David Eisman is a 16-year-old high school sophomore and the founder CEO of video game company Pixelman Productions, which was founded in January.
He's not the typical kid programmer. In fact, he's barely a programmer at all, he says (he knows some C#). He considers himself a businessman.
But that hasn't stopped him from going after his dream: to work in the video game industry.
"I always wanted an internship at a video game company, but no one would ever hire me. They said I needed experience and I had to have built a video game already. So I decided to skip that step entirely of trying to get into a company and just make my own," he said.
Eisman also has a famous dad: money-man hedge fund manager Steve Eisman, the guy played by Steve Carell in the movie "The Big Short".
Having a wealthy dad gave Eisman access to a lot of free advice on how to work with and manage people, but alas, no cash. His dad hasn't invested in his startup.
That didn't stop him either
"So I went to the internet. I went on every single video game site and forum known to man, and I started posting ads," he said.
The recruiting ads said he was starting a new video game company and that people would be paid via revenue sharing.
A lot of people told him he was crazy. But others were intrigued. He got 30 applicants. He's hired 12 people so far, he says.
"I hired two programmers, artists, a writer, a marketing team from Poland and two music composers. The youngest person is 18 and the oldest is 35, from Pakistan. It's an international team. My dad helped me with the contracts," he says.
"You’d be surprised at how many people are willing to work on video game projects for free," he says.
An unusual video game
As you might expect from this unusual CEO, Eisman's game isn't typical either.
It's a walking simulator game. These are a relatively new form of first-person game where you walk around the world and just using the clues you can see or hear (and sometimes involving your character's supernatural powers), you solve puzzles or crimes.
Pixelman Productions' game is called Mirka, which means "wild man," he tells us.
And the main character is a girl.
"A female protagonist in a walking simulator has never been done before to my knowledge," he says.
The game also isn't about shooting people or saving the world. It's about friendship.
The story line involves Liza, "a girl who is searching for her friend in a forgotten wilderness and she finds a native tribe. She spends time with them. Things happen and eventually the tribe is in danger and she has to figure out how to save them," he says.
It's not your classic video-game kind of fun.
"Mirka is going to be a self-exploratory experience," he says.
Its goal is "to surround you and make you feel emotions that you tend not to feel in most games. You'll feel sadness, loneliness, fear, bonds of friendship."
Also important: Eisman says that the protagonist in his game was created with respect.
"Female protagonists are hyper-sexualized in most games and that really upsets me. You don’t hyper-sexualize people. You don’t make stereotypes," he says.
Even bigger plans ahead
In the months that the Pixelman team has worked on Mirka, they finished a demo and a trailer.
It will be a PC/Mac game, and eventually, for PlayStation.
He's been reaching out to folks at Oculus Rift, too, though so far they haven't called him back, he says.
Next they hope to raise some funds to get the game produced. They plan to launch a Kickstarter campaign next month.
Whether people love the game enough to fund it has yet to be seen.
But ultimately, this game isn't even his end goal, Eisman says. It's just a "stepping stone" toward his bigger dream.
"I want to incorporate video games into education and work with universities to use the psychological principal of 'tangential learning' in order to help kids learn," he says.
Tangential learning means to learn about stuff in a fun way that you enjoy.
"I’m really upset with how our current education system works and I think video games can be a help," he says.
Here's the trailer for Mirka.