Back in April, Jack Tornio begrudgingly went to his sister’s gymnastics practice. He quickly became bored, a typical reaction for an 8-year-old.
But that boredom soon gave way to creativity and Jack, who will be a third grader at this fall, may have created a game that could be played for hours by children across the country.
During that gymnastics practice, Jack laid the foundation for Zombie Hunt, now one of six finalists in the CLIF Kid Backyard Game of the Year Playoffs. Jack and his mother Stacy will be in San Francisco this weekend to present the game to a panel of judges, with a $10,000 grand prize on the line.
Stacy said a family friend whose hobbies include nature-related activities told the Tornios about the contest and at his sister’s practice, Jack decided he would create a game. About a month later, Jack wrote the game's official rules, and the Tornios submitted it to CLIF Kid in June.
A few weeks ago they found out Jack’s game was a finalist and that he had won a bike, $1,000 and a trip to San Francisco.
“It’s awesome,” Jack said when asked about his upcoming trip.
The CLIF Kid contest is designed to tap into the minds of creative youth and aimed at getting children to play outside instead of using video games and handheld devices as their primary source of entertainment. The national contest was open to children between the ages of 6 and 12.
Jack’s game is centered on exploring what’s right outside your backdoor, Stacy said.
Zombie Hunt is played with three multi-sided cardboard dice. One die gives players a particular task, like finding a squirrel. Another die tells players how to complete the task, like while covering one eye or doing a crab walk. The third die tells the player how much time is allotted to complete the task.
“We’ve tested it; he’s played it with neighbors and cousins, and it’s fun,” Stacy said. “The kids really like the cardboard dice and rolling them and having that control.”
Jack’s prototype was made for playing in “up north” Wisconsin.
“But you can make any kind for wherever you are,” Jack said.
But the game’s called Zombie Hunt, right? Why?
“If you don’t complete your task you have to act like a zombie until it’s your turn again,” Stacy said. “I love the zombie thing because there are a lot of zombie (video) games out there. Jack plays Zombie Café on the Kindle. I’m really proud of him because it’s a Zombie game, but outside.”
Jack and Stacy will be in San Francisco for the weekend, and the three-hour CLIF Kid event, which will be judged by author Richard Louv and U.S. Olympic gold medal-winning freestyle skier Jonny Moseley, is Saturday afternoon. Jack, who hopes to take in a San Francisco Giants game over the weekend, is excited about the prospects of winning the grand prize — he told Patch he’d share it with his friends — while his parents are trying to teach their young inventor a lesson in being cautiously optimistic.
“We’ve talked about it,” Stacy said. “To him $10,000, that’s the most money he ever heard of. It’s mind-blowing to him. He has a bank account. If he won it, we’d put it in his account and he’d have a lot more money that a lot of people out there do.
“I’m trying to prepare him, though. If we lose, by Saturday night, we’ll be hanging out in San Francisco and it will all be fine.”