“I’ve always been interested in crafting stories,” says Caleb Koo, a 15-year-old from Galena, Ohio. “And telling stories through a video game is very easy.” Caleb designed Conquering the Underworld, which won the Middle School Gamestar Mechanic category of the 2016 National STEM Video Game Challenge. In this “choose your own adventure”-style game, players navigate a complex underworld collecting tools, defeating enemies, and exploring new levels. “The idea of meeting a variety of characters under different circumstances appealed to me, so I chose to incorporate that,” says Caleb about the inspiration for his design.
When he’s not designing his own games, Caleb enjoys reading, writing, playing video games, and doing parkour. His favorite subject in school is math, and after high school he hopes to become a doctor or engineer. For Caleb, creativity is the driving force behind any good game design—whether that creativity is demonstrated through an innovative storyline or in unexpected gameplay mechanics. He’s also found that inspiration can strike anytime and anyplace. “Sometimes when I’m in the car or waiting in line at a restaurant, I think of new ideas,” Caleb explains. “I write them down and later insert them into my games or writing.”