By MICHELLE AMOUR | Editor-in-chief
HELEN – Devotees looking for a more remote way to enjoy their worship time have found a stable companion in the My Pocket Bible app. The app, which provides access to passages from the King James version of the Bible, has Helena roots.
The creator of the app, Tracy McNeil, is the owner of the digital creation company Arctyx. McNeil moved to Helena in 2018 and started Arctyx in June 2020 after being laid off from work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“[Arctyx] has its roots in game development, ”McNeil said. “This is where I was really hoping to go with it, but I was really stuck in a rut with game development, and it didn’t leave me wanting to complete a project. It was draining my inner creativity because it left me with all these unfinished products. I was thinking in my head of things I could do to add to my portfolio that I loved creating that I could do on my own.
His prayers, so to speak, were answered when a small local church contacted him on their website to create a Bible app during the peak of the COVID-19 Delta Variant wave.
“Even before the pandemic, the church was seeing the number of spectators decline,” McNeil said. “It was just a little mom and pop church, and they just wanted a simple way to engage with their congregations from a distance.”
Large-scale app development companies were citing the church huge sums of money to build their app. McNeil thought it was ridiculous and decided to help.
“We kind of fell into each other’s knees when we both needed each other.”
McNeil offered to build the app for free as long as he was allowed to retain his intellectual property and use non-invasive advertising. He said the combination of parties led to the perfect balance: McNeil was able to scratch his creativity itch while growing his portfolio, and the church was given an innovative way to engage its congregation without being taken advantage of. .
“It was a new kind of project for me,” McNeil said. “I would learn as much as they would earn, so I really didn’t see the point in charging for that.”
“Honestly, the hardest part of building this app wasn’t even the creating part,” McNeil said. “It was about establishing the copyright of the Bible. I had it coded in two weeks, but just getting the copyright permissions to use the Bible for the public domain was the hardest part.
To obtain copyright clearance for the King James version of the Bible, McNeil had to repeatedly contact the University of Cambridge. McNeil was persistent, and in the end it paid off.
He ended up creating two apps: one with the church’s specific brand published under their names, and the second was what McNeil called a “more generic” copy that essentially became My Pocket Bible. The church was more than happy with their product. They always keep in touch with McNeil and give him feedback from users in their congregation.
“The purpose of the app was to be something completely simplified,” McNeil said. “Something everyone could access, easy for the elderly, you wouldn’t need to buy as a subscription. It was literally just an app for reading the Bible.
While other Bible apps may offer a more elaborate experience, McNeil said he didn’t want his app to have too many bells and whistles.
“It’s just a simple app for reading the word of God,” he said.
Since the app’s launch, McNeil’s company, Arctyx, has expanded its portfolio and the My Pocket Bible app has grown in popularity. At the moment, the app is only compatible with Android phones, but McNeil said he is currently working on paperwork to adapt the software to IOS for IPhones.
Arctyx (an anagram of Tracy) initially operated as a software development company, but in the nearly two years of its launch, McNeil said Arctyx had done everything you could imagine digitally. He is also a strong supporter of groups that champion the game for everyone, including people with disabilities, older age groups outside the typical “gamer” age group and women in the game.
“We need more inclusion in the game,” McNeil said.
Visit your Android app store to download the My Pocket Bible app.