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From couch gamer to game developer: Cooktown teen blazing a trail

Joseph Guenzler -

Cooktown native Kieron Saunders has transitioned from an average gamer to a Brisbane Grammar graduate, currently steering his path toward a promising career in game development.

"I was playing COD, and my Mum asked if I wanted to go to boarding school," Mr Saunders said.

"I wasn't paying much attention and was like, 'Yeah, sure.' A couple of weeks later, I did the interview and got accepted into Cape York Leaders Program to go to Brisbane Grammar School. I was very happy.

"I didn't really have much of a plan for my future but going to Grammar made me realise I had a lot of options."

Relocating from Cooktown to Brisbane Grammar presented challenges, particularly greater academic expectations for the self-described shy teenager.

However, he remained focused on the positive aspects of this transition.

"I was like, 'Okay, I am given a great opportunity here.' I looked at the benefits and, for me, they were much greater than staying in Cooktown," Kieron says.

"After four weeks at Grammar, I had a moment when I realised my family and friends are still going to be there.

"I can just do the best for my family and myself by sticking it through."

Mr Saunders found the support he needed in the Cape York Leaders Program, offering consistent guidance as he navigated through the years ahead.

His enthusiasm for coding stems from his love for fantasy books and world-building.

Coding allows him to bring his imaginative worlds to life, and he sees future opportunities to benefit his community and those who supported him.

"My vision is to create a game where players can immerse themselves in Indigenous stories from Dreamtime and experience them firsthand."

Kieron is dedicated to translating the Dreamtime stories from his childhood into interactive games, aiming to provide a vibrant digital insight into Australia's Indigenous culture.

After gaining permission to recreate the stories from the Elders, he is keen to incorporate details about the culture and language of the region where the stories originate.

"One of the great things about this project is the fact that players will learn about the original tribes of that location and their language through voiceovers and subtitles," he said.

Kieron's project centres on Indigenous Australian themes but he envisions its broader potential to resonate with cultures around the world.

"I hope it can inspire other cultures to do the same," he said.

"I would love to see a digital version of, let's say, the Native Americans' stories.

"I see this game as a tool for enhancing Indigenous representation in gaming and promoting cultural awareness."

Beyond inspiring his sister to follow in his footsteps, Mr Saunders serves as a role model for the Secondary Leaders of the Cape York Leaders Program.

Actively giving back, he supervises at Term Events and camps, sharing his journey during the end-of-year CYLP Next Steps Conference.

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