Searching for Downtown Prodigies: The New, Fresh Face of Gaming

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By Beth Mellow

Unlike his peers, Xavier High School sophomore Demetri Sofides doesn't just play video games on his computer-he designs award-winning versions of them.

In 2010, Sofides was one of 13 winners from around the world of "The Game Changers," a digital media and learning competition co-sponsored by video game publisher Electronic Arts and the MacArthur Foundation. Sofides' winning entry was a new level he developed for Electronic Arts' game, Spor. "The game has this feature where you are able to create creatures and buildings, so I used it to create a ghost story called The Lantern Bearer," he explained.

Sofides' prize was a trip to Electronic Arts' studios in Redwood City, Calif. For Sofides, who has been designing games for as long as he has been able to type, it was a dream come true. "It was pretty cool. I still keep in touch with one of their lead designers," he said.

Sofides' first love, however, is board games. He admits to still having a desk drawer filled with art and concepts for games yet to be created. At a certain point, however, he decided to retire Monopoly and Trivial Pursuit and try his hand at designing video games. His interest in art and writing is also an asset in developing his work, which often has pleasing aesthetics and engrossing storylines.

With his end goal of becoming a professional game designer, Sofides explains that he follows the advice outlined in Malcolm Gladwell's New York Times bestseller, Outliers. "People who reach the top of their fields, according to this book, accumulate 10,000 hours of practice. I'm working to get in my 10,000 hours of practice in game design."

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