Meet the Winners: Kieran Luscombe

Kieran LuscombeContinuing our spotlight on the STEM Challenge Winners, we are pleased to introduce you to Kieran Luscombe, winner of the Gamestar Mechanic High School prize.

When presented with a set of tools, Kieran says that he always “finds a use for everything and then I use it to the best of my ability.” And by always pushing himself, he managed to create An Untold Adventure, the best High School Gamestar Mechanic game, in this year’s National STEM Video Game Challenge!

A 10th grader from Thornton, CO, Kieran was first introduced to Gamestar Mechanic through a school elective on game design. Kieran has always loved playing games, thinking about games, and even dreamed of designing video games, but was unsure where to begin. Unlike many winners, he had a lot of experience creating his own paper-based games. Kieran even created his own RPG that he and his friends enjoyed playing at recess and when hanging out. However, he had little exposure to computer programming. Once he heard of the school elective, he finally had an opportunity to flex the gaming skills he’d been honing for years.

In the class, Kieran was not taught to program; rather, “We learned how to use [game] mechanics and story to create a really unique experience for the player,” he said. “I loved learning about how to plan games and the philosophies behind what makes a game fun!”

The course’s focus on design rather than code allowed Kieran to gain programming experience through Gamestar Mechanic and for his designs to flourish despite much programming experience. Kieran admits that he had tried to use other design tools before but found that all of his games had to be “on the smaller scale because I didn’t have the programming chops to create my visions.”

As a final project, students were tasked to make the best game they could and then given the option of submitting it to the STEM Challenge. Kieran knew that for his game to stand out he had to show the judges that he understood Gamestar Mechanic even better than they did. His trick? “Find a new use for everything! Sometimes the game would suggest a purpose for some of the creatures, but I always tried to re-imagine how I could use each item. I had a vision and I knew that, sometimes, the only way to build it was to find new ways to use each item.”

However, he acknowledges that it wasn’t just his clever problem solving that saved the day. Kieran’s teacher, Mr. Murphy, “was a BIG help.” He would teach the class gaming trips and common traps. “He always pushed us and found the ways that each individual could improve his or her ability.”

Kieran had more than just a teacher as support, he was able to draw upon years of creating worlds in Minecraft and of designing his own model railroad set. “I guess I’ve always loved to build things,” he acknowledges. Kieran first began creating trains, spaceships, and legos when he was a kid and that creative spirit has persisted. When not running cross-country or hanging out with friends, he spends his time working on a model railroad with his dad and younger brother.

trainsWorking on the railroad helped Kieran flex his design skills and helped him develop the problem-solving skills that helped him throughout the competition. Perhaps, most significantly, it taught him persistence and to never give up when things get complex. He and his family have been collaborating on the railroad for the past nine years!  Kieran has no interest in stopping. He confesses, “some say a model railroad never stops growing…”

And we hope that Kieran’s passion for creating games never stops growing, and it looks like it won’t. For Kieran, winning the competition was exciting because “now I can use the laptop that I won to teach myself to program!” He has already been reading through other designers’ codes to teach himself tricks and can’t wait to create his next game. He doesn’t know what his future holds but hopes that he can keep building.

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