Kilbuck fifth-grader puts new spin on rock-paper-scissors

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More challenging than checkers but not as difficult as chess, the newly invented game of RoX is about to take the app world by storm.

At least, that's what 10-year-old Aidan Sommers of Kilbuck hopes when his brainchild becomes available, possibly as soon as next week.

Aidan, a fifth grader at Avonworth Elementary School, was only 7 when he came up with a new twist on the universally known decision-making game of rock-paper-scissors.

According to his father, Robert Sommers, "For three years, he lobbied me to help him get his game started as a board game. It wasn't until he turned 10 and witnessed the devastation in Haiti on TV that we finally launched the game into a business as an app."

Aidan's plan is to donate proceeds from the sale of the game to help the children of Haiti, especially those who are living as slaves.

"He wondered about those kids who didn't have any parents and how they lived, and he wanted to help them by sending them some money. That was an a-ha moment for me," Mr. Sommers said. Convinced that RoX's time had come, Mr. Sommers hired Kate McGinley of McGinley Media to develop the game into an app.

"I used to be in the manufacturing process, and I knew that developing it into a board game wouldn't have been easy," Mr. Sommers said. "The app idea made sense."

Aidan explained that RoX gets players to engage with one another.

"If you're into strategy games, like chess or even checkers, the rules are easy to understand,: he said. "A lot of people want to know how hard the game is, and we usually say it's not as easy as checkers, but it's not as complicated as chess. It's also a good training ground, because you build a strategy as you play the game. You're developing a skill set that allows you to learn chess easier."

The game is played on a grid pattern.

"Everyone has a customized rock, and you drop it on a grid to build a formation that resembles a rock, paper or scissors. Your opponent can see what you're building, and the goal is to outwit your opponent with a match," Aidan said, adding that players compete in rounds.

The app for the game will cost users $1.49 to download onto a smartphone or other hand-held device. "When we start making money, one of the big opportunities we see is to connect people around the world through tournaments, and the entrance fee would go to the [Haitian] charities as well," Mr. Sommers said.

Based in the Pittsburgh Technology Center in Oakland, McGinley Media develops mobile websites and applications for a variety of businesses and organizations.

"We don't typically do game apps, but I was very impressed with the game that Aidan came up with," said Kate McGinley, who also works out of her home in Morningside. "I sat down and played RoX with Aidan, and I was amazed at how really fun and interesting it was. Although I was playing with a 10-year-old, the game was difficult, and you had to use strategy."

She added, "Anyone can play this with anyone else. I like that no game will ever be the same; you have to think through your moves."

The process of app development began in May. According to Ms. McGinley, it can take anywhere from three months to a year to develop an app. "It all depends on the needs of the client and how many features you want to add," she explained.

App costs vary, but with developers making between $100 and $150 an hour, it's never cheap. "Our least expensive app was $7,000, and our most expensive was into the high five-figures," Ms. McGinley said. "It depends on the features, the graphics, how many people will use it ... there's a lot that goes into it."

When the app is ready, RoX will be available for download in 123 countries, Aidan said. "It is my hope that if we tell other people how bad it is for the poorest children and slave children in Haiti, then all of us from around the world can help these kids and stop the poverty."


Jill Cueni-Cohen, freelance writer: .


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