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More than a video game: ASU digital culture graduate finds power in 'play'

Photo of Mia at baseball field.

Mia Ramos. Photo courtesy of Mia Ramos

April 24, 2023

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2023 graduates.

School of Arts, Media and Engineering student Mia Ramos, who is graduating this spring with a degree in digital culture with a concentration in film, said one of the important lessons she learned at Arizona State University was the importance of play. 

Growing up, I was told video games are childish and boys only play them,” she said. “Assistant Professor DB Bauer teaches that there is more to a video game than just playing a game; it is telling a story, and I want to carry this into my own work in the future through storytelling.”

Ramos turned to the idea of “play” when the pandemic began to close spaces for students to network, collaborate and partake in extracurricular activities at ASU.

Ramos found herself in the right place to create new opportunities. She was a student worker for the School of Arts, Media and Engineering’s Esports Lounge and joined a team led by systems analyst Dan Jackson, who had an idea of how to break through the barriers and build connections. The team worked collaboratively to create a Minecraft server that would allow students to interact virtually and begin building a virtual representation of ASU architecture through Minecraft, a video game that allows users to create various structures.

Ramos served mostly as a communications liaison and shared information campuswide through various outlets that incorporated her studies within the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. Studies in film allowed her to be creative and share information through storytelling and imagery.

 “This opportunity to work under the guidance of Connor Rawls and Dan Jackson has prepared me for future group projects and, in completion, provided the experience of passing work on and seeing it continue to thrive,” she said.

The Minecraft server continues to thrive. In its initial phase, which launched in fall of 2020, the server was only accessible to students within the School of Arts, Media and Engineering. Today, thanks to the help of student workers like Ramos and their leaders within the Esports Lounge, all ASU students can contact Rawls, the Esports Lounge research specialist, to connect with the server and build.

Ramos said the experience she gained working with the Minecraft project and at ASU will help her as she continues to make her dreams happen.

“My biggest goal is to join the film industry as a character animator,” she said. “I’ve loved films growing up, so character animator would be my dream come true.”

Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: I was with my older sister looking at other majors outside of film. Being a first-generation student, this major suited all my wants and needs, and I fell in love with the major as soon as I found it.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: In the past two years, I have learned a lot about myself and who I am as a creative person. My experience in college changed who I was before. I attribute success thanks to faculty at ASU, including Ernesto Reyes of Student Services. Ernesto taught that not everything needed to be perfect before submitting it and to keep trying my best.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU because of my older sister, Yvonne. I looked up to her for the longest time growing up. She’s 10 years older than I am, and she was the first one in my family to go to college. When I saw ASU and I saw her make all these friends in the community and learning all these lessons, I remember just thinking, I want to go here. Being here reminds me of my sister, and if anything I hope I made her proud.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you would give to students?

A: Learn everything you can, and don’t be afraid to show off what you can do. It doesn’t have to be perfect, and even though the world is judgmental, don’t judge yourself so harshly before you begin.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: The student Memorial Union — sitting down at the tables and people watching. It was one of the few times I liked eating by myself and hanging out with friends. I have so many good memories at (the) MU.

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