DigiPen pairs with Make-A-Wish Foundation to bring boy’s game to life

Mason Beckler first discovered video games when he was 5 years old.

Mason Beckler

Mason Beckler first discovered video games when he was 5 years old.

He had received a Gameboy Micro handheld game console for Christmas and there was “something magical” about it that has had him hooked on interactive media ever since.

When he was about 13, the Renton resident began thinking about a video game of his own and brainstorming ideas. His first concept focused on pigs with machine guns. As time went on, he came up with a new game involving a bat who could control other bats. This new concept took hold and Beckler came up with more ideas.

Over the course of the last few months, the 16-year-old has been able to see his ideas come to life with the help of DigiPen Institute of Technology in Redmond.

DETAILED CONCEPT

The result is “Lord of the Bats.”

Pearce Bergh, one of the student co-leaders of the game team at DigiPen that designed “Bats,” said the game focuses on Battede, a bat soldier in Lord Zlo’s army.

“(Lord Zlo) has sent you on a mission to retrieve the Loopemus Fruit, only found on Mt. Loopemus, which will save the Bat Kingdom,” Bergh said, explaining the player’s mission.

He said they worked very closely with Beckler to design the game. All of the characters, worlds, game mechanics and story were the teen’s ideas.

“Before we met with him, we were sent a seven-page document outlining all of those,” said Bergh, who is a senior and working toward his bachelor of science degree in computer science in real-time interactive simulation.

Bergh and his team first met with Beckler in November 2014, followed by a couple more meetings over the course of the next few months. During these meetings, Bergh said, they would fill any gaps of information they couldn’t gather from Beckler’s document.

The students completed “Bats” last month and Beckler was able to play it for the first time on April 30 at DigiPen at a special unveiling event.

PERFECT TIMING

Beckler and the DigiPen students teamed up through the Make-A-Wish Foundation Alaska and Washington chapter, an organization whose mission is to enrich the lives of youths who are living with life-threatening medical conditions.

Jessica Mathews with the chapter said they grant about 350 wishes a year and currently have about 400 wishes in their pipeline. Make-A-Wish patients range from ages 2-18.

Beckler has cystic fibrosis, a genetic disorder that affects a person’s lungs and gastrointestinal system. In addition to a mucus that clings to his lungs, he takes enzymes that help him digest his food and control the symptoms.

“Healthwise, he’s doing great,” said Alissa Beckler, his stepmother.

The creation of Mason’s video game was the first time the local Make-A-Wish chapter has done anything like that, though Mathews said other patients have wished to take tours at local gaming companies in the area.

Bergh and his classmates started out as a generic community service project-oriented group by reaching out to a number of local organizations to see if they could work with them. He said they learned about Beckler’s wish through their professor Ellen Beeman.

“It was just perfect,” Mathews said about the timing of when Bergh reached out and when they received Beckler’s wish application.

A WISH COME TRUE

Alissa said Mason has always loved video games and has wanted the opportunity to create his own game, which is why they applied to the foundation. She said since he was 15 at the time, there were only a few years left until he aged out of eligibility.

Alissa said they submitted their application in July or August of 2014 and they received a response within two weeks.

“It was pretty quick,” she said about the time it took to get the wheels in motion to grant Mason’s wish. “We were very, very shocked.”

Alissa said throughout the whole process, Mason counted down the days until “Bats” was completed and it was a very positive experience that they will never forget. She added that to see him get the opportunity to do something he has always wanted was great for her as well as for Mason’s mother and father.

“It’s very, very special,” she said.

For Mason, it was a dream come true and he was even given a take-home version of the game to play on his computer.

“It was great,” Beckler said. “I liked seeing (the game) in front of my face instead of it being a convoluted dream.”


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