News | Student Worker Aylish Turner Leading METRANS into the World of Game Design

Stop the Video



by Jacob Wong, USC Master of Public Policy, 2023

This year, USC senior Aylish Turner is taking the lead on a project at METRANS that is years in the making. Turner has been a member of the METRANS game development team since a friend recruited them in the Spring semester of their freshman year. At the time, the team was beginning development on an educational computer game about transportation topics for a K-12 student audience. Nearly three years later, the game is ready to take the next step in development toward release, leaving Turner excited and hopeful for new additions to the team, as Turner is currently the team’s only remaining member. 


Aylish Turner, Bachelor of Arts in Interactive Entertainment, USC Dornsife School & School of Cinematic Arts


“We expect to enter playtesting pretty soon, so when it comes to any updates and changes based on player feedback, the help of engineers is pretty critical,” said Turner.


Turner brings an extensive background in game design to the project as an Interactive Entertainment major. The Bachelor of Arts in Interactive Entertainment is offered by the USC Dornsife School in conjunction with the School of Cinematic Arts and gives students opportunities to gain hands-on skills in digital media arts with a focus on specialization in the video game industry. 


Before coming to USC, Turner was interested in entertainment and film and planned to go into animation. However, after taking a programming class at the end of high school, they decided to switch their focus to game design. Turner viewed USC’s Interactive Entertainment degree as a prime opportunity to pursue this newfound interest. “I was pleased to enter as a freshman into the games program and I’ve stuck with it ever since,” said Turner.


METRANS Minigame Garden


Video games play a significant role in Turner’s life outside of work and academics as well - Turner enjoys playing many games in their spare time. Stardew Valley, a popular open-world video game, is currently one of their favorites. While Turner often engages with video games as a form of entertainment, they have also come to recognize other uses for gaming and game design technologies through classes in the Interactive Entertainment program.


One example Turner offers is augmented reality (AR), which combines computer generated-content with the real world. This technology has been used prominently in video games in recent years, but Turner recognizes more practical applications for the technology as well. 


“When it comes to AR, if Siri gives you a reminder like a calendar notification, that’s changing your reality,” said Turner. “In terms of practical use for AR, a lot of focus is on assisting daily life, which I think can be quite helpful.”


While the METRANS game will not incorporate AR, it will also have applications beyond entertainment. Once completed, METRANS intends for the point-and-click game to educate students on a variety of transportation-related topics. “[The game] will inform children and their parents about the different forms of transportation in Los Angeles and how to use them,” said Turner. “It’s also meant to be a fun experience so kids can operate more safely, develop problem-solving skills, and basic things like that.”


With Turner’s time at METRANS coming to a close, their main goal for the coming year is to see the video game project released. “Now that I’m a senior I would like to see the game released on a website, whether it’s the general METRANS site or the student website - as long as the public has access to it,” they said.


METRANS Minigame Time Machine


In addition to the hard work they have put in on the video game project over the years, Turner appreciates the relationships they got to form with peers at METRANS. “Other designers and producers on the game design team were involved with other METRANS teams like K-12 and Events, so it developed into a nice social atmosphere - I started going to more METRANS activities,” said Turner. “Since it was during Covid, I thought it was nice to have this community outside my major.” 


They added, “I got to learn a lot of new things since I’m unfamiliar with public transit and public policy, and I think that will benefit me in the long run. For example, now I know how buses work!”


About the Author:

Jacob is a second-year MPP student at the Price School of Public Policy. He is interested in urban policy and transportation planning issues. As a recent LA transplant, he enjoys exploring the area and the local food scene in his free time.