretical framework, interviews with stakeholders, system and game prototyping, IRB study protocol) of Ranger Loo! -- An Electrode-controlled, Portable Digital Therapeutic Device and Experience for Children with Pelvic Floor Dyssynergia.

Deliverables: 4300-word reflective and technical report, IRB study protocol, pitch deck.

Rationale: Fabian is very skilled with science synthesis and rapid prototyping and likes to work independently to solve problems as a leader or consultant. He participated in a hackathon sponsored by Children's Hospital Los Angeles and was part of a chosen team. He further developed a project and received approval for pilot funds for a study to be conducted right as the pandemic struck. Over time, left as the only remaining person on the original dev team, he delivered a project ready to be tested in healthcare, which is as far as that project could go.

Alyssa Matlosz | Spring 2020

Summary: Systematic Literature Review "The Effects of Commercial and Serious Video Games on Prosocial Behavior: A Systematic Review of Experimental, Cross-Sectional, and Longitudinal Studies" using PRISMA.

Deliverables: 5000-word manuscript draft with tables.

Rationale: Alyssa studied occupational science and media arts & practice and was en route to an OTD degree at USC upon receipt of the MA. She was skilled already in basic in literature reviews and holds a unique perspective on entertainment media as a concept developer. Her research interest was in an area that is not as well documented and thus a rigorous systematic review was a suitable project for her future career in occupational therapy using games.

CTIN 593 Syllabus


Open only to MA degree candidates.

Course Overview:

Students will complete a unique project that showcases their integrative mastery of prior and newly acquired knowledge, skills and interests. The project may be completed as a standalone or group project. Students will showcase their skills in interpreting theory, concepts and methods from media arts, entertainment, interactive media, and competence in collaborating with scientists, health professionals, and industry experts. A component of the project must has its origin or culmination in placing an intervention in the hands of stakeholders, or in the evaluation of the intervention’s impact.

Course Objective:

The purpose of this course is to prepare students transdisciplinary collaboration with teams of artists, designers, scientists, health professionals, and engineers, whose joint mission is to develop and evaluate interventions focused on improving human health and the experience of living. All MA candidates are required to complete a project that showcases their integrative mastery of prior and newly acquired knowledge, skills and interests.  It is recommended that preparatory work in this project begins with a directed research proposal (CTIN 590), but the student can begin work sooner. Students are permitted to complete collaborative integrative projects if they can successfully articulate a clear timeline, feasibility, individual contributions and an alternate plan for completion if the collaboration becomes unsustainable. Building upon prior art and research (e.g., MFA thesis projects, sponsored research) is highly recommended because the project will be graded on the merit and impact of the intervention as a whole (vs. the aesthetic qualities or innovation of a standalone interactive artifact).

The following are examples of integrative projects:

  • Design/development of an original creative intervention based on rigorous formative research, or
  • Design adaptation of an existing intervention based on rigorous formative research, or
  • Deployment and evaluation of an original or adapted intervention.


The goal of the integrative project is to work toward a goal that showcases all the candidate's skills into one or more deliverables, ending with some reflective writing. One is expected to work 8-10 per week in one semester to get as far as possible on proposed deliverables in a realistic research setting where plans change and one has to pivot. The integrative project is about experiencing the research process while participating in the workflow of the center, a team, and or other lab activities. It is not a thesis or dissertation to be defended and students act more as catalysts and consultants on projects rather than principal investigators.

  • Review the literature of prior games interventions in middle school children for nutrition; use the review as part of the rationale for a board game prototype to improve healthy food choices; conduct a small usability study with the prototype and summarize the findings.
  • Conduct a usability/playability study of an existing virtual reality experience in adults with chronic pain; tailor the experience based on the findings and conduct a follow-up study.
  • Assist or conduct a pilot randomized controlled trial using a mobile application for mindfulness meditation in college students; include user experience measures and methods; organize and code data and perform a partial analysis.


Advisory committee – Students need to form a committee of at least three members (USC faculty member, scientist or health professional, stakeholder). The criteria for successful completion of the integrative project will be set by the program director, and the project committee advisors.

Project proposal – Students must complete a brief proposal 3-5 pages outlining the project problem space background and significance, prior art and research completed by the student, design plan and/or research plan, collaborator list, budget, timeline and expected deliverables (including the format of the final report). It is highly recommended to build on creative works that have been previously explored in the Creative Media & Behavioral Health Center, and its research partners. This practice will help completion of projects in a timely manner and train the students on the true nature of collaboration, which includes being able to pick up where someone left off.

Project completion/Schedule – Students must provide a ½ page bi-weekly report of completed activities by email to their committee and meet with their advisors regularly, in person or remotely. The advisors will provide additional requirements if necessary, such as completion of institutional review board research protocol, or a change in development platform.

Final report – Students must submit a final report in the appropriate format depending on the nature of the integrative project. This may be in the form of video documentation, research paper, game design document, dataset with codebook, or other format. 

Intellectual Property In general, intellectual property of original creative works belongs to the students. The nature of the integrative project may require permission for use or adaptation of a creative intervention. Students are required to obtain such use permission by previous inventors, to share data as a result of research (unidentified), and acknowledge prior inventors and researchers in their publications. Research that is based on sponsored projects will follow the guidelines set forth by the sponsor. Students must provide a written statement that acknowledges their rights and responsibilities related to intellectual property as a result of their integrative project.

Grading Criteria: Course will be graded Credit/No Credit, and that students will need to do B-level work or better to get a grade of Credit. The project will be graded on its intelectual merit (30%), potential impact (30%), level of completion (30%), documentation (10%).