At 13 years old, Ethan Pang’s path to programming was surprisingly simple—he enjoyed playing video games, became interested in writing code, and decided to combine the two by creating a game of his own. After watching a handful of videos made by a programming professor on YouTube, Ethan began developing his own games. When his mom suggested entering the 2015 National STEM Video Game Challenge, Ethan used GameSalad to program a side-scrolling puzzle game called Science Survivor, which won him the Middle School Open Platform award. “I thought of adding the learning element to the game so that players could have fun and learn science while playing the game,” says Ethan, whose game includes a series of obstacles that can only be overcome by correctly answering a series of science questions.
Based in San Jose, California, Ethan’s favorite subject in school is math, and he enjoys reading and playing video games in his free time. His go-to games are RPGs—role-playing video games—because he enjoys taking control of the events in the game, starting new quests, and having ample room to explore virtual worlds.
“The people who inspire me most are those have have innovative and daring ideas that have led them to success,” says Ethan. He plans to study computer science in college and become a computer programmer. “[And] maybe a video game designer when I become older,” he explains.
The most valuable lesson he’s learned from creating Science Survivor was commitment and perseverance. “I dedicated many hours of work and energy to creating my game,” says Ethan, “I would advise aspiring designers not to give up.” When problems arise, keep trying until they are fixed, and remember that it’s okay to ask for help when you need it, he suggests. He also recommends new programmers think creatively to generate unique ideas that will set their projects apart.
You can play Ethan’s game, Science Survivor, here:
Instructions: Reach the end of the maze by getting past the obstacles and enemies. Get past obstacles by correctly answering the questions. You begin with five health and you lose one for every incorrect answer and when you touch an enemy. Move left/right with the A/D keys. Use SPACE to jump and double jump. Jump on enemies to defeat them. Pick up health kits to gain back one health.