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Otwell Middle sixth-graders developing video game
First release in April, others could follow
Otwell Middle School students, from left, Carter Herrin, Yonatan Nigussie and Audrey McElroy are part of a group developing a video game. - photo by Kelly Whitmire

CUMMING -- It’s not uncommon for kids who play video games to want to design them when they grow up, but a group of Otwell Middle School sixth-graders decided not to wait.

The students have started their own video game development company called Paraboy, with their first game due out on Apple devices April 18.

“You’re going to be riding on a bike,” said founder Carter Herrin. “It’s very simple. It’s one of those endless games. There’s a platform, its 2D.

“You’re on the top and blocks start coming up on the top. In most games you’d jump over them, but in this one you flip to the bottom and then ones start coming on the bottom.

“Every five blocks it gets faster and closer together.”

Yonatan Nigussie, another of the founders, said he was inspired after watching a program about other young people making games.

“I was watching this show called ‘Game Shakers,’ and seeing how these kids could make these types of games in such short periods of time, working hard on it,” he said. “I just thought, ‘Why can’t we do that?’”

Nigussie said he talked to his classmate Herrin, who knew how to code. The two later added several of their classmates.

“It was kind of a starting point between me and him, we didn’t really focus on graphics or music or anything like that, it was just me and him doing this code and worrying about all that later,” Nigussie said. “Then over time, we realized we couldn’t do this alone, so we got some different kids with different skills.”

One classmate who joined the effort was Audrey McElroy, who came on since she knew a different programming language.

“We found out that she knows Python ... because Xcode and Swift only work with Apple software,” Herrin said.

The children’s parents have encouraged the project, which the students pursue on their own time after school, and don’t seem all that surprised by its success. The company also makes use of the talents of their other members.

“We have a whole kind of elite team that has different [job],” Nigussie said. “We have about four game testers, one person that just kind of helps us with ideas.”

“And then we have graphics,” McElroy added.

The game likely will come out for Apple devices in about two months, with others expected to follow.

“We’re thinking that this will be released April 18, it’ll be on the Apple Store. Then later, maybe around June or July, we’re going to try to get on Amazon and Google Play,” Herrin said.

“Right now, most of the code is done. We just have some basic things. Like when I loaded it onto my phone, it just kept crashing. So we’re going to have to figure that out, and then we’re good.”

Despite the age of the company’s members, Herrin said they haven’t relied on outside help.

“The only adult help that we’ve had is learning code from my dad,” he said.