Jordan Casey is no ordinary 13-year-old. The Irish prodigy is a self-taught iOS app developer and also the founder and CEO of Casey Games, an indie games company that he launched late last year. Some of his successful titles include Alien Ball VS Humans, Greenboy Touch, and Save The Day, the official game for National Children's Day in Brazil.
He's currently working on several more games and speaking at international conferences such as Cannes Lions, European Pirate Summit, Gamecity7, TedxYouth New Delhi, The Smartphone and Tablet Games Summit, BETT 2013, and most recently, TiEcon Conference in Silicon Valley. Now he speaks to Download.com about his recent successes, his upcoming releases, and his early start as an iOS developer.
How did you teach yourself to code?
I taught myself to program when I was nine. I used to play an online game and saw that some of the users were making Web sites about this game. I thought this would be a fun hobby so I went to a store and bought a book on how to program Web sites. After a year of Web development I was thinking of different projects I could do and so I just thought, "games."
Most people don't know what they "want to be when they grow up" till much later. How did you know, at such a young age, that you wanted to be an app developer?
Because, I was doing it as a hobby, at first; and like a kid who does soccer as a hobby, they want to be a soccer player when they grow up. I was at a startup conference, in September, and a person there was really explaining the whole game industry and why I should start young. This inspired me to build a startup.
What was the first game that you ever downloaded and played?
I got my PS2 when I was five. I was really addicted to the Crash Bandicoot series, and then it went to Mario. When I was nine I became really into Club Penguin (which is the game that inspired me to start programming).
You've spoken at such prestigious conferences around the world. Are guests surprised when they see a young man walking up onstage? What is it like for you to come face to face with all these older, industry leaders?
I guess they are a bit surprised, because it's not something you see at all conferences. But at first I feel as though some people don't take me too seriously, so when I talk I sometimes plan to give it my all and prove them wrong; and when I talk, they seem to take me a bit more seriously.
Talk to me about going to Silicon Valley for the TiEcon Conference. What did you do there?
Silicon Valley was basically a dream come true and I couldn't have gotten there without support from a few organizations and my family. I realized that this may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so I decided to make the most of it and do as much as I can. I was kindly invited by Adobe to visit its HQ (Adobe has been very supportive of me), and it was awesome; I visited Enterprise Ireland's HQ in Mountain View, I spoke at the TiEcon conference in Santa Clara, and made some awesome connections there, and then I was kindly given tickets to the Maker Faire event, which was awesome!
Tell us about your upcoming releases: My Little World, Thought Jotter, and C-Browse. What sets them apart?
My Little World is a kids' adventure game about a tiny creature who lives in a back garden. I think it's a unique kids game because it's made by a kid, and the idea was an idea I came up with and a game I always wanted to play as a small child. I was always pretending in my grandmother's back garden that I was a boy who was shrunk down and I sort of created civilizations with snails and houses. The game concept is me basically telling the story of what I did when I was younger, if that makes sense.
Thought Jotter is a project that I can't really talk about because it's in the very early stages, but I can tell you the concept. It is an anonymous social network where you can: 1. Only add people you actually know because you have to give that person your randomly generated, unique code, so your friends are your actual friends, and the anonymous part is basically regarding trends. Sometimes when something controversial happens, or an event happens that can have varied reviews, on social networks you may feel reluctant to post your honest review in case of criticism, but with TJ you can see what other people are saying about the event, but not the name of the person. If you agree with the person, you click the 'like' button, and if you don't, there is no 'dislike' button, so you simply ignore it.
C-Browse is a Web browser about which our motto is: 'Straight to the point...and click.' It doesn't distract you with big extensions, etc. It's just for Web browsing; and after testing it, it is faster than most major Web browsers, so you can browse quicker.
What inspired Alien Ball VS Humans and Greenboy Touch?
Alien Ball was my first game. I just really loved Space Invaders and so I thought it would be a good game to start, so I just made it. Greenboy Touch was a bigger, better, and mobile version of one of the first games I ever built.
How did you get involved with creating the Save The Day app?
I was speaking at the Cannes Lions festival in June of last year and was approached by a staff member of a Brazilian ad agency called Fabrica, and they thought it would be a cool idea for Casey Games to create the official game for National Children's Day, in Brazil; it would be not only for kids to enjoy, but also to inspire them because they know a kid made it, so they know that they can make one, too.
Of all the awards and recognition you've received thus far, which has been the most important to you and why?
All of the awards I've won are amazing and I'm so grateful; I guess my favorite was when I received a 2,000 Euro bursary from the TV show, "Junior Dragons Den." It was amazing! So many kids entered it and get the opportunity to receive advice from some of the best entrepreneurs in Ireland. It was incredible, and so was the bursary. But another amazing part about it was the exposure I got from the TV show: the downloads skyrocketed, I met a ton of connections, and my company was the No. 1 trending topic in Ireland, so it opened so many doors for me.
How do you balance your work with school? Where do you get the time to study?
After school I usually do an after-school course so I can catch up on homework that I may have missed from a conference, etc. Then, when I get home I usually work on the company or play soccer. I really want to have a balance. I get my summer holidays this week and so I'm definitely going to get out a lot more and play soccer with my friends and have fun...as well as managing my business.