James Earl Cox III (Class of 2014)

  • photo of James Coxco-founder and director of Seemingly Pointless (a media studio)
  • English/Creative Writing, Mass Communication, and Interactive Media Studies majors (BA & BS, Miami, 2014)
  • adapted a Ray Bradbury short story into an award-winning computer game, The World the Children Made, as part of his final Miami Honors project
  • set a goal to make 100 games in 5 years (currently at 81 at the time of writing)
  • awarded Media Choice Award at IndieCade 2016 and Honorable Mention at Independent Games Festival 2017
  • recognized by Forbes in its "30 Under 30" games list (Class of 2017)

My Profession

"I'm a graduate student in the University of Southern California's Interactive Media and Game Design program and co-founder of Seemingly Pointless 'nightmare media' studio. I'm working on my USC Master's thesis project and finishing up a self-set challenge of making 100 games in 5 years. Because of the output this challenge requires, a good chunk of my year is dedicated to creating games: designing, coding, 'art-ing'. Often this involves collaborating with other designers and digital artists.

"While I was at Miami, I started this game-making goal, and the challenge has helped me immensely. Even if I wasn't to complete it, the 80+ games I've made so far have provided the groundwork to get into USC, and many have won awards and been displayed internationally. This all combined to my achieving the games-focused Forbes 30 Under 30 list (Class of 2017).

"Currently, I'm finishing my final year at USC, completing my 100 games in 5 years challenge, and looking ahead to creating and releasing commercial games. All of my prior projects test out mechanics, art, narratives, and styles to be reused in larger games, almost like prototypes. In this way, it'll be easy to hit the ground running."

My Academic Career at Miami

"I came into Miami as an English/Creative Writing major. I always loved crafting fiction and felt it would be a fine fit as I explored other areas of Miami. I grew to love my classes, but I wanted to branch out to other storytelling mediums.

"I then took up the Mass Communication major with a focus on Production, which taught basic editing, film theory, and how to work on a set. These skills are invaluable, but I knew I didn't have the budget needed to tell my stories, so I became a triple major by adding Interactive Media Studies. Here, I was able to use what I had learned across all 3 majors to translate short fiction into videogames and create games of my own.

"Creative writing provided me with a confident voice for writing and gave me a backlog of theory I can apply to the stories I tell through games. Film studies taught me the importance of editing and framing; elements that are present within games as well as films. Finally, Interactive Media Studies provided me with a medium I could explore and craft in. Having an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of written fiction, film, and games is invaluable when creating within each."

Best Miami Experiences

"There are two experiences that I adored at Miami: Humans vs Zombies and exploring campus. Being the creative director for Miami's Humans vs Zombies (aka MUndead) game was an amazing opportunity. As an alternate reality game (ARG), Humans vs Zombies differs from other games in that it plays over the course of a week, 24/7, live on campus. The basic rules of this game are that some players are zombies, and by tagging human players, the zombie players turn human players into zombies. It's like a prolonged game of shark and minnow [variant of British Bulldog].

"Running a live action game like Humans vs Zombies requires making a plot, nightly missions, characters, props, and then running it for a full week. It was an exhausting but fantastic opportunity to experience leadership in a game design role that not many people occupy. I'm extremely grateful to the rest of the MUndead team for handling funds, setting up meetings, and accomplishing everything needed for running the game.

"My second fond memory has to do with Miami's campus. When I was a freshman and sophomore, I changed dorms every semester, exploring new places and living in different quads. By graduation, I had lived in every quad at Miami (Western was the best). One element that didn't change was my fondness for night walks. Particularly in the winter, I enjoyed tracing around the snowy campus when no one else was out. In warmer weather, I was jogging and running down the same paths. Miami is big enough and the scenery is varied enough that you seldom pass anything or anyone twice!"

Miami and the Liberal Arts

"A liberal arts education was important for me, as it afforded the time and classes to explore any areas of interest I might have had. It lent a taste of what the courses would be like, should I have decided to go along any particular path.

"I took a range of classes from departments that interested me: from History of the British Empire to Intro to Psychology to Microbiology. All of them added to my understanding and ultimately gives my stories and games a well-rounded perspective. More so, the range of courses and majors offered at Miami is astounding."

Advice to Students

"Make your time count. You only have so much of it at Miami, and you need to find a career you're so passionate about you'd rather stay in and work than go out for the night. Graduate programs, employers, and future business partners could care about grades, but all of them especially care about dedication and a portfolio. Especially in creative fields that demand practice, you have to keep working it, and classes will never be enough.

"Several of my L.A. friends came from Miami's Mass Communication Program. Editors, agents, freelancers — it's there if you look and have the portfolio. Other friends from Miami's Interactive Media Studies program are now employed at game companies across America. The majority of these careers are contingent on us knowing our strengths and weaknesses through practice and having the portfolio to back us up.

"But make sure to turn off your phone, clear up some time, and explore the campus too. Miami has been repeatedly voted as one of the most beautiful campuses in America — it's worth a stroll!"

[January 2017]