A long-distance runner, 13-year-old Lance Dugars knows how to go the distance. This very drive to cross the finish line helped him create The Brink Walker, the winning Middle School Gamestar Mechanic entry in the National STEM Video Game Challenge.
Lance, from Katy, TX is an avid Gamestar Mechanic user who has been interested in video games “for as long as I can remember.”
When he started creating his own games, Lance started experimenting with tools that would let him rapidly and freely prototype the many ideas he had in his head. Gamestar Mechanic was his favorite because “it doesn’t limit you as much as other [game design tools]. Gamestar Mechanic lets you have as many levels and make as many stories as you want.” Lance has used the tool’s flexibility to create wild stories and immersive experiences.
Many of his creations are inspired by the games he likes to play. Lance believes it is important to play a lot of other games and understand their diversity in order to be a great designer. His favorite games are massively-multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) like Destiny or Skyrim because they “there’s always something different and a new challenge to accomplish.”
Lance loves the sustained engagement from “games that take awhile to think and plan.” He prefers these to games that are short and don’t require intense concentration and focus. Through seemingly never-ending play and player-vs-player (PVP) experiences like League of Legends, Lance challenges himself to make friends, strategize and “think about what I’m doing.”
The skills and community garnered through game play fuel his involvement with Gamestar Mechanic’s active playtesting community. He loves to interact with other designers to get ideas and help them better use the tool and regularly hosts contests and organizes discussions to encourage other users to create their own games and make friends. “Some stop playing, but I’m still active,” he says. “I like playing others’ games and helping other users improve.” The community also helped him refine his game, which took about three months to create.
While the community provided support, Lance got the idea for The Brink Walker from his science class. “I had started out wanting to make a time travel game, but then we were watching videos about alternate dimensions and other cool stuff,” he says. “I thought it would be cool to put what I was learning into my game.” The story and art began to flow once he started working it.
It is not surprising that Lance got his idea from science class, as this is his favorite subject in school. He loves “doing the experiments and stuff in lab. They’re so much fun to do.” Lance loves to create in the physical and virtual world. His favorite experiment involved a design challenge where they had to build a bridge to withstand a large amount of weight but built only out of sticks, straws, tape, and glue. His bridge could hold up to 70 pounds!
This love of creating inspires Lance to keep going and supporting other designers. “It takes a long time, sometimes you want to quit,” he says, “especially if working by yourself. But keep working on it because it will be worth the effort when you finish it.
We’d imagine that Lance takes this same attitude to the races he runs on his school’s cross country team. The long distances relax him as he gets in the zone and pushes his body to run as far as it can. He also plays french horn, making him one of the many STEM Challenge winners to play an instrument.
Lance continues to design games, inspired by playing the other winners’ games and visiting Schell Games in Pittsburgh. There, he learned more about what a game design company looks like while people are working there and how fun it could be. When he grows up, he wants to “be a game designer and design MMORPG games because I’ve been thinking of one that I could make ever since I started making games.”
Fueled by what he saw in Pittsburgh and the ongoing support of the Gamestar Mechanic community, Lance knows he will get there. He just needs to keep racing towards the finish.