Young Moorestown resident takes second in nationwide game-making contest


Moorestown resident Ben DeBear, an 8-year-old Baker School student, created a game for his house, where he and those who played would teleport from room to room through portals until they got to the room with the treasure. This homemade game now has a possibility of being created into a board game after Ben submitted what he called “Portals” to the 2015 National Young Game Inventors Contest by University Games.

Ben came in second place nationwide among many other young applicants for “Portals.” For his game, he received a certificate of achievement, $250 worth of gift cards to Toys R Us, 17 of the company’s most popular games, and a letter and a call from University Games president Bob Moog.

- Advertisement -

“We were delighted and thrilled for Ben and excited for him. We were really impressed that Bob Moog called Ben and went on and on about the concept of the game. He said he was thinking of publishing it, which is very exciting, and we’re just very proud,” Jessica DeBear, Ben’s mother, said.

The concept for the game began when Ben’s father Bjorn created a game called “Scavenger Hunt” while they were in the middle of a move, using the aerial view of Moorestown Township. Once in their new home, Ben decided to create his own game and made one based on the floor plan of their house.

When Ben brought home information on the National Young Game Inventors contest from their Challenge teacher, Susan Nichols, his parents encouraged him to enter the contest.

“My dad made a game and I decided to make a game myself. Then I decided to put the game into the contest, and I got second place,” Ben said.

Jessica said she wasn’t surprised when her son brought home the information and wanted to enter the contest. She said Ben and her husband love board games.

“I wasn’t surprised because Ben comes up with this stuff all of the time; unique ways of configuring numbers, it is his thing. And because my husband and he are into board games and play games all of the time, we said you have to submit it because you have a game ready to go,” Jessica said.


The game had to change, of course; they couldn’t use the layout of their house. Instead, Ben chose to teleport from planet to planet rather than room to room. Like in the original math-based game, each planet is assigned a number with two smaller numbers. Using a 20-sided die, each player has to teleport from planet to planet using those numbers, until they can get to the planet with the treasure. Within the game, there are tokens as well as playing pieces that Ben made out of clay into the shape of rocket ships.

Ben said making the pieces was the most fun part, other than actually playing the game and teleporting from place to place, of course. However, he said the hardest part was assigning numbers to each planet. The board game was a little different than their house, so Ben had to really think so each planet could be reached with a portal.

After creating a prototype of the game, along with the rules, Ben submitted his application and sent it to California in October. With no expectations on whether it would win, Jessica said she completely forgot about it. Then two months later, they got the call from Moog saying Ben won second place.

“We thought, wow this is so cool,” Jessica said.

“I felt great that I tried and that I didn’t give up and to show that little kids can do good and big stuff, too,” Ben said.

Portals 3

Ben was also honored at his school on Friday, Jan. 9 by Principal Shelly Rowe when she announced his achievement over the loudspeaker. According to Ben, everyone cheered. A couple of days after, he was called to the office to get a certificate and picture next to Nichols, the Challenge teacher. His picture and congrats were displayed on the school’s main TV monitor in the front hallway.

“That felt great, too,” Ben said.

When Ben spoke to Moog, the president told him, “I wish you all the best in your career and keep up the good work.” Ben is not sure whether he wants to pursue a career in game making, but Jessica said if he did, she would support him and be happy as long as he was happy.

- Advertisment -