How one boy from Ireland became an app developer at 12

By BBC Trending
What's popular and why

Image source, CBBC

At the age of 12, Jordan Casey created a game that trended in the Apple iTunes store. Now 15, he's the chief executive of his own business, Casey Games. BBC Trending caught up with him to find out how he became a tech prodigy.

Casey first developed an interest in games when he was nine because he "thought it would be a fun hobby to blog about". After a short time writing about the games he was playing, he decided to make his own apps.

"At the time I was playing a game which had a tool to make your own house. So I figured this is how making your own game would work, only a bit more complex," he says. "I went to a store, bought a book on programming and started watching videos on YouTube. It all took off from there."

In 2012 he topped the charts in the Apple Store in his native Ireland with a game called Alien Ball. It was his first attempt to make a game suitable for iPhone, and the success came as a surprise.

"Alien Ball was a version of Space Invaders. Originally it was just an experimental game to test out the iPhone technology. I didn't expect it to do so well," he says.

The fact that the game was made by someone so young also helped. During the Apple review process, Casey wrote "by a 12 year old" in the description. That caught the company's attention. They contacted him and subsequently featured the game on their site. He's made several apps since then, including a sequel to Alien Ball.

Image source, Casey Games

In 2013 Casey ventured into more complicated software with the launch of TeachWare, an app which allows teachers to manage student information.

"I came up with the idea when my teacher lost her big black book with all of the students details of attendance and test results. I wanted to make something reliable. It's encrypted and saved in the cloud so you can't lose your information." TeachWare is now being used in parts of Asia, Africa and Europe and it won an award at an exhibition for young scientists.

When we meet him, Jordan Casey is confident, unassuming and relaxed. But he says that wasn't always the case. "I used to be really shy and I wasn't used to all of this attention. When I was 12 I was invited to the Cannes Lions festival. They treated me like I was famous and put me in a limo and stuff. It was really surreal and it happened really fast. In January I was making my own game and four months later I'm being shipped off to talk about my story."

Casey lives with his parents in Waterford in the Republic of Ireland. He goes to school and has a schedule for homework and his business. Like any ordinary teenager he enjoys spending time with his friends and playing football. And his coding expertise has come in handy for some teenage pranks.

"For my mum on Mother's Day I made an app and it looked like a search engine. Every time she tried to search something on it, it would just come up with 'Happy Mother's Day.' I was also trying to persuade her to let me have a sleepover so under the Mother's Day greeting it said 'Can I please have a sleepover?' in the search results," he says.

Despite his success he still considers his business a hobby - one that he's glad is catching on.

"When I started out at age nine, there weren't a lot of kids coding. But in the last four or five years, it's completely changed. Coding has become a normal hobby now - I think that's really cool."

Image source, Web Summit
Image caption,
Jordan addressing a large audience at this year's Web Summit in Dublin

Reporting by Anne-Marie Tomchak

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