Daniel Padilla and Brandon Charles posing for the camera at the Stickxx Gaming Tournament.

School and year:

Second year at the College of Alameda. Accepted to several University of California schools, including UC Santa Barbara, to study mathematics for fall 2017.


Name your favorite video game(s):

“The Last of Us,” by Naughty Dog. I really love the story and the game play. It’s one of the only games I’ve ever finished that got me intrigued about the campaign. The relationship between the main characters were interesting, as was seeing how relationships develop over time between strangers who never met each other, like a father and daughter relationship.


Name the first video game you played:

“Pac Man.” I was around 6 years old and I played it to pass the time. I received my first console around then as well – GameCube by Nintendo. I had that until PS3 came out.


How long have you been with Gameheads?

I’ve been with Gameheads for about two years. I heard about it during my last year in high school — I thought I wanted to pursue video games then so I told a coordinator for College Track. I chose Gameheads because it was more specifically focused around video games.


What team are you a part of and what game are you making?

I’m part of the Evil Goatee Clan. We’re making “Project Desolation.” It’s a story-based game about immigrants who are crossing from Latin America to the U.S. The main character lives in Guatemala. The player is exposed to different hazards in an attempt to get to Mexico, then across the U.S. border. We use aspects of folklore when we get towards the Mexican-American border. The border is called Devil’s Highway — that’s the only place where border patrol doesn’t have sensors. There have been a lot of deaths and supernatural things there, and we wanted to incorporate that aspect into the game.


The game will also feature interviews with people who actually tried to cross or did cross over to the U.S. We wanted to teach players about the realities of why people chose to leave their homelands for the U.S. and what they have to do to get here.


How did you come up with this idea?

We came up with the idea after learning about Trump’s speech when he first announced his candidacy for president. In that speech, he said how Mexicans are rapists, murderers, and drug dealers. That put an unfair judgment about people who are trying to cross — they are not those things. We wanted to bring awareness of the border crossings. People who cross the border are not bad people. They’re just looking for a better life.


What’s the best part of building the game?

The work. I like to be productive. I’m the type of person who falls into doing work. I don’t like wasting time. That’s what draws me to game design. Being productive by playing video games — for game designers, that’s a very productive way to spend time because you’re always learning.


What’s the most challenging part of building the game?

The creative part is challenging. I don’t lean very heavily on that side. I’m a math major. I rely on numbers and analysis and extraction.


Who is/was your mentor?

JD Yaske. He taught me about game design and helped me understand how to bring the whole project into something tangible and realistic. We had a lot of big ideas and he helped us make it into something we could actually do. For example, he helps with level design and how we could reduce and eliminate unnecessary work to make the project more doable.


Why video games?

You can expose people to things you can’t do otherwise in other media. In the case of immigration, there are already tons of media, news reports, TV, etc. about the topic. But it’s not necessarily getting through to people. In video games, you’re playing as a young adult who is crossing. You’re making decisions as if you’re crossing. It’s different than say, a movie, where the director makes the decision of what you’ll see. In video games, you make the decision. As a player, you get more choices. It’s almost as if you’re in that person’s shoes.


What is your tech superpower?

My dedication and my need to complete things. A lot of other people would have let the project die off, especially in our case because we started over so many times and went through so many iterations. It felt like we were making no progress but I kept with it and am making sure it is being completed.


Where do you see yourself in the future?

I plan to pursue my PhD in mathematics. I don’t see myself in the game industry as I once did. Once I started taking math courses, I realized that’s what I want to spend my time doing.


How is Gameheads helping?

Being in Gameheads helped me decide I want to pursue math. It helped me realize by exposing me to different areas of game design. One area of design is balancing out the game, for example, balance out the economy so that nothing is overpowering and everything falls into play. One of our instructors, Marcus Montgomery, introduced me to someone who does that. He uses math to make sure everything works out. That exposure, and taking mathematics courses made me want to pursue math in its pure form rather than different ways of applying it, although that would be cool too.