Meet the Winners: Thariq Ridha and Umair Zaidi

Thariq Ridha and Umair Zaidi

Thariq Ridha and Umair Zaidi

When Thariq Ridha, 14, learned about the National STEM Video Game Challenge from his parents, he was quick to confer with his friend Umair Zaidi, 16, about developing a game for the competition. Together, the Beaverton, Oregon-based duo developed B.L.O.B. (short for Big Lump of Blobs), a video game that won them the 2015 Team High School Open Platform award. B.L.O.B. players navigate the game as an ever-growing blob character—avoiding spikes, altering gravity, and completing each level by reaching a checkered tile. “I figured that short, concise levels with puzzle and reflex features would be fun for players and keep them attracted to the game,” explains Thariq. “Bright, contrasting colors and playful elements were added to create a positive and child-like environment.”

When he’s not designing games, Thariq enjoys playing soccer, yo-yoing and hanging out with friends. His favorite subject in school is computer science because of its relevance and malleability. “It allows me to create whatever I want in the digital world,” Thariq explains. After graduating, he hopes to pursue computer science further, building on his passion for game and app development, web design, and graphic design. From the STEM Challenge, he learned how important effective collaboration and teamwork are in the real world, particularly when it comes to making video games.

His teammate Umair draws much of his inspiration from his friends. “They are all amazing programmers, and sometimes—almost all of the time— I wish I had their abilities,” he explains. His favorite class is literature and composition. “Although the easiest would have to be AP calculus,” says Umair. After high school, he aspires to become a game designer and programmer.

The pair’s advice for aspiring designers is twofold: Brainstorm constantly and don’t wait to start developing. “Coming up with an idea for a game isn’t just something that happens,” says Umair. “You have to always be thinking, even when you’re not actually making a game, about what elements would make for a cool game.” Then, once you’ve got the seed of an idea, roll up your sleeves and get started. “All successful people have something in common,” explains Thariq. “They got started.”

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