Fresh out of high school, Anthony Tan's home-made games have earned him a paid side gig.

A few months before he started year 12, Anthony Tan hit the front page of Reddit.

He’d put some screenshots of his game, Way to the Woods, on his blog and hadn’t thought much of it. Game design was a hobby, something he did on his bedroom computer at night.

“Somehow it got to Reddit, and then somehow it got to the front page,” he remembers. “I woke up the next morning and it was like boooom! Lots of developers sent kind words on Twitter, and I really appreciated it. Then Team 17 got in touch.”

Team 17 is an indie games developer and publisher. Ever played Worms or Alien Breed? That’s them. Anthony, who is now 17 himself, is working with them on a Way to the Woods release, while moonlighting as a designer for other game companies like Owlchemy Labs. He finished high school in 2016. Most of his friends are just starting uni – studying science, engineering, commerce and media. Anthony is different. His side gig has turned into something more.

“Being a game designer is kinda like being a movie director,” he explains, “but maybe slightly more hands on. I think of what kind of experience I want to create, and how I want it to come across as a game, and then I make it myself. I get the art, the animation, the programming, the music, the design and the gameplay together to show something, to create an experience.”

To get his job done, Anthony uses a mix of Photoshop, Maya, ZBrush and Unreal Engine 4, plus programs with niche tech purposes like XNormal. “Spotify is also pretty essential to my personal wellbeing,” he says, laughing.

Back ups are vital when building games, as is bucketloads of data. “I have to back up my files to the drive online constantly,” he explains. “We’ve got the NBN, but I need a lot of data, and speed is really important.” Anthony’s phone is also a key part of his creative process.

“I use my phone all the time to write down ideas, no matter where I am.”

He says. “I take notes, then use Drive to sync them, then get them from my computer later.”

His latest gigs include work as a 3D artist on Owlchemy’s VR game Job Simulator and for a VR Rick and Morty [6] game, too. Not bad eh? But when you consider Anthony’s been making games since he was about 10 – like this Jerry Seinfeld as a bee  RPG, which he built as a joke for his friends – it’s maybe not so surprising.

“Just getting to put your energy into something you enjoy is really cool,” he says, and that’s not confined to games. Anthony has some other side gigs in mind. “I want to make cool visual stuff, music as well,” he says. “Right now I just mess around with music. I’m real amateur. I do want to entertain people, but also want to put an artistic spin on things, and make it meaningful.”

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Upsiders is a collective that’s about celebrating, inspiring, and empowering young Australians to pursue their passions via side gigs.