Parents instinctively want to celebrate every little thing that pops out of their child, no matter how mundane it might be. That's understandable. It's your offspring, a tiny human representation of all your hopes and dreams for the future. When your kid screams out something about how a bear is a turtle and the mailman looks like farts, that is undeniably the most hilariously creative thing you have ever heard. Undoubtedly, many others will find it hilarious, too. Most would be content to simply film their kids saying and doing absurd things and post them on YouTube. Once in a while, however, someone takes things a step further, and actually puts their child's innocent nonsense to great, creative use.
One such case is Untold Entertainment founder Ryan Henson Creighton. Untold makes a lot of Flash games, some of which you've likely clicked on at some point over the course of your life--possibly on purpose. Ryan has a daughter named Cassie, a precocious, energetic little girl who has an active interest in her father's line of work. When Ryan suggested she come along with him to The Toronto Game Jam--a festival of developers making games over the course of a single weekend--she greeted the opportunity not with the usual scrunchy face a kid might give at the prospect of hanging out with their dad all weekend, but one of pure excitement. So much so, that dad had to have a little talk with her before the event:
== TEASER ==
Me: Remember, you’re the first little girl who’s ever made a game at TOJam. And everyone’s worried you’re going to run around screaming and making noise and wrecking things.
Cassie: (shocked face) No i won’t!
Me: *i* know you won’t. (totally lying here – i was as nervous about it as anyone) But you have to prove to everyone that little girls can make video games too. If you’re very well behaved, then next year if another little girl wants to come and make a game, the TOJam people will say “the little girl who made a game last year was SO wonderful, we’d LOVE to see more little girls making games.”
Cassie: i’ll be have. i will!
The resulting game closely resembles the child-written comic book Axe Cop, as seen through the dual lenses of My Little Pony and Pokemon. Titled Sissy's Magical Ponycorn Adventure, this Flash-based game operates in the vein of classic point-and-click adventures, but with the added bonus of hand-drawn art and voice work from little Cassie herself.
All programming and animation was, of course, Ryan's work, but all of the drawings are the result of many hours of drawing by Cassie. The imagery is exactly as bananas as you'd expect the art of a five-year-old to be, and that's half the game's charm. The other half is the voice work. Cassie voices Sissy, a girl who friggin' loves ponycorns--which are, like, the best thing in the world because they're like ponies AND unicorns--and wants to collect them in jars. Ryan clearly has a great deal of fun voicing the remaining characters, which include an angry dinosaur, a dickish lemon, and a mysterious ponycorn benefactor known only as "Orangeboy."
Of course the game is incredibly simple and short. It's a project sprung from the unchecked imagination of a five-year-old, after all. But that's what makes it so great. Every aspect of Ponycorn Adventure exists in that spectrum of imaginary loopiness that most of us stop being able to see once we become teenagers and incorrectly learn from our peers that imagination is for stupid babies who cry all the time. Every phrase uttered by Cassie shoots out of her mouth like it's the most exciting thing in the world, and that energy is incredibly infectious.
I don't want to herald this game as more than it is, mind you. It's something that will take you a short few minutes of your day to play, and you won't find yourself thinking much while you do it. That said, in the few minutes I spent playing it, the smile on my face never went away. As a game, it's an adorable trifle, but as an example of a father empowering his child's imagination and showing her how hard work can pay off in the end, it's simply priceless.
If you find yourself having a similar reaction as I did and want to make some kind of contribution for Creighton's effort, you can opt to click through the ad that plays before the game (maybe not the unfortunate one for TNT's The Glades, which features the tagline "Murder is Back in Season"), or send a couple of bucks via Paypal to an account he's set up. All proceeds will go toward Cassie's education fund. He's currently raised over $1,000, which is apparently enough to buy "500 fake moustaches, which she'll use in her campus-wide protest against perceived gender imbalance in comp sci admissions."
Photo taken from Untold Entertainment's Official Blog