ASM Tech student builds career in game development

September 5, 2023

Tanner Soelberg speaks to College for Kids students.

ASM Tech student builds career in game development

West Shore School News is a presentation of West Shore Educational Service District in partnership with Mason County Press and Oceana County Press. 

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief

(with contribution from Kellon Petzak, ASM Tech). 

VICTORY TOWNSHIP — Tanner Soelberg is a professional game designer. He has done commission work for one of the top game platforms and has also created 10 games himself, including one that has had over 13 million individual play sessions. Tanner hasn’t even graduated from high school yet! 

He is a second year student at ASM Tech, a partnership between the West Shore Community College, West Shore Educational Service District, and area school districts. ASM Tech allows students who have completed the 11th grade to enroll into the program and earn over 60 college credit hours over two years. Once the program is complete, the student receives a high school diploma and an associate degree. Enrollment numbers are limited. 

Tanner, the son of Caitlyn and Joel Soelberg of Hart, is in his second year at ASM Tech. He previously attended Shelby High School. 

“Games have always fascinated me,” he said. “As a young boy, I used to love dreaming up with new outdoorsy games to play with my siblings. There was something so fun about opening up and immersing others in a world of your design. That passion hasn’t left me—I’ve just shifted it towards a virtual environment.

“The COVID shutdown provided me ample time to get started. I decided to sit down, and taught myself how to code. Fast forward three years, and I’m still having a blast making games—it’s something I truly love.”

Tanner said game design takes a lot of time and requires a considerable learning curve. 

“It gets exponentially easier for every new game,” he said. “Working with two to three individuals, it can take anywhere from a few weeks to a month to put a polished game together. Working solo? Several months more.”

Accepting that not everyone will like the game you developed is part of the process. 

“To make games, you have to know how to fail. When it comes to game development, I’ve failed a lot. When there is so much to learn, and so many pieces to the puzzle, mistakes are inevitable.

“I’ve built game-centered communities with over 70,000 followers, only to watch them crumble in a matter of days. I have labored countless hours on games that ultimately flop, and have been the target of many scams (after the first few times, you stop falling for them). Being able to absorb these tragic ‘failures’ as something more—learning moments—allows you to keep at it in the long run.”

Tanner taught gaming to elementary and middle school students during WSCC’s College for Kids in early August. During the class he discussed his success working with the game developing brand Roblox, a popular game platform among young people where users play games created by other users. 

“My biggest advice to someone wanting to make games would be to just jump into it,” Tanner said. “There’s a massive learning curve involved, so the sooner you start, the better. Start dedicating a little bit of time towards it, and it will naturally merge into your schedule as priorities shift. I can promise, it will be a wild ride.”

ASM Tech instructor Kellon Petzak said the students in the class were all Roblox fans and stated they were excited to meet a Roblox developer in real life. 

“Some of the students had met creators over the internet but couldn’t imagine they had one so close to home,” Petzak said. “One student went as far as creating fan art for his most popular Roblox game, ‘Midnight Hours,’ a game has over 13 million plays and counting. The room was filled with laughter and joy as Tanner described how to create games, and as the students battled the creator in his own games.”

Tanner said after he earns an associate of science degree through ASM Tech, he devote two years to serve a proselytizing mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

“After my mission, I hope to attend MIT for a master’s degree in computer science. I would love to someday lead a team researching and developing AI-based software.

“Developing games is as much a creative outlet as it is a source of revenue. Being able to literally design worlds is incredible – you can take something from your imagination, and share it in a meaningful way with others. What’s better than expressing yourself, bringing joy to people worldwide, and making a little money while you are at it?”


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