Profile: 15 year old Irish game developer – Jonathan White

By: March 24, 2014
Jonathan White: ‘I’d also love to do some work experience with some VFX, animation or game development companies' Jonathan White: ‘I’d also love to do some work experience with some VFX, animation or game development companies'

Jonathan White is 15 years old and from Co. Cavan. He has a passion for 3D game development and recently entered the Co. Monaghan Young Enterprise Awards with an Android game he built called Recineration. He won the Intermediate category and will go through to the final in Croke Park this April. Here we talk to him about learning to code, the supports available for young coders in Ireland and his ambitions for the future.

You are 15, very young by game developer standards, is this the first game you have developed?
Thanks, so before Recineration, I developed a simple Android helicopter game called Choppa3D in January 2013. Although it was a simple game with lots of glitches, it was a start, and taught me the basics of the game development process. Before I started game development, I was very into 3D animation and visual effects. This helped a lot later on when it came to creating the graphics for my games.

When did you start coding and is there coding clubs at school or is it something you do in your spare time?
I started coding about two years ago, learning C# and javascript. Like learning a normal language, it took a while to get used to and understand. I love programming as it really helps to develop your problem solving and logic skills – especially helpful for maths and physics in school. One big mistake I’ve made when coding is doing all nighters and drinking too many cups of tea. It doesn’t end up well!

Recineration is an Android game, available on Google Play, why did you chose the Android platform and is it the platform of choice for you and your peer group?
I chose the Android platform as it was relatively new when I started game development. At the time, my graphics skills weren’t the best, and you can get away with a lower standard of graphics on Android compared to Xbox or PS3/PS4. Also, in the game engine I use (Unity3D), publishing to android is free.
With the recent popularisation of Android tablets, I decided to get into the market early to take advantage of the growing interest. In the future, I am hoping to port the game to iOS and Windows phone.

Do you develop games alone or in collaboration with friends or mentors?
None of my friends do animation or programming, these skills I had to teach myself. I primarily use YouTube and online forums for learning. Using these skills, I published the first version of the game in April 2013. Since then I have sought the advice and feedback from friends in school on areas for improvement. Then I sought help from teachers in school on the marketing and promotion of the game as part of the Co. Monaghan Young Enterprise Awards competition.
There I won the Intermediate category and get to go on to the National Final in Croke Park. I am very humbled to get this far as there were some truly great projects there.

Is game development something you would like to do as a career, and if so, where would you like to work – Ireland or abroad?
Game development is something I would definitely consider as a career, however I do prefer the 3D graphics side of game development a lot more than the programming side. So I would probably prefer a career in visual effects or animation.
I absolutely want to stay in Ireland to work, as the digital creative industry is growing rapidly and there are some absolutely amazing Irish companies producing amazing work.

In your opinion – are there enough supports for young people in Ireland, who are interested in coding and development?
Definitely. People in Ireland are doing a great job in supporting the learning of game development. Many schools are trying to introduce it into their system and clubs like Coder Dojo are great as well. However, I do see a lack of 3D game development and 3D graphics being taught in Ireland. Hopefully that will change in the future.

What are your own personal top three games and what platform/gaming device do you like the most?
Funnily enough, growing up I was never allowed game consoles, so I missed out a lot in a way. My favourite gaming device of course is Android – I love the way that such a small device is so powerful. There is a great future for Android. From what I’ve played on Android, I love the games Riptide GP2 (Vector Unit), Ku: Shroud of the Morrigan (Bitsmith Games) and “N.O.V.A. 3” (Gameloft).
I only began playing games when I was given an Android tablet a year ago. Those who are long-time gamers have a much better idea of what makes a game addicting and fun – that’s my downfall. Luckily I have friends who are very creative and helpful in telling me what works in my games and what doesn’t.

Finally – what next? What are your plans for the next few years as you finish school – is there a 3rd level course you have your eye on?
I’m currently doing my Junior Cert this year, so there’s very little time at the moment to start anything new. At the moment I’m just fixing bugs and improving the game bit by bit. I’m also currently working on a multiplayer mode with Google’s latest multiplayer support in its game services. Next year I’ll be in transition year so I’ll have a lot more time to start new projects. I’d also love to do some work experience with some VFX, animation or game development companies.