AP NEWS

Westport teen creates game to raise awareness about animal abuse

June 15, 2017 GMT

WESTPORT — Long-time animal activist, 17-year-old rising Staples High School senior Skylar Thomas, joined forces with PETA to create a game to raise awareness about animal cruelty and abuse.

The three-dimensional game, Paintball Hero, was released for iOS and Android on June 1, 2017.

“The user is placed in the position of an animal activist who has infiltrated the industries responsible for abuse,” Thomas said. “They must make their way through each one of three levels—the factory farm, rain-forest and circus—and destroy corporate enemies with ‘educational paint-balls.’”

When Thomas said he initially reached out to PETA, he started an ongoing dialogue with Danielli Marzouca. Marzouca works in the PETA Los Angeles office, peta2. She is the senior youth campaigns project coordinator at peta2.

“Everyone at PETA has been incredibly helpful during the entire process,” Thomas said.

He said he reached out to several animal rights organization before working things out with PETA.

“We, of course, said yes and worked with him on whatever he needed to make this happen,” Marzouca said.

And once the details were finalized, Thomas got to work.

“I worked out of Starbucks and other coffee shops most days,” Thomas said.

Marzouca said the game Thomas created is much appreciated.

“Simply put, he’s our real-life hero,” she said.

The game allows users to save animals, Marzouca said. And she said the game itself meets teenagers in the virtual world they find themselves often immersed in.

She said she believes the game runs parallel to feelings many teens already possess.

“More teens than ever before are realizing that animals are intelligent, emotional individuals,” Marzouca said.

Thomas said he has been developing apps since he was around 12-years-old and has had a passion for art and design since he was even younger.

“I taught myself mainly with YouTube videos,” Thomas said.

He said he used Unity Game Engine, a game development platform, to create Paintball Hero.

The game has several in-app purchase opportunities, Thomas said. And Marzouca said 75 percent of the proceeds from those in-app purchases goes directly to PETA life-saving projects.

Thomas said the collaboration with PETA for this game made the experience more worthwhile.

“I love working with creative people and Paintball Hero was an incredible project due to the collaboration it involved,” Thomas said. “Creativity cannot exist in a vacuum.”