Novice Game Designer Holds Fast to Compelling Vision
Could the next great wave of innovation originate not in Silocon Valley but instead middle America?
Friends and co-workers say Mark Paretsky, twenty-nine, of Omaha Nebraska has relentlessly pursued his unique vision for a video game like no other for now over two weeks. Paretsky, a sales associate by day, conceived of his earth-shaking concept sometime Tuesday or Wednesday last month. “It was like, bang, you know,” he said, “like, I couldn’t deny it. I wrote it down and got right to hammering on it.”
So what is the idea? Paretsky isn’t shy about sharing. “So, it’s like, I was watching the History Channel and there was this, like emperor or king-type figure. There was a conflict or war situation on-going. At some point, probably the end of the war, his trusted advisor turns to him and says,’Sire, I fear the situation has not developed to our advantage.’ I thought, now that’s one understated way of putting it. The king or chieftan or whoever was so scary that everything said to him had to be couched in these euphemistic terms, get it?”
“That’s when I had it,” he continued passionately, “I want my game to end like that!”
Paretsky furiously threw together a story board that very night and began recruiting talent to help him achieve his vision. “Mark showed me his idea and wanted me to draw that final scene,” reported co-worker and local artist Cynthia Liu, a graphic designer at Paretsky’s company. “He’s cutting me in for five percent. He is really fired up.”
Liu confided that this isn’t the first time Paretsky has put himself into a game design frenzy. “A couple of years ago Mark told a bunch of us he had the idea for the next Tetris, and he had me draw up a bunch of the backgrounds for the game, like in Tetris, you know, when you reach a certain point, the background picture changes, right? He was really into that part. I don’t actually know what the puzzle part of the game was; he mostly wanted to talk a bout the background pictures.” Liu continued on to disclose that she doesn’t believe Paretsky ever even took the pictures out of his email in-box, but that they have been great for her portfolio and were featured in a recent gallery showing of her work.
What style of game play does Paretsky envision? “That’s a good question,” said the fiercely single-minded entrepreneur , “I’m thinking there will be five or seven phases the game will go through, like the story-board here. But I might go with a turn-based game or maybe a real-time strategy style. Time will tell. It’s really just a matter of connecting the dots, right?” he said, waving at the six empty spots before his sketched in scene.
Which platforms does Paretsky see his game running on? “For a while I was just thinking of the PC, because that’s where the really complex strategy games are populur, but then I started thinking X-Box. The smartphone market is pretty big too. The iPhone is where I’ll hit it big, I expect. I’m going to talk about that in my Kick-Starter pitch, you can count on that.”
Friends advised Paretsky to consult with an iPhone app designer to get an estimate of the amount he’d need to raise on Kickstarter. “For some reason none of the five developers I talked to were interested. They said they were too busy and they didn’t like my idea. Well, they’ll be sorry when I sell a million copies in the app store.”
“Actually,” Paretsky conceded, “there was one guy who was pretty into it, but that guy told me he had nothing going on and he was considering helping me because he was bored. I don’t need a programmer who has no projects. What a loser.”
Upon further investigation Paretsky’s room-mate Mason Stubbs revealed that the spurned programmer was Jason Liu, Cynthia’s brother. “That dude has it made. He wrote Romance of the Three Kingdoms: iPhone Edition. That’s huge now. Plus he did some kind of word scramble thingy that everyone is playing. He doesn’t need to work a regular job or anything. I think he’s kind of bored now. I’m surprised Mark didn’t know about those games. But then, Mark doesn’t have a smart phone or even play computer games at home. He’s more of a Facebook kind of guy.”
When contacted Jason Liu explained, “Mark must have been thinking of Japanese Emperor Hirohito’s radio address to the Japanese people when Japan surrendered to the allies at the end of World War II. I don’t know who this trusted advisor character could have been. The emperor used a phrase like that. Mark isn’t the most detail oriented person. But I felt like it was a good excuse to write another game.”
Any second thoughts about the ending of the game? “Actually,” mused Paretsky, “I’ve been thinking that putting in a complicated phrase like the one that inspired me could be problematic. I mean, it’s great in English but if I want to conquer the world market I’ll have to have it translated into like seven languages. Man, that could be a lot of work, and it probably doesn’t carry the same punch that it does in English. There’s something to be said for the tried and true ‘Game Over’. I mean, everyone knows what that means, no translation needed.”