In England at the turn of the last century, a young man named Jacob (whose last name is not known) was on his way to a society event dressed in his finest attire and carrying only his umbrella in case of rain. Naturally, his journey was beset with obstacles. A barrier placed in the middle of the street (by a misguided commissioner, perhaps) that could only be escalated by climbing a delivery crate. Rain clouds hanging low like giant parade balloons threatened Jacob’s neat appearance. And, worst of all, the rats ― as this was Victorian England, during one of London’s worst rodent infestations. Yet with no more than his umbrella and a few good ideas (that is, using his umbrella as a floating device and rat protection), Jacob is able to make it to the party staying (mostly) clean.
Jacob isn’t real, by the way. He is the invention of two teenage game developers from North Carolina, joint winners of the 2013 National STEM Video Game Competition for their game Etiquette Anarchy. “In the beginning, Kevin and I both agreed on making an 8-bit retro style platformer,” says Henry Edwards. “Kevin came up with the idea of ‘Etiquette’ and having to reach the end of a level as clean as possible.” Henry’s developing partner is Kevin Kopczynski. Both were 14 when they entered the competition.
Other than designing video games that draw on English history and manners, both Henry and Kevin are pretty normal teenagers. Kevin says he likes “to hang out with my friends and watch TV.” Henry is quick to describe himself as “nerdy” and likes “video games, fantasy, books, cats, anime, food, sci-fi, Homestuck, and any other nerdy thing you can think of.”
Henry also likes making lists. His introduction to video games was a journey, he says beginning with the first PlayStation system. Since then, “I’ve owned an Xbox, Gameboy Advance, Xbox 360, Wii, PC, 3DS, each with a variety of games, and I just got the new Xbox One!”
Kevin, by contrast, mostly stuck to one game he really liked. “My all-time favorite game is definitely Pokemon because it was the first video game I had ever played,” he says, adding that his favorite thing about it is that it’s nearly impossible to beat. “And even when you beat it, there is so much more to do.”
A common thread was what brought these two boys together: as interested in video games as they were, they had never thought about creating their own. “Despite all of the consoles and games I’ve played,” says Henry, “I was never really interested in designing video games.” That is until he took a tour of Ubisoft in Raleigh.
That initial visit got Henry thinking a lot about making video games, which is when he started taking classes at the Youth Digital Studios in Durham, NC. The two were placed in a class together for young game designers (Kevin had already been in classes there for about two years) and when their instructor Justin matched them up to submit a game to the STEM Competition, it seemed like fate.
Not only did they speak the same language (they both agreed that the brainstorming stage was their favorite part of the process) but it just so happened that Henry had a background in computer art and Kevin knew how to code.
After six months of development, they released Etiquette Anarchy into the iTunes App Store and waited to hear back from the STEM Challenge committee. “I was in a Java class with a friend when I got the call,” says Kevin. “I put Justin on speaker phone, and when we announced it we all went crazy and celebrated.”
Their award-winning game is still available on the iTunes App Store (for only $0.99!) and they’re in discussion about creating a version for PC and joystick. But for now, let’s hope they’re signed up to take more video game classes at YDS. We can’t wait to hear what this dynamic duo comes up with next.