Scholastic Art and Writing award recipient reflects on achievement

Ben McMahon, MVRHS sophomore wins a Gold Key in Video Game category for “UNTITLED 4 (demo)”


Last month, the Boston Globe announced that 20 students from Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School received awards for their artistic accomplishments in writing, painting, photography, ceramics, and animation. The Times spoke to some of these award-winning artists, and asked them to talk about their art and creative processes. This is a continuation of those interviews.

Ben McMahon, sophomore
Gold Key in Video Game category for “UNTITLED 4 (demo)”

When and how did you start designing video games?

In 2013, when I was in sixth grade, we worked a lot with the program Scratch, which is a very simple tool that can be used to make games and animations. I still use it today, although I am going to move on from it. I made my first game one day in school after we did all the work and had freer time. I remembered how our teacher spent a lesson in said program, and decided to attempt to make a game myself.

What is the story behind your winning piece?

The game that won is the demo to the final entry in my UNTITLED series of scratch games. The series is about a character represented by a ball who goes through an event in his life that causes him to get depressed. Throughout the original three games you learn more about the story and what exactly happens. In the game that won, UNTITLED 4, the story is all laid out from the previous games, but this time it is a choose-your-own-adventure game, where your choices impact the ending you get and the events that transpire. The version of the game entered was a very early demo version, meaning that it was far from complete and only one ending was finished. The final game will come out on my Scratch page sometime in the near future.

What inspires your art? What themes, memories, or inspiration do you draw on when you create?

Many concepts of my projects come spur-of-the-moment; however, they are usually inspired by other games I have played or seen. I have learned that I love telling stories in my games, hence the focus on the story of the UNTITLED series of games. I love making stories and experiences that cause the player strong emotions. When playing video games, when a fictional story can make me feel something, whether it be happiness, sadness, outrage, I instantly fall in love with the material, and I hope to make others feel the same.

Do you work with any other mediums?

I do occasionally draw; however, I am not the best at it. When I draw, I am mainly drawing something for one of my games. This can range from characters to locations. I have also recently been trying my hand at musical composition. My next game after UNTITLED 4 will have a completely original soundtrack by me, a first for one of my games.

Why is art important to you?

It gives artists the ability to show themselves to people. One of the biggest reasons I love making video games is that I can show people what I can think of; my ideas and my stories. Artists get the ability to be themselves when making art, and to show other people who they are.

What are your goals as an artist?

I want people to see what I can come up with. I want them to see who I am and what I am interested in. I want to be able to express myself in the way I desire.

What are you currently working on?

Right now I am working on finishing the final version of UNTITLED 4. I am also working on some aspects of my next game, which has an original soundtrack and a whole bunch of original artwork I need to make. This next game will also have a story I have been planning since 2013, when I first started making video games.
To see more of Ben’s work, visit his Youtube Channel.