A brief history of my gaming experience

liam ulland-joy, 13

For a long time, I have been very intrigued by the idea of creating my own games. The ability to control a fictional world that the players react and adapt to in unpredictable ways has always sparked my interest.

I’m not sure when I created my first game. It could have been the elaborate racetracks that I scribbled in 6-to-7-year-old handwriting, accompanied by sketches of the complicated race cars that duked it out in an epic race/battle. Each car was named and completely unique, some sporting rocket boosters, spikes, flamethrowers or even wings. I even had a Pac-Man-themed car complete with a ghost-launching cannon mounted on the roof. I asked my parents and friends which car they wanted their driver to ride in and then operated the game myself, just as sort of a simulation. The car that won got better upgrades. I think I have over a dozen of these racetracks and car specifications buried together in a stapled packet somewhere within the depths of my bedroom.

Then again, my first game could also have been the huge poster consisting of six pieces of paper taped together vertically, illustrated with a vertical tower filled with traps. The goal of the game was to throw a ball at the tower without hitting any of the traps. When you landed a ball without touching a trap, you got a point and needed to land a ball higher than the previous ball you threw on your next turn. If your ball touched a trap, you were out. The last person left standing or the first person with 5 points won.

The first time I started genuinely churning out games was during summer vacation in second grade. I went to a summer camp at a preschool with some of my friends. While I was there, I think I literally made one or two games a day. I made grid-based, tower defense board games, complex dueling games with figurines made from my shoddy origami skills, and large-scale, long-term games that were played over the course of several days. These included games like a zombie survival card game I invented, where I added new cards featuring special zombies and weapons every day.

One day in 2011 or 2012 (I don’t have exact dates, but I can kind of guess based on my style of artwork and such), I discovered the Pokémon card. I was absolutely amazed by it. A shiny rectangle of paper covered with stats, of all things: attacks, health and speed. This was the day I really got into making card games. Of course, I only had a short glimpse of the card, and definitely had no idea how they worked. So I created a spinoff game called Minimon, which now that I look back at the cards, bore almost no resemblance to the actual game. Each card was given a damage total to determine how strong it was. Each card also had three attacks. The damage total divided up among the three attacks to determine how much damage the attack could do to a target. If the target took damage equal to or greater than half of their damage total, they would lose their most powerful attack, and their damage total would be halved. This works sort of like the Pokémon Hp system, I guess? Anyways, a Minimon would be rendered incapacitated if all three of its attacks were removed, meaning, by my math anyway, it would be left defenseless with 1/8 of it’s starting damage total and be forced to retreat. It was actually pretty ingenious if you ask me. The only main issue was that smart players would exploit the system by only using the move with the highest damage out of the three attacks. I had no concept of a special ability or attack that would do anything other than damage the target, or any idea of healing or blocking. Therefore, exploits existed, but it was a relatively smooth gameplay overall. I adapted the cards over the years.

The point from of this story is that I have discovered the wonderful world of card games.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Liam Ulland-Joy, 13, is an eighth-grader at Bothwell Middle School. He enjoys designing games of all types, writing fiction and editing his videos for his YouTube channel, Saturday Bush Live.