“I’ve always seen it as an accident and a bad thing, but then I was inspired to turn this into something.” – Mark Major, the man behind Plummet
“My friends and family know my humor is dry,” says Mark Major, but they were still taken aback when he told them he’s planning on turning his terrifying accident, when he fell down a nine-meter-deep hole, into the subject of a slapstick game. “They gave me a weird look,” Major says – especially as the game’s avatar is made to look just like him, replete with ginger hair and beard. But then after playing the game, called Plummet, they actually “enjoyed it even though it’s me,” he adds.
Plummet, which is due out on iOS this week, is Major’s first game. The wry humor doesn’t end with the game’s title – he’s called his startup Broken Back Games.
Seven years after the incident that left him with limited lower-body movement and continual pain, he’s reevaluating what happened to him at the same time as he’s venturing into new fields. “I’ve always seen it as an accident and a bad thing, but then I was inspired to turn this into something,” Major, 28, tells Tech in Asia from his home in Wellington, New Zealand.
He was inspired in particular by Tim Ferriss, an entrepreneur and frequent blogger who’s been called the Indiana Jones for the digital age. Ferriss’ post about how anyone could create the next app empire galvanized Major to turn the recent loss of his IT manager role during a restructuring into an opportunity to branch out into apps and games.
He did this by using an online marketplace for design and coding talent to turn his idea into reality, eventually finding talent in Serbia and Romania to craft the game. It took just two months to go from an idea to an App Store entry. It’s currently awaiting approval from Apple. He believes that the barriers for entry to creating a new startup are now lower than ever thanks to such marketplace sites where you can recruit people to help build your product.
Major’s accident happened during a business trip to Beijing, China, while he was walking along the lantern-filled Ghost Street (Gui Jie). “I was going for a bottle of water, then woke up down a nine-meter shaft,” he recalls. He remembers crashing through a plank of wood lower down the shaft, which possibly saved his life, but the rest of the details remain lost. It was only later in hospital, when he was finished with an X-ray, that his memory kicks back in. “After the X-ray, the doctor said don’t move,” he says. And that’s when Major realized what had happened in the fall.
Some of those other autobiographical details crop up in Plummet, including holes in Beijing streets. Major compares the game to endless runners in that the objective of the game is to keep on falling, tilting the phone left and right to maneuver.
The game could well inspire others to make products based on challenges they’ve been through. He says the screenshots of the game have elicited “support from other people who have broken their back,” as well as from those encouraged by an entrepreneur turning to apps and games for the first time. Major has been using Reddit to engage with gamers ahead of the release.
The new app studio isn’t Major’s first startup, but it is the first that’s aimed at general consumers rather than a particular enterprise niche. The startup will go through a name change later in time for the launch of more apps and games – ones that won’t be autobiographical this time.
This post was originally published in Tech In Asia