Millions of people play videogames, often just for a thrill or to blow off some steam. To have an hour or two of fun.
That’s never really what has drawn Brookfield resident Tye Abbott to games. If Abbott, a 16-year-old junior at Lyons Township High School, is going to invest his time in a game, it’s got to deliver something extra.
“Games — a large cohesion of the medium – is good at delivering a certain type of experience,” Abbott said. “At the same time, I started playing Eastern European games and they were harrowing, difficult. They use videogames for the betterment of the audience.”
Take the Russian role playing videogame “Pathologic,” for example. Set in a town that’s been beset by a plague – apt for our times – players take on the role of a doctor faced with difficult life-or-death choices.
“The game makes it harrowing to be a good person,” Abbott said. “It’s a brilliant exploration of medicine and altruism, and it can only be told in the medium of games. It’s powerful giving people agency over those decisions.”
Abbott hopes to apply those kinds of lessons in a new videogame he has under development, “RD Mars,” which was set to launch Jan. 19 and has been play-testing on a website called Steam (store.steampowered.com), where you can also purchase and download (for just $3.99) Abbott’s first mind-engaging videogame – “Lucid: Parables of the Ubermensch” – which prompted one reviewer to warn, “If you are prone to rage quits then this isn’t the game for you. This game will put your patience to the test” and another described as a “trippy, abstract platformer, with simple but good looking pixel art.”
The “trippy pixel art” that characterizes Lucid as well as “RD Mars” will remind older gamers of first-generation desktop computer games, where action plays out in two dimensions – often looking top down onto corridors and rooms as the journey progresses.
“While the art might be a throwback, what I pride myself in is narrative and gameplay experience, which are quite rare in the modern industry,” Abbott said.
“Visually, the art I’ve chosen is a matter of scope. As a designer I have limitations, but the pixel art delivers enough to engage with ideas on a larger scope. The visuals serve the themes I’m exploring.”
In developing “RD Mars,” Abbott is taking some inspiration from the European horror genre games he enjoys playing. The player in “RD Mars” is an artificial intelligence reconstruction of a fictional once-great inventor named Felix Darwins.
The game leads the AI reconstruction to explore more about the history of its developer and confront its own destructive passions.
“It’s a cohesive view of what an all-consuming drive had done to Felix,” Abbott said. “I wanted not to pull punches when telling the story.”
While the psychology might be lost on some players just looking for a fun game to play, Abbott said most who have tested “RD Mars” get the point.
“I spend a lot of time talking to play-testers,” Abbott said. “People experience art in different ways, but the majority of the players get the themes and ideas I’m trying to explore.”
Truth be told, Abbott has always liked his games on the challenging side. At age 7 he was building his own board games and testing them “until the games were too complicated for any human to be able to remember all the rules,” he said.
Abbott’s dad suggested computer programming as an outlet for that interest, and in sixth grade Abbott took a class in java programming where he made his first animation sequence – a sun rising and setting.
By the start of his freshman year at LTHS, he knew he wanted to pursue videogame development. He’s a fan of Galloping Ghost videogame arcade in Brookfield and said he’s pitched owner Doc Mack on a possible event in connection with the eventual release of “RD Mars.”
Abbott said he’ll likely pursue a computer science degree in college but will continue game programming regardless.
“I’m going to work on this every single day to see if I can turn this into something that can support my life,” he said.