With the hope of bettering humanity on both a local and global level, Vineland, New Jersey-based teammates Liakadja Whitesell (age 12), Ruth Elahi (age 13), and Hannah Tamagni (age 13) created The Hunger Game, a story-driven platformer. In The Hunger Game, players move through each level learning about ways to contribute to their community. Sprinkled with engaging mini-games and supported with additional resources provided for players who are looking to learn more, The Hunger Game was a clear pick for the Middle School Games for Change award in the 2017 National STEM Video Game Challenge.
Tasked with creating an original game design as part of their STEM class at school, Liakadja, Ruth, and Hannah relished the opportunity to expand their skills as developers. “I’m definitely inspired by our STEM teacher Mrs. Flores,” says Ruth. “She plays video games, like Zelda, and she encourages us to have fun in everything we do.”
Liakadja’s advice to other students is simple: “First, find what you want to create, design, or build. Then, make it happen. You can do anything if you work hard enough and take the time to improve your skills.” Her hobbies include swimming, gymnastics, doing parkour, playing games, and watching YouTube and Netflix. After graduating, Liakadja hopes to become an engineer.
“Teamwork really does make the world go around,” says Hannah while reflecting on her STEM Challenge experience. “Remember to never give up, and that it’s important to have fun while you’re designing.” In addition to game design, she enjoys swimming and going to the beach. Hannah plans to enter the medical field after high school.
In addition to playing soccer and drawing, Ruth shares her teammates passion for swimming. After high school, she hopes to study biology or chemistry in pursuit of a careers as a biochemical engineer. “No matter if you’re a girl, or a boy, or a minority, if you want to design a game don’t let anything or anyone stop you,” says Ruth. “With practice and hard work your effort will pay off.”