He’s a man of few words.
Parker DeFreece, 13, doesn’t talk a lot. He thinks a lot. About video games. And all his thinking has netted him some phenomenal numbers: more than 3 million plays have been recorded on his game “The Elevator” more than 17 million on “Elevator Remade;” and he has $1,000 in his pocket.
He creates his games on roblox.com, a platform designed for game creation.
‘He really, really likes the Lua coding,” his mom, Paige DeFreece, said. “It’s a program that is used by professional computer programmers. At 13 he has learned it on his own. There are times I would yell at him, ‘Parker get off the computer!’ His brother, Steven, now 17, would say, ‘Mom, he’s not playing. He’s writing the program. What he’s doing is college level.’”
Parker was one of the youngest to be invited to the Roblox Developers Conference in Santa Rosa, California, last month. It was invitation-only affair with 300 kids up to college age participating. They took up the entire floor of the San Jose Marriott, spending two days in workshops and the last day in a competition. The 25 teams of five were given the word “machines” as a theme. Then the timer started: they had four-and-a-half hours to create a brand-new video game.
“He was the youngest on the team,” Paige said, “and the team looked really young compared to the other ones. I stopped in and saw his team working. It was really quiet and everyone was very serious. However, Parker had a huge grin on his face. He didn’t see me. I didn’t want to distract him in any way.
“It took us 10 minutes to come up with the idea of a bot doing simple chores like picking up bricks and putting them in a toy box, giving juice and passing butter,” Parker said. “It really didn’t feel like we were on a timer at all. It felt like I was just game jammin’.”
All the team members designed, coded and built the action game they named “Fax Story,” with Parker doing a lot of the coding.
“I recorded the awards ceremony,” she said. “First, they did honorable mention and they didn’t get that and I was disappointed. Then I recorded third place and then second place. I went ahead and started recording first place so Parker could look at it later. When his team was announced the winner, I squealed, along with two or three other parents from the team. We were jumping up and down squealing and our kids wouldn’t even look at us.”
Parker started coding at 10, Paige said. “When he was 10 or 11, he was walking back and forth pacing. I said, ‘What are you doing?’ He said, ‘People have already coded where the movement goes this way, but I want my characters to move in all directions.’ Then he sat down and wrote the code.
“When he was 11, one morning he came running down the steps and said, ‘What’s going on! There are 100 people playing my game!’ Then there were 300. Then 1,000. It got up to 2,000 at once, and he has had right at 3 million plays on ‘The Elevator.’
Players get on an elevator and get off at different floors where things happen, Parker explained, adding that he’s made changes to improve the game. “Elevator Remade” now has about 17 million plays and has earned him $1,000.
Although the “Elevator” games have done very well, Parker has moved on to more complex coding and is prouder of the work he’s done recently. He’s done “Panic Ware” and is currently working on “VIVA City” with a team of eight. He’s one of two coders for the game and the other team members build and design how it looks on the screen.
“He’s all about coding,” his mother said, “but he says it’s not about the money.”
“It’s about innovation,” Parker said. “I want to make games more enjoyable and fun. Creators need to make them more user-friendly and not have it all about money,” he added when pressed for more details.
“Once a game had cameras that could only pan one direction in a room,” Paige said. “When a character left that area, there was a lag. He didn’t like that. He’s always trying to problem solve. When we’re driving, he’s quiet and I say ‘What are you thinking about?’ He’ll say, ‘I’m thinking about how to fix blah, blah, blah in my game.’”
“I just think about it so much,” he said. “I see it playing out … Would this work? … No, it wouldn’t work … Maybe if I do this?”
In May before the conference, he had 11,000 friend requests on his Facebook page,” his mother said. “He only approved 86 or so because he’s very picky. On top of that, he has about 5,000 followers on Roblox.
“It is very exciting to see Parker develop skills that are not only interesting for game development, but are also very useful in the business world,” said his dad, Mike DeFreece. “Custom programming in scripting languages, such as Lua, is utilized for many complex tasks in high-tech industries.”
Parker has already chosen his career: he’ll be a game creator.
“I don’t think I’m going to go to college,” he said. “There’s no real reason to go. It’s not like I’m going to get an office. I want to program games. I’ll probably do it from home.”
“I’ve never met anybody so focused and driven,” Paige said. “He knows what he wants to do.”
What does he do for fun when he’s not programming?
“I’m playing games,” he said.
To find Parker’s games, go to www.roblox.com and search for user iwishforpie1.