The hands-on learning experience at Chapman Engineering provides limitless value to our engineering students. Our undergraduate students are encouraged by industry-experienced faculty to pursue larger-than-life projects despite the odds. 

Fabian Bautista (English Major, Game Development Minor ‘24) and Victoria Taurizano (Screenwriting Major, Game Development Minor, and Computer Science Minor ‘24) persisted in creating a game concept far beyond their years of experience. Over nine months, these two students, alongside instructors Julia King and Jon Humphreys, coordinated with a group of students from various backgrounds and interdisciplinary majors to complete Sect-Machina, a 2-D pixelated-style, side-scroller game. What was once a class project evolved into an independent group study, which proceeded to win Most Polished at the 2023 IEEE GameSig Awards.

The main character, Mona, is holding a bat. Surrounding the character is a dark city scene.

Sect-Machina is a fluid, atmospheric bug-themed Metroidvania rendered in a vibrant 2D pixelated style.

Pushing Against the Odds

For Bautista and Taurizano, winning this award reinforced their confidence in their capabilities. Although they had amateur game-creation skills, the two students did not doubt their fearlessness. Their complex identities gave them the assurance to face the odds with unwavering determination and grit. 

“I think that’s the biggest thing. We were able to come together and kind of prove everybody wrong about our game and show that it was possible with enough grit and perseverance. We could do it,” said Taurizano.

Diversity Pushes the Boundaries of Game Development

Bautista is a transfer student from Citrus Community College. At Chapman University Bautista pursued an English degree and Game Development Minor. As a student who was once surrounded by Hispanic-American culture, Bautista found himself carrying the weight of internalized pressure for success on his shoulders as he entered Chapman.

“I have a lot of obligations from my family, my cousins, my friends because where I grew up, not all of my friends made it out. And they were never given the opportunity to leave or escape. They were perpetually trapped in a lower class. And I feel I have to graduate and be successful because I have to do it for them.” said Bautista.

A priority for his academic journey at Chapman was to make an impact and supersede any doubts others might have about him. 

Taurizano harbors a similar pressure as an Argentinian-born student, who feels a tremendous debt to her parents. At the age of two, Taurizano left her native home in Argentina and relocated to a new country with only her parents by her side, but no one by theirs. 

“They left everything behind for me. And they didn’t have any support out here. That’s a huge sacrifice. How do you even come to repay something like that? And they’ve never asked me to repay it,” Taurizano shared. 

Their complex experiences with their identities motivated them to create a game with a sophisticated narrative and features that impressed Julia King, Game Development Instructor and Senior Director of Production at Second Dinner. “And a thing that really stood out to me was Fabian. I feel like he drove a lot of the tone and the narrative and he was a very strong lead in that, and being able to set expectations and show what it looks like to the team. Those are very sophisticated behaviors,” said King. 

Julia King is one of many instructors at Chapman Engineering with extensive knowledge in the industry. She’s worked in the game development industry for twenty years and was blown away by the maturity and skills of Chapman students. “Fowler [School of Engineering] seems like a truly excellent institution and it seems to nurture these very thoughtful nuanced students who, even when they’re starting, are approaching things with a level of sophistication I certainly did not have when I was starting in my career,” shared King. 

These Chapman students were able to tap into the most unexpected resource of a college student’s experience: a game development expert. Bautista and Taurizano worked alongside King to plan, perfect, and polish a game composed of a story worth telling.

Although King worked more directly with Taurizano and Bautista, she knows from her experience of game creation that it is always a team effort.

Interdisciplinary Student Collaboration

A prominent characteristic of Chapman Engineering is fostering a community of collaborative students. When Bautista and Taurizano needed extra hands to bring their game concept to life, it was easy to receive support. “I think that’s what made our project kind of unique in the sense that we had a lot of volunteers helping out”, explained Taurizano. 

This group of 13 students rapidly became more than just project peers. After many late nights and group bonding activities, Taurizano and Bautista believed they created more than a game–they created lifelong friendships. “I think what we really value out of this project is now we’ve ended up with a great bunch of lifelong friends, who are probably going to go into the industry with us,” shared Taurizano. 

A group of four students posing for a picture with peace signs.

Taurizano and Bautista are pictured with their other two members, Berek Bigos and Kaisa Horness.

On the journey of game creation, Taurizano and Bautista did more than they ever imagined; they created a tight-knit community of student game developers, found lifelong friends, gained industry connections, received an award from an intercollegiate computer game competition, and found their new career paths.

Prior to this experience, Taurizano’s focus was set on the film industry. But due to Chapman Engineering’s hands-on game development program, Taurizano was able to broaden her horizons to consider an interdisciplinary career. However, it’s not enough for her to earn her spot in game development: she plans to revolutionize the industry. 

“I know that part of what I want is to be able to push for that diversity in games,” shared Taurizano

The Next Chapter for the Duo

Taurizano and Bautista came to Chapman as two students ready to earn their spot in success, whatever form this may take. As the two students prepare to graduate in the fall 2023 semester, they’re entering the next phase of their lives with invaluable resources and connections to move forward.

The past nine months gave them the opportunity to level up their game development skills for not only them but also the other students involved. With well-rounded portfolios, these students will enter the professional field with a profound edge.

For now, the award-winning game Sect-Machina is available to play on Steam, a video game digital distribution service. Taurizano and Bautista plan to revisit their game in the years to come after spending time in the game development industry.