Westport high schooler and animal activist develops mobile game
Updated 1:36 pm, Thursday, June 15, 2017
WESTPORT — A Staples High School junior is hoping his mobile game will help prevent animal cruelty.
Skylar Thomas, 17, has partnered with the national organization, peta2, the youth division of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, to market a free mobile app, available for both iPhones and Androids, that he created to help bring attention and funding to PETA’s cause.
A 14-month project, Thomas said Paintball Hero was launched recently as a way to get teens like him involved in animal activism. In the game, users play rebels or animal activists who can save animals in three different settings, in a factory farm, rainforest and circus.
The user’s mission is to destroy corporate gatekeepers by hitting them with education paintballs in order to save a captured animal. The animals saved follow the users. “The goal is to collect them all,” Thomas said.
The teen said he spent thousands of hours developing the 3D game, based on tutorials he found on websites and through Google. “I kind of taught myself,” he said. “I worked on that game in coffee shops, airplanes and bus stops.”
Thomas said he has always enjoyed using Apple products and became even more passionate about delving into the world of mobile apps after he met Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak in an Apple store in California as a kid and he encouraged him to do just that.
At 13, he began coming up with ideas for games, teaching himself coding and becoming an expert on platforms for programming like Apple’s Swift and Unity’s three dimensional game engine. Paintball Hero is his best product yet, said Thomas, who released the games under his brand Troublemaker Technologies.
Through in-app purchases, users can help fund PETA’s cause. The majority of the proceeds from the game goes toward the organization.
“At just 17 years old, Skylar Thomas has accomplished more in behalf of animals than most people achieve during a lifetime,” said Marta Holmberg, peta2 senior director of youth outreach and campaigns “Thanks to his fun and unique games, peta2 can inspire teens across the world to take action against the cruel meat industry.”
Thomas said he is now working on a new game for PETA. Once he graduates from high school next year, Thomas hopes to attend Stanford University or the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“I’d love to continue doing this,” he said, of game development. “Hopefully I can collaborate with others.”