Looking around the room, there is only one escape. You jump onto the fire-truck and activate the button on the side. A ladder extends forward, and you scramble up. As you reach the top, you dive into the vent.
This is the virtual world that senior Sam LoPiccolo has created.
LoPiccolo is part of a team of programmers that designs and creates video games. According to LoPiccolo, this game, Small, is their greatest accomplishment.
“We definitely spent the most time on this, and I think it’s the best thing that we’ve made overall,” he said.
The premise of the game is simple: explore and discover.
“Basically, you are a toy, and you have to explore the world and just see what you can do,” LoPiccolo said.
The game is set in a large house with numerous rooms and levels. The player views the world through the first person and has to investigate the surroundings and find openings in the walls that could lead to different settings. A cleverly inconspicuous fire truck might ultimately lead to the only way out of the living room.
Ian Hoffman, a senior at Wellesley High School, has been working with LoPiccolo on this project since August. Hoffman said that although the project’s team definitely had a collaborative dynamic, LoPiccolo stood out as the leader.
“I think a leader needs to be able to compromise at times, but at other times a leader needs to be able to assert their executive opinion and make final choices,” Hoffman said. “I definitely saw Sam doing both of those things when I was working with him.”
According to Hoffman, LoPiccolo was not only a leader, but also a constructive member of the team.
“He knows his stuff, and whenever there was a problem that was just sticking out like a sore thumb, Sam would be the first one to step up and troubleshoot it,” he said.
Furthermore, LoPiccolo’s understanding extends past his own role on the team, Hoffman said–he can also work with sound design.
“Not only does he program, but if we have an idea for the music or for the visual design, he also has a lot of skill in those categories,” Hoffman said. “So he is able to make judgment calls and actually understand ideas from all sides of the equation.”
According to LoPiccolo’s father, Greg LoPiccolo, his son has been passionate about gaming for his entire life.
LoPiccolo said he believes that video games are more than just a pastime–they are an art form. However, he does not think that every game out there should be classified as art.
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“I think that part of it is the intent on the part of the developers, and part of it is just the way in which some games are meant be artistic, and are meant to look beautiful and present an environment for interactive storytelling as opposed to certain games which are basically just things to pass the time, and things to make money.” he said.
Although he is doing his best to create art, LoPiccolo said that some games are casting a shadow on the reputation of gaming.
“Gaming has yet to define its niche,” he said. “I think it’s kind of held back a little bit by a lot of the stereotypes like Call of Duty.”
Video games like Call of Duty bring in billions of dollars to the industry, making it one of the most lucrative businesses in the world. Some may go into the business for the money. LoPiccolo aims to make art.
Sasha Sais can be contacted at [email protected]