Cute animals and mobile gaming inspire student exhibit at Imagine RIT

Student spotlight
Rebecca Vessal, third-year game design and development

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Rebecca Vessal, a third-year game design and development student

Rebecca Vessal combined her desire to get back in shape with her love of cute animals in her iOS game Petathon. Festivalgoers at the Imagine RIT: Innovation and Creativity Festival on May 4 can burn some calories and try out her new game first-hand on the second floor of the Computer Zone.

Question: Where are you from?
Answer: I’m from Granada Hills, Calif., which is in Los Angeles County.

Q: What brought you to RIT?
A: I found RIT’s video game design and development program to be very unique compared to other colleges’ programs. RIT’s has a more balanced curriculum of both design (art and conceptual design of games) and development (programming implementation) of games.

Q: What is something unusual that you’ve done?
A: Last weekend, I went to Point Pelee National Park to go bird watching with my Adventures in Ornithology class. I rediscovered my passion for bird photography and being able to identify birds wherever I go.

Q: What is something that most people might not know about you?
A: I am a big foodie, meaning that I love to try out all sorts of food from different cultures despite the appearance of the food itself.

Q: What types of things do you do around campus?
A: I am involved in the Women in Computing club, which encourages more girls to join computing majors through various events, such as visiting local elementary and middle schools to teach them rudimentary programming. I also help employers with their events and career fairs, as a RIT Co-op and Career Services student ambassador. I’m also hosting an exhibit at Imagine RIT 2013.

Q: How did you get involved with exhibiting at the Imagine RIT: Innovation and Creativity Festival?
A: I signed up for Imagine RIT to showcase Petathon, a game that a team of friends and I made for the RIT iOS App Challenge, hosted by the Society of Software Engineers in spring quarter 2013.

Q: What is Petathon?
A: Petathon is a multi-player iOS exercise game where you train along with your pet. You can choose from a puppy, kitty or Nyan Cat as your virtual pet exercise partner. As you compete against your friends in mini-games such as running, hurdles and jump rope, your exercise movements are reflected in your pet. For example, as you run, your virtual pet runs on the iPad screen. It’s fun to play with your friends and family and you get the added bonus of exercise.

Q: Where did the idea for the Petathon game come from?
A: My original concept came from my desire to get back in shape and my love for cute animals, with inspiration from the Tamagotchi toy and NintendoDogs. By gamifying exercise, there was incentive for me to get back in shape. My team members expanded upon this idea by suggesting it could be both multi-player and single-player.

Q: What will you do with the game after Imagine RIT?
A: In the future, I hope to create a store so players can purchase toys for their pets, have a calorie counter, survival running and jumping mode for leadership board scores and more exercise mini games for the players to participate in with their pets. We should have the iOS game in the app store in a few weeks.

Q: What do you plan on doing next?
A: I am hoping to develop more personal iOS apps and create open source iOS libraries that anyone can easily integrate into their apps and games. After graduation, I would love to be a full-time developer at Apple and truly become an expert in mobile technologies.

Q: Any advice you would give to other RIT students?
A: Never be afraid to take a risk. You never know what you can accomplish until you do so. Taking risks helps you develop both your character and your skills.

Scott Bureau covers student affairs for University News. Contact him at with “Student Spotlight” suggestions.