As an active member of the Boys and Girls Club, 14-year-old Sanja Kirova got her start in video game design through the Game Tech and Hour of Code programs at her local club in Merrillville, Indiana. After learning about the design process and the logic behind programming, she decided to combine her three primary interests—reading, drawing, and math—and develop a video game concept of her own using Scratch. In 2014, she was named the national winner in the Game Design category for the Digital Arts Festivals, and helped younger members in the her club’s Game Tech program to develop games of their own for submission.
When the staff at the Boys and Girls Club suggested she take part in the National STEM Video Game Challenge, Sanja set out to develop a design that reflected her passion for science and math. The result was Ezcape, the winning Middle School Game Design Document entry in the 2015 National STEM Video Game Challenge. In her design document, Sanja outlines a number of puzzles, riddles, and challenges for players to tackle as they navigate a complex underground maze.
From her experience designing for the 2015 STEM Challenge, Sanja realized that the more specific details included in the designing phase of development, the easier it is to create during production. “Creating video games requires more than just an idea,” she explains. “Start with the main purpose of the game—write it down, include precise details, and answer the what, where, how, when, and why questions. Then you can organize your thoughts logically.”
In her spare time, Sanja enjoys a number of creative outlets, including drawing, photography, solving riddles, and playing volleyball. Her mother Marina is one of her greatest heroines. “She’s taught me the most valuable lessons in life (and math),” says Sanja, “she pushes me to infinity and beyond.”
Sanja recommends aspiring designers invest their time in the research process, soliciting feedback from others often. “Most importantly, don’t give up,” she cautions. “You can always go back and fix things you don’t like. Learn from your errors and try again and again.” In the future, Sanja plans to keep designing and honing her STEM skills. Her biggest takeaways from the experience? “Patience is the key to success, perseverance is key to life, and my rough draft papers are key to the recycling industry.”
Check out recent features on Sanja’s win in the news:
- Northwest Indiana Times | Portage girl wins national STEM video challenge
- Northwest Indiana Times | Video game design contest winner says “Smart is the new pretty”