Apple's Gay Poster Boy

San Francisco's Steve Demeter has gone from Wells Fargo employee to independently wealthy game designer in less than a year thanks to a $5 iPhone game called Trism.




"That really shook me up," says Demeter, who started programming as a teen and made a name for himself in his 20s by translating various video games from Japanese to English. "Up until then it had all been about having fun. Then I saw this carrot dangling in front of me, and I wanted it. When I didn't get it, it hit me pretty hard. I didn't even play a game for two years after that."

Instead of making or even playing games, he "went to work for intentionally boring companies -- because I didn't want to put my passions out there again. I didn't want them to be judged."

Then Apple released the iPhone.

"I had gotten to a point where I asked myself, Do I really want to continue to neglect my passions? I liked my job -- the money was fine, the people were fine, my boss was fine -- but it was just a job. I felt like I had to put myself out there and see what happens.

"I could see an opportunity [in the iPhone]. I could see that there was a lot of potential for a guy with a good idea."

So in late 2007 he began brainstorming. "I went through idea after idea after idea," he says, estimating that he considered about 100 ideas before he had what he calls his "holy shit moment" -- the moment he came up with the idea that served as the basis of Trism.

Although it took Demeter three months to reach that moment, it took him just 10 days to complete a working demo of the title -- just in time for an important industry conference. Although no one at the event liked the game enough to publish it, "everyone I showed it to enjoyed playing it," he says. "So I took it to the people."

Late last February he posted a video of the game on YouTube and sent it around to a handful of review sites. Only one such site responded, but the resulting interview caught the attention of -- and spurred additional coverage in -- The New York Times and Wired.

Tags: Business