Lily Cain entered the Change the Game design challenge with a story and a talent to create. Last month, the demo version of her app, "The Other Realm," was released on Google Play for Android users. It's gone on to garner 39 positive reviews.
The 15-year-old from Poplar is now on deadline to finish the story and hand it off to her lead producer by Dec. 9. The two have had phone conferences about once a week for months.
"She has a team of people creating my game. There's an artist, a composer, people who code it," Cain said.
Every night, the Northwestern High School sophomore opens her big book of levels and digs deeper into the storyline, adding new details, typing out descriptions and even adding a few musical themes.
"It is a little work, but it's so amazing to create something like this and I enjoy doing it so much," Cain said. "It's not like I come home and I don't want to work on it. I put so much of myself into it. That's probably because I like doing this so much."
The game has three possible endings, based on the path players choose. Different decisions can open new dialog strands.
It's been a bit overwhelming, but Cain has been able to stay on task.
"Seeing all my artwork and my work put into a finished project, well, I mean, not finished, but like in the demo, it's ... I don't have the words," she said. "It's weird to see my artwork come to life, I guess."
The teen also has homework and plenty of after-school activities to juggle. Cain jumped right from working on the school's one-act play, "The Cry of the Peacock," to the NHS musical, "The Little Mermaid."
"I didn't really know how to make a game when I first started this," Cain said. "I really had no idea what I was doing. I just know I had things that interested me and I knew how to write a story and I sort of just did that and we kind of came up with the actual game, the logistics of it and the puzzles, afterward."
"I do that a lot, like joining drama and musical. I had no friends in there. I had no idea what I was doing, but I did it anyway and I'm so glad that I did," the teen said.
Google launched "Change the Game" to get girls excited about gaming and aware of future possibilities in technology and game-making. It's a chance to combat the gender gap in the gaming industry, where women are underrepresented.
Cain was one of five finalists nationwide. The demo versions of all five apps are available on Google Play. The other four are called Palette, Symphony, EcoVerse and Mazu. Each reflects its creator.
"I don't like violent games," Cain said. "Every game that I see that's big and people play, there's just so much blood and guns and 'ah.' It just makes me kind of sad to see that that's what people are interested in. And I think playing violent games makes people desensitized to what violence is. I don't know if it necessarily makes them act more violent; it's just not a good thing. So I chose to do a puzzle game instead. That was one of my goals in making this."
Reviewers appreciated that.
"The concept of asking about feelings surprised me and got me thinking about the feelings I get playing other games," user Gary Fuller said.
User DarkLady3 enjoyed the visuals and dialog. Many of the reviewers commented that they enjoyed the puzzles and the multiple paths players can take.
"I love the concept and I think the world is cute and clever," user Browngurllife 27 said.
The design challenge was developed in conjunction with Girls Make Games and the Entertainment Software Association. Full versions of the completed apps are expected to roll out on Google Play at the end of December, Cain has been told.
In addition to the demo apps, videos featuring the five winners can be found on YouTube by searching for "Google Play: Change the Game Design Challenge. A piece highlighting Cain can be found at youtube.com/watch?v=syrdGDTjZtU; the full version with all five finalists is at youtube.com/watch?v=X_4xFxh8CFI.