California high school student Sooraj Suresh was asleep when his father entered his room to tell him he had just won the National STEM Video Game Challenge. Sooraj was excited of course. But, like a typical teenager, he wasted no time in going back to sleep.
The next day at school his friends congratulated him on his award-winning game, Pixel Star One. They all wanted to try it out as soon as possible.
In person at the Games for Change festival last month (which he attended with his parents and younger brother to receive his award) Sooraj remained modest about his accomplishments. But if anyone has reason to boast, it’s Sooraj. With help from his father, he first learned how to create animated GIFs at age nine. Later, he taught himself to make his animations interactive using the GameMaker platform.
When he heard about the National STEM Video Game Challenge, Sooraj knew he had to apply. Creating the game was the easy part: he designed the prototype in 20 minutes. “I was thinking I should create something really simple,” he said, adding on features and implementing new ideas as they came. After much testing and editing, he submitted the final version not just to the STEM Challenge but also to the Google Play Store. Google accepted his game, but Sooraj took it down after deciding to make some changes to improve gameplay.
He hopes to make the new version of Pixel Star One available soon. Until then, anyone looking to learn by his example can take note of his minimalist approach to game design. Even the short marketing description of Pixel Star One offers a thoughtful lesson on the journey one can expect to go on when designing a game: “a small space craft launched into the depths of space to see how long it can survive and how far it can travel.”