Marisa Hike never imagined being a video game programmer. But that was before a high school college fair. Now, less than six years after graduating from McClain High School, she and her work partner have developed a new game called Bombfest that is available for download on consoles including Nintendo, Xbox, PlayStation and personal computers.
“Imagine sumo wrestling with explosives,” the 2013 MHS grad said this week. “It features really simple controls, and one of my really good moments is when I’m at a conference or something and get to see a grandparent and grandchild playing together.”
Bombfest is a four-player party game with blocks, toys, bombs and explosives, Hike said, with players earning points as they go along until one player is left standing. That player receives more points, but is not necessarily the winner of the game.
While she played video games during her free time growing up, Hike said she spent more time with church-related activities, show choir, symphonic choir, National Honor Society, art club, Tigerettes, Hi-Y and plays and musicals during her school years.
But it was at a college fair during her senior year at McClain that she happened onto the field of game programming.
“I knew I enjoyed math and art, but an advertising art booth told me I needed to visit the Shawnee State booth,” Hike said. “They were ranked nationally in game programming, and I decided I was going to go there and check it out.”
She graduated from Shawnee State in 2017 with a degree in gaming and simulation arts, but said the path to where she is now was an unusual journey, and that often she was one of a few, if not the only, female in a class.
“I wanted to pursue a more technical art field, and it’s been really amazing. There’s definitely opportunity out there, but I don’t think I would have thought of it coming from McClain,” Hike said of the gaming field. “My time at McClain was focused on other activities. I definitely feel like I had a very different background than my peers at college. I felt weird that I actually ended up there.”
While she was in college Hike did some volunteer work at a gaming conference in Columbus. That’s where she met Zachary Pierce. They became friends, he hired her to do some 3D art for his Sudden Impact Studios LLC, and now Hike is a partner in the business.
But it was not like video games were foreign to Hike in her younger years. In fact, she said that when her brother Jonathon was around 8 and she was 4, their parents bought him a Gameboy. She played it a lot, too, and one time accidentally saved over part of her brother’s Pokemon game.
“That was when my parents said, ‘Let’s get her one of her own,’” Hike said.
For Bombfest, Hike said she did all the aesthetics for the game and created the 3D models. Pierce was the programmer and designer. They commissioned someone else to do the sound effects, then ended up finding a publisher.
Today, Hike lives in Columbus and works remotely with Pierce. She said she has normal daily work hours, with specific times scheduled to work with her partner.
She said game programming is a tough field to get in to, but encouraged those interested in it to follow their dreams.
“I would say that with enough hard work, passion and persistence, you can do whatever you set your mind to do,” Hike said. “The biggest struggle you’ll face is yourself. You won’t always succeed at times, but you’ve got to keep trying.”
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522.