Students at 42 Silicon Valley Reimagine Games Through Hobbies

MetaHobby: The Hobby of Having and Finding Hobbies

Mason Young, Wyatt Lutt, and Curt Krommenhoek are all long-standing students at 42. They started MetaHobby, a game development studio, in April 2019. The team has loved games their entire lives and their motto is “Fun makes it more.”  

MetaHobby was just a word for, “the hobby of having and finding hobbies,” but hobbies often turn into so much more. Expanding on their convenient hobbies of programming, game design and pixel art, MetaHobby is now a game studio. In their first game Hexcross, which is out now, players take turns creating lines to try to avoid certain demise. They are currently at work making “Pixel Smithy” a crafting clicker game, and “Fingees: A Touch of Fun” a multi-touch focused party game.

The Benefits of Having a Hobby

Mason shared his philosophy behind MetaHobby, “Find a hobby and do it as long as you like it. Sit it down. When you come back to it and enjoy it again, that is how you find a passion. Creating things and learning skills is all rooted in motivation. Follow your interests as they become hobbies and passions. Even something that might not be considered fun can become fun because it is tied into your bigger picture painted by your motivation and passions. Coding is like that for me, I look at characters lines and symbols on the screen because to me it looks like a straight pathway to creating games, my passion”

Mason isn’t alone in his philosophy about hobbies. According to a recent article in Nature, “Research has linked participation in leisure activities to many measures of physical and mental well-being, from reduced blood pressure to a sense of belonging. Many scientists say that their hobbies provide them with crucial opportunities to relax, to find satisfaction in completing small, defined projects and, occasionally, to make the kinds of insightful leaps that propel science forward.”

How MetaHobby Met at 42

Mason explained how they all met, “Well, we all play a lot of video games and are pretty silly guys, so naturally met each other here at a place like 42 learning to program. Given the right environment, It is easy to find people who want to try out making games once you can show someone it’s possible. I started putting together prototype games and asked if anyone was interested. Almost immediately, Wyatt said he would help with the networking and multiplayer and Curt said he would help with the pixel art, he is very talented at it, and he is a programmer! So I was super excited to be working with them both, and still am!”

Life Before 42

Mason was working as a developer at a startup in Denver. On his commute, he was reading Salman Khan’s The One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined. Mason shared, “At the end of the day concepts in the book were pretty much describing a place like 42. I was excited about the idea. A friend who also programmed that I spoke with on the bus said if I felt like I wasn’t learning anything or getting paid enough that I should apply to his corporate job or try this crazy French school he had heard about. That was 42. I went and played the games 42 used to have as part of the admissions process, did my check-in and shipped myself out here after my two weeks notice at my old job.”

Wyatt worked system administration before realizing he didn’t want to do that anymore. He started teaching himself how to program on the side. One of his friend’s parents told him about 42 after seeing an article in Forbes magazine. 2-3 weeks later, he decided to quit his job and try it out.

Curt was in high school and had a friend who took the very first piscine at 42 Silicon Valley. He was at a point where he was looking at schools and colleges and trying to figure out what to do with his life. He shared, “I have always been kinda tech savvy and into gaming.  So when I heard about the piscine it kind of sparked an interest in coding. I went and took a web intro dev boot camp and that gave me the skills to build web pages. That was enough to keep me going through my senior year. I took AP computer science where I learned Java programming, this was me preparing myself for the piscine. Basically, I put all of my eggs in one basket because I didn’t want to go to a normal college.”

We sat down with Mason, Wyatt and Curt to learn more about MetaHobby:

What Is the Inspiration Behind MetaHobby?

Mason: MetaHobby has been a compounding collection of skills and hobbies leading up to game development. I had intended to sell toys and board games at one point shortly before 42. I was even selling Yoyos to the other students when I got here. It is much easier to stock and sell something digital. So it makes sense. Not to mention again, I love video games and computers.

Curt: Mason was the first person I met at 42, and he showed me a game on paper called Sim. It is like tic tac toe’s strategic cousin, and he is always making stickers and stuff with recognizable characters. We already have enough coding experience between all three of us. It is less about building games and more about the social media and marketing aspect now.

Wyatt: Inspiration comes from what we have coming, our game Pixel Smithy is coming out soon and all the profit models we can try is exciting.

How Does MetaHobby Work?

Mason: So the main tool we are currently using is GameMaker Studio 2. Coming from the graphics branch of 42 I find it is incredibly easy to program and develop in an environment built specifically for the task at hand, it feels possible to make anything you can imagine. We chose GameMaker Studio 2 because you can purchase the lifetime license and you are good to go with your games on PC, Mac and Linux, iOS and Android, they also have a direct pathway to Nintendo Switch, Xbox and PS4. That is really appealing to video game lovers and Nintendo fans such as myself.

Wyatt: Yes that’s the tool, the process is something like: We come up with an idea, Mason bangs out a prototype, I’ll focus on optimization and reusability, and Curt makes everything look amazing…

Curt: There is a lot to design, pixel and code so it’s great we are all programmers that have various backgrounds that help us accomplish that. In aseprite and illustrator you can get a lot done, but if you can code you can use shaders.

What Part of the Project Did You Work On?

Mason: I really like doing what are called game jams. That is when I do the programmer art, and come up with an idea, and boom make it happen. Like a game dev hackathon. We all decide if this game prototype is going to be marketable/profitable if work is continued, and we decide on more features.

Wyatt: What I  do is take prototypes of games made by Mason or Curt and prepare them for production by making the code more adaptable and reusable.  After, I put on different hats. I may do some pixel art, or work on sound effects. Making a game requires a lot of media assets, and we want everything to be original and beautiful from the music, ambient sound, and art, to user interface and experience.

Curt: It is my job to create the majority of assets for the games including sprites and animations, and also code different parts of each game. I enjoy creating assets because I get to maintain my creative freedom as an artist, but also implement them into the game as a programmer. The satisfaction I get out of being an Indie Game Artist and Developer is that I am able to create visually pleasing games that are hard to put down.  

What Was the Most Difficult Aspect?

Wyatt: Marketing and advertising.

Curt: Keeping up to date on social media, finding the right place to post and finding the right communities for small gaming platforms.

Mason: Marketing and advertising, we are finding good communities, the indie gaming world has gotten a big boost recently, so we should definitely jump on the wave. I love indie games and am seeing a resurgence of tools and game jams. The gaming world is on fire right now.

What Did You Enjoy Most About Your Project?

Mason: The game I always played on paper, I can now play on my phone and it is so pretty. What can I say, I’m creating video games and that is awesome.

Wyatt: The majority of projects I have done are not as tangible as what we do at MetaHobby.

Curt: We also get to control everything we do, we build the games we want to make and put everything we want into it. Compared to projects in the 42 curriculum it is different, but that gave us all the programming basics. Now we get to choose the projects we want to do and we have creative authority. You also feel proud of what you build because you completely created it.

What Did You Learn From This Project?

Curt: Definitely architecture of the game. How to deliver quality production games.

Wyatt: Hexcross was my first game, so I had to start by picking up a couple of new tools. GameMaker – our current game engine of choice and Aesprite – our preferred tool for making pixel art. Also, I would say that we’ve learned much more about each other, and how to work effectively together.

Mason: I definitely learned a lot about the iOS and Android pathways to launch. I never made native applications, only web. Being on mobile finally and not being trapped in the browser is freeing. GameMaker Studio 2 is a strong tool, and how I am using it to make games, I think I’ll be using it for a while. I was learning all of this C, C#, C++ and JS programming to make games. Before I would take jobs to make non-game web pages and things. Now I could use these skills to make a cool non-game app. But I think I’ll still be making games on my weekends.

What Future Do You See for MetaHobby?

Mason: Over the last 7 years MetaHobby was an idea and actually became a startup. I see it becoming the next step after that in a few years, having it become incorporated, making sure we can use the ideas we want to express and finding our audience. Really, it has just been a hobby for the last 7 years, now it is something more. The next step is to make it more inviting to people, getting it in their hands, and fostering a community of game developers.

Curt: We easily have the skills to make quality games. As we push to get active communities on a user basis, the accessibility of downloading a free game just creates a larger stream of users to begin with. Creating traction with our first games is crucial to maintaining a stable community of users.. In short, our long term future rides on our community and people caring about our content.

Wyatt: I see us putting out quite a few smaller games at first, then once we’ve stabilized ourselves fiscally, we’ll have much more time to put work and love into larger projects that we have on the back burner.

L to R: Wyatt, Mason and Curt

Meet the Team

Name: Mason Young
Hometown: Earth
Interests: hula hooping, yo-yo and video games
Dream Job/Career Interests: Dream? Eating pizza and drinking juice.

Name: Wyatt Lutt
Hometown: Fort Worth, TX
Interests: Podcasts, video games, and tea
Dream Job/Career Interests: Money aside, this would be it.

Name: Curt Krommenhoek
Hometown: Truckee, CA
Interests: Skateboarding, skiing, mountain biking, hiking, camping, outdoorsman, swimming. I love art and music and now getting into creating music. I love videogames too.
Dream Job/Career Interests: Right now is to be a successful game company, down the road, maybe seeing where this goes and getting adopted into a cool company. I also do full stack web development and blockchain development, these are some of my core interests.

published by admin – June 19, 2019