Sunday, June 17, 2018
Business

Once just a dream, Pasco business now builds video games for all ages

LUTZ — As a child, Adam Bohn had a hobby that one day would become his career.

"I was obsessive about video games," Bohn, 39, said.

It started with an arcade game at a grocery store. Then, he got a computer and a video game console.

He liked to play the games, but he also wanted to create them.

"I shoveled snow to get money to buy programming books," said Bohn, who grew up in Pennsylvania.

That would pay off when, in 2002, he used all he had learned to launch a game that would inspire his decision to open Artix Entertainment, a company that creates "fun, innovative video games for players of all ages across the world," he said. "I've never wanted to do anything else."

Bohn is the first in his family to have gone to college, he said. He studied business at Penn State University.

But "when everybody else was out partying, I was working on one of my game experiments in the dorms by myself," he said.

He had spent his spare time since childhood building video games but had a difficult time creating them ahead of the industry's curve — until 2002, when he launched his first game, called AdventureQuest.

Before he debuted it, "I didn't have any delusions of making a big studio or making money," Bohn said. "I was just trying to make a game."

But the unexpected happened: The game has been online for 13 years.

Artix Entertainment, which is in North Pointe Village off State Road 54, has since created other games, which include what the industry calls "massively multiplayer online role-playing games," which means tens of thousands of people who have never met face to face can log in and play together. All of the company's games have a combined 200 million registered users.

In addition to its volunteers and off-site staff, the business has 45 local employees, who share a unique workspace.

"Very few of us wear shoes," Bohn said.

Everyone has two names: a real one and a name used to log in to video games.

"We call each other our game names more than our real names," said Bohn, whose game name is Artix.

His staff, which is made up of artists, animators, programmers, writers, game leads and a controller, plus marketing, human resources and business development professionals, creates fantasy and sci-fi games that are family-friendly.

"We're not going to have blood and guts; we're not going to have swearing," Bohn said. "I think The Avengers is our role model — high action, serious plots, suitable for all ages."

And soon, he said, the games will be suitable for all devices.

"The games have to be where the players are," Bohn said.

These days, the players, he added, are on mobile devices.

"If you go to Best Buy and look at (desktop computers), there's like two in the corner, and they're covered in cobwebs," Bohn said. "But they have this giant selection of Android tablets and iPads."

That has steered Artix Entertainment in its latest direction.

"We are masters of building flash games (for online use on personal computers), but the entire world has switched to mobile gaming," Bohn said. "Now, we're mastering building games to play on your smartphones and tablets."

Among them is AdventureQuest 3D, which will be a 3-D game for all devices.

"You're going to be able to play with your friends no matter which device everybody is playing on," Bohn said. "I can play on my PC, you can play on your phone, we can all play together."

And in the process, he said, users will be able to do what one might not expect: become better people.

"Games offer a real opportunity to teach people how to overcome problems and fears," Bohn said, because they can be educational and inspirational.

That, he added, is "the future of games."

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