When he was just a toddler, Rader began making games. He started with magnets on the refrigerator. Then in preschool he moved on to creating board games. Each one had its own Stride Rite shoebox, sometimes with a colored paper game board, and always with a set of elaborate rules. These games were surprisingly fun to play, and even from an early age he balanced entertainment value with fairness. So as in "Fox versus Penguins," either the fox or the penguins, though they had different rules for how they moved around the board, had an equal chance of winning.
He loved to pretend and role play with Mattie. Sometimes each of the kids would be a character from Super Mario. One would play Toad and the other, Toadette. As he progressed through elementary school at Montessori, he began to direct live-action video-game style activities on the playground with a whole group of willing participants, not just his sibling.
Sometime in elementary school he went to his first computer game design summer camp. He learned the game creation platform Gamestar Mechanic and never looked back. From there he began building games on Scratch and then creating worlds in Minecraft and then making his own Mario levels on Super Mario Maker, a game which Nintendo seemed to have designed just for him.
When in middle school his math class called for a programmable calculator, he took to it as if it spoke a language he had known all his life. He spent class time and free time programming things you can't even imagine into that graphing calculator, including a tiny working version of the game Mario Party.
He discovered the Rubik's cube, which once he could solve it, he devoted himself to learning to do it faster and faster, until he could easily solve it in under a minute. He became interested in the mathematical constant Pi, which he memorized to 40 digits or so and for a while was actively learning more all the time.
Rader had an inquisitive mind, which was unlocked and set free at Montessori. Throughout his life he pursued his areas of interest tirelessly and passionately. He knew what he wanted to spend his time doing, and he was willing to go through a lot of frustration and hardship to get better at what he was working on, whether it was a level of a Mario game he wanted to be able to complete faster, or something he wasn't as passionate about, but still determined to accomplish. He spent three years in speech therapy overcoming a frustrating inability to pronounce the letter R, and the same years as a not-particularly-athletic kid working toward black belt in tae kwon do. He didn't love it and wasn't great at it, but he had chosen to do it and decided to see it through.
He was funny. He was surprisingly clever with wordplay and if he was comfortable with you, could really make you laugh. He never had *many* friends but was loyal to those he did let into his inner circle.
The past few years were a struggle for him, but he was still creating and playing games, trying to make sense of the world and see how he might fit into it. As parents, we could see it: his brilliance, his talents, and his potential. Unfortunately it was not as clear to him, and he ultimately was not able to "beat the boss" in his personal battle.
If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please reach out for help to a friend, parent, teacher or counselor. There is a future for you, if you just keep living it out.