MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Many people have anxiety about death and the afterlife but cannot find a way to overcome it. However, Conner Rush, a WVU freshman, did just that by creating his new video game.
Summerland is the Fairmont native’s third video game and was launched on December 2, 2020, via Steam’s online gaming platform. It’s a free-to-play, first-person narrative in which gamers take control of the character, Matthew, a detective reliving the events of his past to understand what happened to him. It’s a game Rush had been working on since he was in high school, and he said he is glad to see all his hard work pay off.
I’m very happy about it. This has definitely been my most popular game. I think it’s over 20,000 downloads at the moment. And it has been a crazy experience. I’ve also gotten a lot more connections through this with a lot of people in the industry, and it’s been really helpful. Plus, I think the final product, as a whole, is something I can be proud of.Conner Rush – Creator, Summerland
As far as Rush creating new contacts through the creation of the game, he was approached by several major companies to develop his game. Ultimately, he decided to go with Fairmont Youths Reinventing Entertainment (FYRE) Games, which he created when he was 12 and became legally recognized as an LLC in the United States in 2020.
The excitement for Summerland extended to the voice acting auditions. Rush held a public audition and had more than 4,500 applications. In the end, Rush cast Ryan Beard, Rhys David, and Natalie Van Sistine as the voice actors. Matthew, played by Rhys David, is followed by Evelyn, voiced by Natalie Van Sistine. Evelyn follows Matthew around on ride-along and to crime scenes so that she can become a detective as well.
He explained that he has professional voice actors in a video game he conceptualized, wrote, designed, and created the music for. You can check out the game’s soundtrack on Youtube.
As to whether this whole process helped him alleviate some of his anxiety, Rush said he incorporated a lot of ethical philosophy and morality in the game because those were things pressing on his mind as he created Summerland.
He said creating the game helped him significantly.
“It did,” he said. “I think it did in a sense that it’s something that was able to think about through writing this story and through developing this product. It just helped me think about it a lot more and put it into my own perspective that’s helped me — it’s helped me comprehend it more than I did before.”
Right now, Rush said his primary focus is on Summerland and ensuring that he can maintain its high quality. He will do so by fixing any issues the game has and updating it periodically. But, he said, he knows there will be a time when he will start creating his fourth game.
“I am definitely going to make more games in the future,” Rush said. “I don’t think there’s any question about that; it’s just I don’t have any ideas at the moment, and I don’t know where to go from here. I might jump back into music again before I go back into game development. I guess I have a few game ideas that I’m throwing around but nothing solid yet. And yeah, I really just want to keep making things into the future; that’s my main goal.”
Summerland is available for free on Steam.