Sam Hansen
Class of 2024 graduate, Sam Hansen, B.S., computer science. (Steve Zylius/UC Irvine)

Hailing from Sacramento, Sam Hansen – who uses the pronouns they/them/their – has always loved indie video games, favorites being Citizen Sleeper, Undertale, Deltarune, Outer Wilds, Gloomwood, Return of the Obra Dinn, and Elite Dangerous.

Since childhood, Hansen has wanted to create their own video games. Introduced to programming by their father early on, Hansen has been getting closer and closer to fulfilling that dream. 

Now, Hansen is a video game developer and programmer who has been an AI programmer on Project Ether and a user interface programmer on Sling & Fling. Hansen has also participated in the Ludum Dare event, where – in a team of three – they programmed a game from scratch in only 72 hours.

At UC Irvine, Hansen is researching gaming for impaired players. They’re also a programming officer in the Video Game Development Club and former president of the cybersecurity club. Currently, Hansen is starting a game project they hope to release, after graduation, as a commercial game. They would like to continue as an indie game developer but are open to working at larger companies.

What was your favorite class at UC Irvine? 

My favorite class at UCI has been Special Topics in Game Programming, taught by lecturer Darryl Despie. I’m not a game design and interactive media major, but as a game developer and officer of the Video Game Development Club, I know many people in the major. Friends of mine were taking the course, and I chose to sit in. During that first lecture, I registered to join, and it turned out to be my favorite class. It’s one of the few courses that teach important engineering concepts specifically applied to game development. I had a blast taking this course with my friends, and I loved the discussions we all had with the professor.

What advice would you give to your first-year self?

The best thing you can do at UCI is to join student organizations. Find a club related to your interests, a social club, a student meetup. Join something that will give you a community. If all you’re doing is going to classes, you’re not getting everything you can out of university. Finding a community of friends is, in my opinion, the most important thing you can do in university. These are people you’ll know for years to come. It’s also a great time to explore your interests at new clubs.

“Over the past three years, mentoring Sam has been an honor and a joy. Their pivotal role in developing a therapeutic play system using Minecraft cannot be overstated, showcasing a blend of deep understanding, creativity and collaborative spirit. Sam’s contributions have been instrumental, helping to shape the project’s success. I have full confidence in Sam’s ability to continue making meaningful contributions in the future, and I am proud to have been a part of their journey.”

– Mark Baldwin, informatics lecturer

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