When 15-year-old Thomas Cannon began to feel limited by the customization options available while playing his favorite video games, his solution was simple: He would learn to program and build his own characters and stories. The San Jose, California-based student first heard about the National STEM Video Game Challenge when he was in fifth grade, and created a gamed called Dr. Duckenheimer for the competition. When he didn’t win with his first submission, Thomas continued to hone his skills and produced Peg Leg Patrick’s Buoyancy Adventure, which won the High School Open Platform award in the 2015 National STEM Video Game Challenge. The game is based on Archimedes’ principle, and explores how buoyancy can be manipulated through activities in shipbuilding.
An avid musician, Thomas enjoys playing music on his guitar and trombone, and his favorite subject in school is band. He draws much of his inspiration from his parents: Thomas’s dad is an engineer at NASA and his mom is a sculptor. “I’m also inspired by programmers like John Carmack and Ken Silverman,” he explains. The California native plans to study computer science after high school.
Having built Peg Leg Patrick’s Buoyancy Adventure modularly, Thomas recommends a similar approach to aspiring designers to ensure quick development. To take a new game to the next level, he also recommends prioritizing the visuals and branding. “Good looking art is the most important aspect in designing a video game,” Thomas explains.