ESA Foundation

Honoring Backgrounds and Big Dreams

The ESA Foundation celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month by sharing, in their own words, the skills, stories and aspirations of its nine 2021-22 scholars.

Emanuel Acosta Gonzalez

Junior, Atlantic University College

“When designing video games, I look for ways to implement environments from my homeland of Puerto Rico since I'm fascinated by its landmarks and geography. While traveling through the island, I wonder how these landscapes could be implemented in different games. So I imagine a game where the player is hiking through tropical rainforests or going to a plaza filled with shops and Hispanic colonial architecture. I want the player to experience the beautiful landscapes of my homeland.”

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Valeria Arenas

Freshman, Neumont College of Computer Science
Game Development

“My heritage is something I take into consideration when creating. I lived along the border between Mexico and Texas, and not long ago, I went back to Juarez and saw how my family’s hard work paid off. I push myself to share my heritage through games. Designs, stories and characters allow me to share my culture and things many within our community experience. I will always represent my heritage while showing that all I had to do was ponerme las pilas.”

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Randen Banuelos

Junior, University of California—Irvine
Computer Game Science

“I use my games as a way explore my heritage, alongside having them act as resources for other people outside of the Hispanic community to learn about the culture. Through subtle, fluid methods, such as incorporating Hispanic textiles in character designs or using traditional Latino instruments as a part of the game's soundtrack, I infuse my games with my culture while focusing on an enjoyable game experience, combining both of my passions into one creation.” 

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Natalie Briceno

Junior, University of Texas at Austin
Art and Entertainment Technologies

“One vital thing needed for the creative process to thrive is diversity. Game development has been a home for me to explore. From silly references in game dialogue to hinted meanings and themes, a bit of my heritage is reflected. I believe that my Hispanic identity serves a very important purpose in game development; it makes my games unique. This is true of every identity brought into the realm of video game creation.”

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Keith Gonzalez

Freshman, Rochester Institute of Technology
Game Design and Development

“Coming from a family that is financially challenged, paying for ‘premium education’ was out of the picture. Fortunately, due to the internet and Latinx programs like All Star Code, I was able to meet people in computer science who gave me the tools I needed. If you are truly hungry for your goals, ask as many questions as you can and be OK with accepting obstacles. You are not alone, and you can get anything if you work hard enough for it.”


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Darcy Gutierrez

Junior, New York University
Game Design

“While attending NYU’s Game Center, I’m surrounded by so many talented game developers of diverse backgrounds. Not only am I able to talk with people from all over the world, I have grown to appreciate my own culture more as a Latinx person. Therefore, when making games myself, I am adamant about creating spaces for people of different backgrounds. Latinx spaces are very limited in game development, and I want to make sure that I help expand it.”

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Roland Munguia

Senior, DigiPen Institute of Technology
Computer Science

“The sense of community and comradeship with my fellow Hispanics is what I take from my heritage. I look forward to connecting with and helping other Hispanics, whether it’s supporting their indie games, helping them through their studies or just introducing them to other like-minded individuals. I enjoy seeing people succeed, and I encourage other Hispanic game developers to be more active in their video game communities and improve the space for the next generation.” 


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Gianni Plaza-Pizarro

Junior, Atlantic University College
Video Game Programming

“Growing up in Puerto Rico, our mythical landscapes, our charming people and our rich history have been big inspirations for the projects I create. From the mysteries of El Yunque Rainforest to the depths of Las Cavernas de Camuy, I grew up falling in love with fantastical storytelling, thanks to the stories I myself learned from our beautiful, enchanted island—Borinquen."

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Calex Raffield

Freshman, University of California—Santa Cruz
Computer Science

"My Hispanic/Filipino heritage has influenced not only the types of games I play but how I work on them. When working on a project with friends, I try not to set a rigid structure, instead taking a more communal approach to making important decisions and orienting team direction. I believe that my approach to game development stems back to how I was raised and taught to work with others, especially in my family."

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