'Ghostlight' gives military holiday cheer

Ghostlight Manor graphicBy Douglas Esser
The University of Washington Bothell’s Digital Future Lab has donated 10,000 copies of its first commercial video game to a nonprofit that supports members of the military and their families.

Among the places “Ghostlight Manor” is going for the holidays are Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Australia and the United Kingdom, says Kevin Wallace, chief operations officer of Stack-Up.

“Stack-Up is proud to be receiving the generous assistance of a program we feel reflects some of the same core values – using video games to assist and better the lives of people of all ages in a fun and friendly environment with a focus on building a strong and more enriched future generation of gamers,” says Wallace.

A 56-level all-age puzzle game, “Ghostlight Manor,” went on sale in December for $14.99 through Steam, the digital distribution company associated with Valve Studios in Bellevue. 

With a retail value of nearly $150,000, the Digital Future Lab gift is the largest individual donation to Stack-Up since it was founded in 2015, says Wallace. Stack-Up shares the codes with individuals in the military who download the game.

“This assistance allows us to provide additional holiday cheer to veterans and their families,” Wallace says.

Steam makes its game titles available to 35 million active users around the world. Buyers of “Ghostlight Manor” will receive new content and a multiplayer expansion in March. An 11-level free demo also is available on the store page.

Jason PaceTaking a student project to this level is a proud accomplishment for the lab’s executive director, Jason Pace, right. Pace led teams that created and improved the quality of the game over several years of classes that welcome a neurodiversity of students. They’re not the usual computer geeks and coders.

Pace also is proud to support Stack-Up, the nonprofit based in Raleigh, North Carolina, motto: “Veterans are our mission. Gaming is our passion.”  When Wallace asked how many free game codes he’d be comfortable giving, Pace said, “as many as you need.”

Stack-Up says studies show video games can help veterans deal with stress, pain, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. The term “stack-up” refers to military slang for the assault team formation at an entrance or doorway where a threat is located. The organization’s logo references the image of a flashbang grenade that would be used in such an assault.

Stack-Up logoWallace first saw “Ghostlight Manor” while attending the PAX gamers conference in Seattle over the Labor Day weekend. Digital Future Lab had been invited to demonstrate the game at a pre-PAX open house on the Microsoft campus – the Independent Developers at Xbox or ID@XBOX program, which showcases smaller game studios.

“I was very impressed with the game and the large number of folks playing it. As someone whose job is to look out for games, I saw it was not only easy to understand but also how engaged people were over a period of time. Also it was available over all ages and audiences,” Wallace said.

“I constantly found myself coming back to ‘Ghostlight’ and the happy reactions. There weren’t people with frustrated looks,” Wallace said. “They made a really good game.”

Wallace also is impressed by the professionalism of the DFL team.

“We are proud and honored to work with those folks. They’ve been really responsive. At the end of the day they’re helping troops at large scale,” Wallace said. “We look forward to working with such an amazing group of individuals, led by Jason, in more depth in the coming year to take care of veterans. “