The Gift of Games

For Kevin Neilson, his love affair with the Game Boy started when he got a GBA. “My first console was a GBA, so I grew up playing GB games.” He explains. “In middle school, I got a Wii and was introduced to the ‘virtual console’. It was there I bought and played so many retro games from the NES through the N64 era.”

This newfound love for retro games got Kevin interested in developing his own games. “In high school, I started with Unity 3D, which got me interested in computer science. In college, I got my degree in computer science with a concentration in game design.” remembers Kevin. “After graduation, I started my own company, Pigeonaut LLC, and my first game was called ZYTERNION. However, I was not happy with the quality of my retro-style games for modern systems so I decided to just make modern games but for retro consoles!”

This switch to retro consoles meant that Kevin’s “games are now better, more fun, and more popular than my Unity 3D games,” he explains. “I started on the NES using NESmaker and built my first modern retro game called Paws of The West. Finally, in 2022, I found GB Studio and getting into the engine code was really fun to work with.”

Paws of the West Cover Art (2020)

After getting used to the GB Studio tools Kevin “decided to try something new. I was going to challenge myself to make four games by the end of the year as Christmas presents for my friends. This deadline made all the difference as it kept me motivated and I never lost track. I re-evaluated my target audience and instead of making a game for myself, the audience would be my friends.” 

This led Kevin to pay “extra attention to their interests and secretly interviewed each of them to determine which game would best fit their personality. This challenge paid off in the end and I completed four games. I love game design and my friends very much so combining the two means I have made my best games yet.”

Phantom shock (2022)

The personalized games were well received and Kevin explains that “my friends were speechless and told me this was the best gift they had ever received. Incidentally, my girlfriend had been playtesting my friends’ games for the last year. She had no idea I was secretly making her one too. So, on the day I gave them all the gifts and she cried when I handed her the same size present that I just handed my other friends.”

To complete the surprise and make it more special Kevin “set up the GameCube with the Game Boy Player so that we could all watch each other play the games. I saw my friends laugh, cry, and yell as they progressed through each of their personalized games. There is something very surreal about finally being able to convert emotion into art. I made these games from the heart. It was truly magical to finally feel like a real game designer. Even today my friends still talk about their games. It was incredibly validating and surprising to me that they all enjoyed them so much.”

Climbing Mount Crymore (2022)

Kevin started working on the games in April 2022, and developed them all simultaneously. “Having four games to work between was helpful and kept me motivated.” He explains. “For example, when I get bored with working on one of the games, I could jump to another and come back to it later. Jumping around between games helped keep my interest and I never got stuck. The most enjoyable part was crafting the experiences for my friends. I loved being able to figure out a theme that I know they would enjoy! I cried at certain parts of the games whilst building them. Especially my friend Ali’s game. Her game had all of us in it and I cried when building the final scene.”

Kevin also had help from other GB devs, and explains that “the GB Studio Discord has been extremely helpful. Discord has a very powerful search function which makes finding solutions to most problems easy. If I asked a question in the help section, I would get an answer quickly and I wish to give a shoutout to Robert Doman for his amazing YouTube tutorials! I also hired out artists using Fiverr and being able to offload the art to someone else relieved so much stress.”

Cozy Cat Cafe (2022)

As with any GB project Kevin had his share of challenges. “The biggest challenge was learning all the limitations and relaying that back to my artists. They made good art, but it would always break a rule and I would have to ask them to “make it a little worse” so that I could fit it on the GB. It was a learning experience for all of us. I appreciate them for working through these limitations and making the required edits.”

Thinking on GB Studio as a whole, Kevin feels that he “loves the tool and would recommend it to any developer. The amount of polish in this free tool is so awesome! There is a built-in event for almost everything and it reminds me of other game engines like Godot and Game Maker that are also incredibly powerful and are easy to use.” he continues his thought by saying he “thinks the biggest driver is nostalgia. Most of us grew up playing the GB and having a tool that lets you build GB games is our inner child’s dream.”

A Tiny Hike (2022)

When asked why anyone should be interested in GB games in 2023, Kevin is honest by explaining “the GB has its limitations and I strongly believe that limitations breed creativity. With the GB, you’re forced to create good gameplay as you can’t hide behind movie-like graphics. If your GB game isn’t fun, players will just move on to something else. It has also helped teach me better game and level design as the limitations kept me focused on the gameplay more than the story or the aesthetics.”

Kevin also feels that being able to create real GB games helps to alleviate a saturated retro market on platforms such as Steam. His final thought is one that many GB devs can relate to. “GB Studio allows you to write your game to a real cartridge and you can never beat that surreal feeling of being able to play a game that you built on a real Game Boy.” 

We couldn’t agree more Kevin and thank you for taking the time to chat with GBS Central. You can check out his games at

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