Freshman Maia Ocampo Explores Links Between Her Filipino Identity and Game Design


Am I too Filipino to be considered American? Or, am I too American to be Filipino? These are questions Maia Ocampo has been asking herself throughout her adolescent years. Ocampo, a Filipino-American studying applied computer science at the Volgenau School of Engineering, struggled with finding the perfect balance between being American and Filipino. 

In her first semester of undergrad, Ocampo worked on an extensive research project in HNRS 110: Principals of Research & Inquiry. HNRS 110 allows Honors College freshmen to engage in scholarly research and develop a personal research question just as a professional scholar would. Ocampo’s research focused on how the intersection between serious games — games meant to teach specific skills to its players — and intercultural communication can improve the field of applied gaming 

Hoping to learn more about her own cultural identity, Ocampo joined Mason’s Filipino Cultural Association (FCA), to connect with others going through similar experiences. “FCA is basically like one whole big kapamelia,” said Ocampo. In Tagalog, kapamelia means “family.” Through her new kapamelia, Ocampo began to network with other individuals who could finally relate with her struggles of having intersectional identities.  

“This is a space that allows me, without judgement, to explore more traditions and facets of my Filipino heritage, all while having a lot of fun and exploring more of what being a successful Asian American means to me.” With the support of her new Filipino family at Mason, Ocampo made a promise: to challenge the game design industry and make room for ambitious women of color, such as herself. 

In a field as fresh as game design, Ocampo now sees her identity and experiences as a Filipino-American woman as a strength that will aid her in her future career. “I’d like to see more women in the game design field. Men have dominated this field for many years, and I think it's time for women to show what they’ve got,” said Ocampo.  

Ocampo plans to pitch her research and experience with game design to OSCAR’s Undergraduate Research Scholars Program (URSP). Through this program, accepted students receive a grant to conduct research and complete creative projects under the supervision of a faculty mentor. Ocampo seeks looks forward to the opportunity to continue her intersectional research regarding the intercultural links that exist in game design.  

“I try to take advantage of every opportunity so that I gain the experience and skills that will allow me to be a great representative for people of color in my future career in game design,” said Ocampo.