Anthony Tan is a high-school student in Australia whose surreal adventure game, Way to the Woods, is due out next year, and has already generated a lot of excitement among games journalists. “You play as a deer and their fawn trying to find their way home in a sleepy, abandoned world,” Tan says.
“I think I’d like to go to uni after my completing my current project,” says 18-year-old Tan, who “started off making crappy little Flash games on the side for fun in about Year 8 or 9.”
While not everyone is going to make millions off their own game, it still scratches an entrepreneurial itch, Tan says: “Video games are fun for me because I get to dip my toes into all of those fields: creating, designing, modelling, sculpting, painting, engineering, composing.”
‘Serious games’ to promote a cause
A lot of young people have used this democratisation of resources to be innovative in a particular way: promoting ideas to improve society. Games that touch on gender identity, cultural politics or mental health care.
As a concept, this isn’t new, either. The World Food Programme released what it described as “the world’s first humanitarian video game” nearly 13 years ago: called Food Force, it was released in seven languages and aimed to teach kids about world hunger.
But what is new is that young budding video game developers are doing this on their own, and even pursuing careers doing so at university.
“We have people coming to school to make serious games because they want to make games that make a difference,” Altizer says.
Altizer himself does this at the Therapeutic Games and Apps lab at the University of Utah, which focuses on creating games that help spinal cord injury patients do exercises that prevent pressure sores from wheelchair use, or games that give social workers VR tours of fictional homes to spot dangers for children inside.