Lishan AZ Named Among Forbes’ 30 Under 30 Shaping the Future of Gaming

Lishan AZ
—Photo courtesy of Lishan AZ

Forbes recently named Lishan AZ ’12 to their prestigious annual list of 30 Under 30 who are “leading a technological and artistic revolution” in gaming. She is a designer focused on transforming the ways people interact with systems and each other through games that foster discovery and social awareness.

“Games and interactive media offer a unique opportunity for transformation because players cannot consume what you make passively,” AZ said. “Play invites people to learn experientially; they are prompted to do something.”

As she completes her Master of Fine Arts degree at the University of Southern California, AZ is working on her thesis project, Tracking Ida, an educational game inspired by the pioneering African-American investigative journalist Ida B. Wells. The game, set to launch in high school classrooms in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles this March, challenges players to comb through historical archives (with the help of a phonograph), solve puzzles, role-play as investigative journalists, and harness social media to spread the word about issues affecting their community today. She is currently seeking funding to bring the game to more schools after she graduates in May.

AZ’s other games include On the Safe Side, which helps new students explore the USC campus; Ascension, a turn-based tabletop strategy game; and The Locker, a puzzle game that uses a smartphone camera and a physical locker.

The collaborative environment at Columbia Engineering was important preparation for creating innovative interactive media alongside engineers, writers, artists, composers and many others, AZ said.

“Making the Forbes list is an encouraging sign that folks are seeing the work I do as relevant and valuable,” she said. “It’s an honor not only to me but to my mentors, who guide me generously in my career, and to my collaborators, who work tirelessly to help bring my designs to fruition.”

by Jesse Adams

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