- Associated Press - Sunday, September 23, 2018

FAIRMONT, W.Va. (AP) - What can often be seen as a time-passer or hobby has grown into a passion and an artistic and creative outlet for Conner Rush.

The Fairmont Senior High School junior has already developed two video games of his own, distributed them professionally and started his own company to work under as a creator.

And it all started with a PlayStation 2.

“When I was 11 or 12, my dad had a PlayStation 2,” Rush said. “Maybe it was something about how there were realistic people in this game, but I didn’t know how they got there or what made them work. That made me interested in how they worked and why they were there.”

Rush’s intrigue with video games and interactive stories started for him as a kid, but it was when he was about 14 years old when he would first dive into coding for himself, in order to complete a class project.

“It’s called ‘Into the Unknown,’” Rush said. “Looking back it’s not my best work, but I’m happy I made it, it was definitely a learning process and the story leads into the next game.”

And thus, FYRE Games was born.

FYRE Games, which stands for Fairmont Youth Reinventing Entertainment, is Rush’s own company, which he uses to develop, create and distribute games he creates. After his first game, Rush got to work on his follow up, and two years later, “Welcome to the Dreamscape,” has finally been released.

“You, as a character, have gone through this traumatic event in your past that was so bad that you can’t remember it,” Rush said. “You want to try to remember that to cope with it, so you go to this experimental therapy clinic, and they put you to sleep and they analyze your dreams with computers, and through that, they try to put together your past.”

Rush distributes his games online, mainly through services like Steam and itch.io, and he said reception so far has been positive.

Inspired by the games of his childhood, such as “Uncharted” and “The Last of Us,” Rush described the game as a story-driven puzzle adventure, where the player must solve a mystery about the character they control.

“It’s a first-person story-driven puzzle game,” Rush said. “So far the games I make are all very narrative-driven. I’m huge into story, single-player experiences - things you can go through with a start and an end.”

Rush learned to code over the course of several years, slowly developing his skills until he was able to competently recognize patterns and data over the screen.

“It was a very very slow process,” Rush said. “Over the course of seven or eight years, I taught myself. I basically Googled the best software for making games. A few came up, I picked one and I rolled with it and used the community to teach me how to program, how to code.”

While he does just about all the design and coding on his own, other products also go into the creation of a game, such as music and art, some of which he outsources to other creators. The amount of work that goes into the creation of a video game can be more than what some would imagine, as Rush explained.

“I am a one-man studio,” Rush said. “I do outsource some things but not much. A few pieces of music aren’t mine originally, a few pieces of drawn art aren’t mine originally, I have friends come in to help me record stuff, draw stuff where I normally wouldn’t be able to.”

Seeing the success of his games, the only others potentially matching Rush’s excitement are his own parents, who are happy to see him progress in a field he finds fascination in.

“I’m beyond proud of him,” Brooke Stark, Rush’s mother and a teacher at FSHS, said. “He’s a perfectionist, he puts a lot of this on himself. He tries to make himself succeed, so I’m happy that he’s finding some success in what he likes to do.”

Stark commented on Rush’s other extra-curricular activities, saying that he can be found running for the school’s track team, marching in the Polar Bear Band and playing guitar and bass when he is not gaming or coding.

He still points a lot of focus on his company, however, and has been improving on that side as well, according to Stark.

“He has other creative outlets as well, he writes songs and he’s active in the marching band,” Stark said. “Now he’s starting to get more into the marketing aspect, like trademarking his company name and copyrighting his game. He’s going to things like Pop Con to get the word out there. He tries to promote himself on Youtube and taking on the business aspect of it as well now.”

Rush is currently working on another project, which he said he is keeping under wraps for now. With a few years of high school left, Rush is contemplating his future, thinking about the prospects of business and college.

Whatever he decides, he plans to continue working on FYRE Games and even expanding it into a more inclusive and productive studio.

“For one, college is the big one, deciding where I want to go, what I want to go for,” Rush said. “I’m working towards expanding FYRE Games. I want to expand this into something where kids who don’t have the opportunities like I did can learn.”

For more information on Rush and his company, visit his website at www.fyregames.com.

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