Zach Gage

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Zach Gage
Born1985 (age 38–39)[1][2]
OccupationVideo game developer
Known forSpellTower
Ridiculous Fishing

Zach Gage is an independent video game programmer and designer based in New York City. He is known for his iOS games, including SpellTower.

Gage learned to code throughout his youth and studied art at Skidmore College and Parsons School of Design, where he created installation and interactive works. With the 2008 opening of Apple's App Store, Gage created multiple apps and games, including the word games SpellTower (2011), TypeShift (2017), and collaborative work on Vlambeer's 2013 Ridiculous Fishing and Bennett Foddy's 2017 Getting Over It iOS port. Gage also created multiple games based on playing card and board games, including Really Bad Chess (2016).

Early life[edit]

Zach Gage was raised in Westchester, New York. His mother allowed few game purchases in their house, and coming from a family of artists, encouraged Gage to make his own games. He would retain this do it yourself mentality to learn new creative skills and escape later creative slumps.[3] As a child, Gage created imaginary games with Kid Pix, the drawing software, on his family computer, a Macintosh LC, adventure games in Apple's hyperlink-based HyperCard software, and video games in Apple's Cocoa visual programming language for children. In his time with Cocoa, Gage collaborated with another teen developer, created a demo for the company that purchased Cocoa from Apple, and contributed to a book on the language. He advanced to C++ and Java programming languages in high school,[4] where he also developed an interest in photography. He attended Skidmore College and upon finding its computer science program lackluster, graduated with a degree in art in 2007. His new media thesis project was an interactive installation involving viewer tracking and video projection.[3]


Video trailer and screenshot of
SpellTower gameplay

Gage returned to New York City after college and worked with Eyebeam. He was later hired to program an installation piece similar to his thesis for an exhibition at the Venice Biennale, which encouraged him to attempt new projects headlong. Back in New York, he completed a Master of Fine Arts degree at the Parsons School of Design, with a thesis show of multiple works on the relationship between data and the Internet. In its most infamous piece, Lose/Lose, the player shot on-screen aliens, each of which corresponded to a file on the player's hard drive. The conceptual project intended to question human propensity to follow directions and the real-life consequences of in-game decisions,[3] following from works including Eddo Stern's Tekken Torture Tournament.[5] Security company Symantec classified the game as malware.[3]

Outside of his art work, Gage began programming for Apple's App Store upon its 2008 opening for submissions. He created a visual music sequencer (SynthPond) and a horizontal Tetris-style game (Unify). His next app, the word game SpellTower, was commercially successful and led to multiple venture capital offers that Gage declined in favor of staying independent.[3] Gage had been inspired to design SpellTower by a conversation with Asher Vollmer who described his design for what would become Puzzlejuice, a word game which combined Tetris and Boggle;[6] with Vollmer's permission, Gage developed his own version of the idea, and beat Vollmer to market by two months.[7] Gage later worked as the iOS developer for Vlambeer's 2013 Ridiculous Fishing, in which players use motion and touch controls to catch fish and subsequently shoot them out of the sky for cash. During the peak of development, the game's artist Greg Wohlwend moved in with Gage to work 14-hour days.[8] In Gage's #Fortune, a 2015 smartphone app, the user presses a button on a minimal interface to receive a fortune cookie-style fortune based on the Twitter messages of strangers. A user can receive three daily fortunes based on the time of day, and a countdown timer displays when the user can return.[9] The app was based on a similar physical machine he had built.[10] Gage also created digital games based on playing card and board games: Sage Solitaire (2015),[11] Really Bad Chess (2016),[12] and Flipflop Solitaire (2017).[13] Gage also assisted in the iOS port of Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy.[14]

A collaboration with Choice Provisions (of the Bit.Trip series) manifested as the 2016 strategy game Tharsis.[15] As the systems designer, Gage worked to make the game's elements of chance exciting.[16] Gage also created a card game, Guts of Glory, which he crowdfunded via Kickstarter.[3] He participated in the 2016 Game Developers Conference game design challenge panel[2] and his work was previously featured in the NYU Game Center's No Quarter exhibition.[17] He is based in New York, as of 2012.[3]

Selected works[edit]


  1. ^ Twitter message [dead link]
  2. ^ a b Hall, Charlie (March 21, 2016). "GDC's game design challenge gets emotional over 30-year games". Polygon. Retrieved January 21, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Kohler, Chris (December 17, 2012). "Game Designer Stands at Rowdy Intersection of Entertainment and Art". Wired. Retrieved January 21, 2018.
  4. ^ Moss, Richard (May 22, 2017). "Veteran game developers reveal their childhood creations". Polygon. Retrieved January 21, 2018.
  5. ^ W., Tim (December 14, 2009). "The Weblog Interview: Zach Gage Caught in a Lose/Lose Situation". Retrieved January 21, 2018.
  6. ^ Alexander, Leigh (November 17, 2011). "Zach Gage Tackles A Genre He Hates With SpellTower Exclusive". Gamasutra. Archived from the original on January 22, 2018. Retrieved October 18, 2016.
  7. ^ Dotson, Carter (April 17, 2015). "'Skiing Yeti Mountain' Preview - The Alternate Universe Version of 'Dudeski'". TouchArcade. Archived from the original on October 18, 2016. Retrieved October 18, 2016.
  8. ^ Pitts, Russ (April 24, 2013). "Cloned at Birth: The Story of Ridiculous Fishing". Polygon. Archived from the original on June 5, 2013. Retrieved June 12, 2013.
  9. ^ Ellison, Cara (March 28, 2015). "Cara Ellison on: #Fortune". Eurogamer. Retrieved January 21, 2018.
  10. ^ Dotson, Carter (February 3, 2015). "Prepare for Wisdom or Weirdness with Zach Gage's #Fortune, Out This Week". TouchArcade. Retrieved January 21, 2018.
  11. ^ Webster, Andrew (August 27, 2015). "Solitaire gets a much-needed makeover in this new mobile game". The Verge. Retrieved January 21, 2018.
  12. ^ Matulef, Jeffrey (October 3, 2016). "Sage Solitaire and SpellTower dev is making a game called Really Bad Chess". Eurogamer. Retrieved January 21, 2018.
  13. ^ Lazarides, Tasos (November 9, 2017). "Zach Gage's 'Flipflop Solitaire' Is Available Now, It's a Sequel of Sorts to 'Sage Solitaire'". TouchArcade. Retrieved January 22, 2018.
  14. ^ Nelson, Jared (December 6, 2017). "'QWOP' Developer's New Game 'Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy' Arrives on iOS thanks in Part to Zach Gage". TouchArcade. Retrieved January 22, 2018.
  15. ^ Dotson, Carter (June 6, 2014). "Gaijin Games Rebrands to Choice Provisions, Announces 'Tharsis' with Zach Gage". TouchArcade. Retrieved January 21, 2018.
  16. ^ Graham, Roy (January 21, 2016). "Roll for your life: Making randomness transparent in Tharsis". Gamasutra. Retrieved January 21, 2018.
  17. ^ Frank, Allegra (January 5, 2016). "No Quarter dares you to look at games as sociological artifacts". Polygon. Retrieved January 21, 2018.
  18. ^ McWhertor, Michael (August 4, 2011). "In Bit Pilot, You Actually Are Going In To an Asteroid Field". Kotaku. G/O Media. Retrieved August 21, 2023.
  19. ^ "Good Sudoku by Zach Gage". App Store. Retrieved September 20, 2020.
  20. ^ "Knotwords". App Store. Retrieved April 12, 2023.
  21. ^ Alessandro Fillari (October 19, 2023). "Acclaimed puzzle designer known for weird games gives Wordle some competition: "I have been working on this project, in secret, for almost 2 years"". gamesradar. Retrieved October 25, 2023.

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