With only one level to go before receiving his black belt, 11-year-old Nathan Kuravackal drew on his extensive training in Taekwondo to create Can’t Catch Me!, winner of the Nat Geo Explore Game Design Document Middle School category in the 2016 National STEM Video Game Challenge. The Tacoma, Washington native was inspired by his instructor Master Shon to create a puzzle-based game with a ninja as the main character. In Can’t Catch Me!, players travel through real-world destinations avoiding obstacles, battling enemies, and solving puzzles. “I picked locations that I had some personal connection to,” Nathan explains, featuring settings like Kerala, India where his grandparents grew up and Milford Sound, a fjord in New Zealand near the area where his family’s recent exchange students visited them from.
When he’s not practicing martial arts, Nathan enjoys reading, playing puzzle and adventure games, and performing piano and clarinet with the jazz band. Nathan hopes to attend MIT when he’s older, and dreams of becoming an architect or engineer. He’s looking forward to turning Can’t Catch Me! into a playable game in the coming year as he teaches himself Unity. “I want to include real sounds like Master Shon’s voice, my friend’s evil laugh, and fighting sounds from the Taekwondo studio,” says Nathan, who plans to publish his game in the App Store once complete.