Spruce Campbell: ‘I taught myself all I needed from YouTube and experimenting’

Spruce Campbell won the BAFTA YGD 2017 Game Making Award (in the ten to 14 years old category) at the age of 12. He has spent the last year receiving mentorship and support from BAFTA Games. Most recently, he showed his first published game, Cyber:Jump, at EGX Rezzed.

How did you first start developing games?

I loved games when I was little, from Wii Sports and Mario Kart to blasting through Portal 2. Sometimes I would play something for a while and find an interesting mechanic or easter egg and after I’d stopped I could never really get it out of my head. I thought about all the ways you could take that mechanic and build something new, and so eventually I set out to make my own game one day. I played around with tools for years, but last year I finally got my technical skills to a level where I could make the games I wanted to.

What is your proudest achievement so far?

Launching my first game was amazing – the first thing I’ve ever put out that I feel proud of. I’d put months of effort into it and seeing my friends and family pick up the game and enjoy it was absolutely worth it.

What’s been your biggest challenge to date?

My biggest challenges are yet to come, but my hardest yet was redesigning my game, Cyber:Jump, for mobile. The original demo was PC only and I put it through such a rethink that not a single line of code is shared with the BAFTA-winning prototype.

What do you enjoy most about creating games?

I love so many things, but for me in the past year I would have to say meeting people – I’ve been able to meet my idols, people who made games I’ve spent hours lost in, and I’ve been able to meet complete strangers who like my games. It’s life-changing to see that kind of real-world impact.

What’s your big ambition in games?

I’m not sure yet. I want to carry on making games and making bigger and better games, building a team, but I’m so early on in what I hope will be my career that I really don’t know. I’ll carry on making things I love, though.

What advice would you give to someone trying to start developing?

Just start. I taught myself all I needed from YouTube and experimenting around in game engines – these tools are all free and there’s nothing to lose. Ideas and size don’t matter at this stage, because your second game is ten times better than your first. The projects I’m starting to work on now are all way better than my first game. That’s an inevitability. Don’t let go of your big ideas going in though, because as well as giving you a goal to work towards, you can use your skills to think about them in a whole new light. Cyber:Jump is just boxes and that’s because I’m not very good at art. Finding that out allowed me to play to my strengths. 

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