Thomas Cameron Micka, 20, a graduate of Avon Grove High School, did just that by creating a game for the Apple iPhone and his own company, G.A.M.E. Studios, or Game America Micka Enterprises.In August, Micka was on his summer break from DigiPen Institute of Technology-a school in Redmond, Wash. that specializes in game development and design, computer engineering and production animation-when he decided to create Hairball, a game for his iPhone, in his spare time.
"Release your inner Hair-ball, learn to survive!" boasts Micka's Web site for the iPhone game. The game description says players must "navigate through a endless clogged pipe, trying to keep pace with a continuous onslaught of filthy sludge" as an on-screen "hairball."
He said the idea for the game came from one of his math classes at Avon Grove High School. Micka and his friends would play a game on their graphing calculators that inspired him to create a similar game on the Apple iPhone.
The game uses the iPhone's accelerometer, which senses when the player moves the iPhone, and the device responds to movement accordingly.
From concept to finished product, Micka said the game took him about seven days to develop and start packaging together to send to Apple.
"I guess the hard part first is you have to accept [Apple's] legal contracts and get your banking info squared away," Micka said. "After that, you have to write up a quick 700-word essay and get screenshots of the game, then submit it to the Apple Web site."
Micka said it takes anywhere from four to seven days for Apple to review the game and either reject it and tell the creator why or accept the game. If it's accepted, it becomes available for download in the iTunes Store almost immediately.
After Hairball was accepted, Micka created Snowball, another game that uses the iPhone's accelerometer to slide
Above left: Thomas Cameron Micka, 20, creator of Hairball and Snowball for the Apple iPhone
Far left: A screenshot of Hairball, a game for the Apple iPhone created by AGHS grad Thomas Cameron Micka. a penguin around the screen on "ice" to collect as many snowflakes as possible before the ice collapses.
About 3,000 people have downloaded Hairball, according to Micka, and about 9,000 people have downloaded Snowball. He attributes Snowball's higher sales to the fact that Apple put it on a "featured games" Web page for a day.
On average, Micka said both of his games get 30-100 downloads per day, with each one costing $1.99. Out of each sale, Apple takes 30 percent, so Micka makes about $1.40 every time a player downloads one of his games.
He said in November, Hair-ball made about $200 and Snowball raked in approximately $11,000.
Mashable.com, an Internet blogging site devoted to reviewing new technologies and delivering social networking news, put Hairball on its list of top rated iPhone games that use the device's accelerometer earlier this month. Hairball was given a four out of five star rating. Snowball also appeared on the list and received three out of five stars.
All the attention from fellow iPhone gamers has translated to his circle of friends when they hear of Micka's success.
"My friends that don't go to my school are pretty surprised," said Micka. "The ones who do go to [DigiPen} all really want to make their own game."
Micka said he's not sure what he's going to do with his money just yet.
"I might invest it. I'll probably ask my parents to see what they think is best," he said.
And he certainly won't be wasting his free time over his Christmas break.
"For my next project, I do want to make another one, but I'm leaning more toward making an application [instead of a game]," said Micka.
Hairball and Snowball are available for download in the online Apple iTunes Store and more information about Hair-ball is on Micka's Web site at macmenace.googlepages.com/g.a.m.e.studios.