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Vanguard Marketing Corporation distributor. This is Lee Habib and this is Our American Stories. And we tell stories about everything here on this show, including your story. Send them to ouramericanstories.com.
They're some of our favorites. Our show is free to listen to, but it is not free to make. We are a nonprofit and any contributions, any donations, any support is greatly appreciated.
Do a little, do a lot. A gift of $5, $10 a month really makes a difference in bringing these stories to you each and every week and just keeping our team on track. Oh, and by the way, you can do that by going to ouramericanstories.com and simply click the donate button. Steven Raciniak, one of our regular contributors, has a special piece for us today. This story was written by his daughter and is being read by his niece, Sandy.
This story is entitled Please Don't Leave. I had done it before, and so I had no reason to believe that this time would be any different. I was sure that when I returned home from my mission trip, as always, I would bring back nothing more than some mud on my boots, a hole or two in my jeans, and of course, a lot of great memories.
Little did I know that this time it was going to be different. The summer before my high school graduation, I went to West Virginia with others from my church as members of the Appalachia Service Project. Our goals included refurbishing the homes of those in need, and where we were heading, there was no shortage of need. Along with volunteers from many churches, we arrived at our destination, much like an invading army in miniature, and we arrived ready to do battle. The tools that we brought from home would serve as our weapons as we prepared to wage war against an all too familiar enemy, substandard living conditions. Our mission was to make the homes of those we served warmer, safer, and drier. And with only five days to accomplish as much as we could, we were anxious to get started.
My group was assigned the task of rebuilding sections of a home that had been damaged by fire. No sooner had we parked on the home's dirt driveway when I saw an excited little girl, no more than five or six years old, standing in the doorway of the family's temporary trailer home. Shoeless and wearing dirty clothes and the biggest smile I'd ever seen, she yelled, Ma! Ma!
They really came! I didn't know it then, but her name was Dakota, and four more days would pass before she'd say another word near me. Behind Dakota was a woman in a wheelchair. Her grandmother, we'd learn. I also learned that my job this week would be to help convert a fire-damaged dining room into a bedroom for this little girl. After meeting several more family members, we got down to the business of making a difference in their lives. Grabbing our tools, we went to work. Walls were torn down and replaced.
Hammers and nails, saws and electric screw guns, drywall prepping and painting, we moved at a fast pace. Over the following days, I noticed Dakota peeking at us every now and then as we worked. A few times I tried talking with her, but she remained shy and aloft, always fluttering around us like a tiny butterfly. Always there, but staying just out of reach, watching us intently but keeping to herself.
By our fifth and final day, however, this would change. Before I went to work on her home on that last morning, I spoke for a moment or two with the grandmother. I was especially pleased when she told me how much Dakota loved her new room. So much, in fact, that she'd begged to sleep in it the previous night, even though it wasn't quite ready just yet. As we talked, I noticed something I hadn't seen before.
Dakota was hiding behind her grandmother. Cautiously, she stepped into view and I could see that just like her clothes, her face was still dirty, but no amount of soil could hide those bright blue eyes and her big smile. She was simply adorable. I wanted to hug her, but respecting her shyness, I kept my distance. Slowly, she began walking towards me, and it wasn't until she was inches away that I noticed the folded piece of paper in her tiny hand. Silently, she reached up and handed it to me. Once unfolded, I looked at the drawing she'd made with her broken crayons on the back of an old coloring book cover. It was of two girls, one much taller than the other, and they were holding hands. She told me that it was supposed to be me and her, and scrawled on the bottom of the paper were three little words that instantly broke my heart.
Please don't leave. Now, almost in tears, I surrendered to the impulse that I'd suppressed only moments before. I bent down and hugged her.
She hugged me too, and for the longest time, neither one of us could let go. By early afternoon, we finished Dakota's bedroom, and so I gladly used the rare free time to get to know my newest friend. Sitting under a tree, away from the others, we shared a few apples while she told me about her life in the hollow. As I listened to her stories about the struggles she and her family endured daily, I began to realize how frivolous various aspects of my own life were. Suddenly, things like deciding what to wear when I went out on a Friday night, or which wannabe celebrity was starring the latest reality television series, now seemed so trivial in comparison. Thoughts like this, and others, quickly took a backseat to what really mattered most to me. My friends, my family, and my faith. And maybe, more surprisingly, all it took for me to reaffirm these important truths was the wisdom of one special little girl living somewhere in the mountains of West Virginia. I left for home early the next morning, and of course, I returned with muddy boots and holes in my jeans. But because of Dakota, I brought back with me something else too. A greater appreciation for all of the blessings of my life. I'll never forget that barefooted little butterfly with the big smile and that dirty face.
And in the end, I pray that she'll never forget me either. And a special thanks to Stephen Raciniak's niece, Sandy, for reading Stephen's daughter's words about a simple mission trip. And by the way, we tell these stories because so many people of faith around this country, what they do with their families is remarkable. They don't just go to the beach and eat.
They go and they serve. By the way, you can read this story and the back story by visiting stephenraciniak.com. Stephen Raciniak's daughter's mission in West Virginia.
The story of her connection with a young girl named Dakota and the people around Dakota's life here on Our American Stories. Folks, if you love the great American stories we tell and love America like we do, we're asking you to become a part of the Our American Stories family. If you agree that America is a good and great country, please make a donation. A monthly gift of seventeen dollars and seventy six cents is fast becoming a favorite option for supporters. Go to our American stories dot com now and go to the donate button and help us keep the great American stories coming.
That's our American stories dot com. Doing household chores can already be time consuming and tedious, and there's nothing more daunting than facing piles and piles of laundry that need to be done. I mean, that can be overwhelming for anyone. So if you want to get those larger laundry loads done right and get back to your life, try all free clear mega packs. All free clear mega packs are bigger packs with two times the cleaning ingredients compared to a regular pack so that you can tackle any laundry load without the worry. All free clear mega packs are also one hundred percent free of perfumes and dyes and they're gentle on skin, which is great for any family's sensitive skin needs.
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Find parts for everything from your classic coupe to your brand new truck at eBay Motors dot com. Let's ride. Hey, you guys, this is Tori and Jenny with the nine oh two one O.M.G. podcast. We have such a special episode brought to you by nerd tech O.D.T.. We recorded it at I heart radio's 10th pole event, Wango Tango. Did you know that nerd tech O.D.T. remejipants 75 milligrams can help migraine sufferers still attend such an exciting event like Wango Tango?
It's true. I had one that night and I took my nerd tech O.D.T. and I was present and had an amazing time.
Here's a little glimpse of our conversation with some of our closest friends. This episode was brought to you by nerd tech O.D.T. remejipants 75 milligrams. Life with migraine attacks can mean missing out on big moments with friends and family. But thankfully, nerd tech O.D.T.
remejipants 75 milligrams is the only medication that is proven to treat a migraine attack and prevent episodic migraines in adults. So lively events like Wango Tango don't have to be missed. And we continue with our American stories. Up next, we bring you Josh Thing, who's been on our show before. He shared his story of going from hobbyist artist to video game designer at the multi-billion dollar video game company Blizzard Entertainment. Josh now tells us the story of how his dream wasn't everything he thought it would be. We would join him at Blizzard on the research and development project Team 4.
Here's Josh. I don't think I was prepared to work at such a high functioning studio that just demanded excellence routinely. I didn't know how to navigate the political waters, and I just didn't know I I think I think I made a bad impression. You know, if I could take responsibility for that, I was a great artist, but I got disillusioned.
And I think that I let that disillusion sort of like taint my experience and and caused me to get a little sour because what I noticed at Blizzard is everybody's a genius. Everybody. Everybody is the best. Everybody's extremely talented from management to recruiting to art to, you know, HR.
They're all just intelligent, bright people. But the thing is, when you're full of people like that, you've got to wait your turn. Like they had a really ingrained sort of tenure system.
So I was like, what? I got to wait like five years for anybody to take me seriously. Until that time, I had to keep my head down and just like impress. And it felt like I had to impress someone every single day. It was stressful. I didn't quite understand what the expectations were. You know, this was a project that had been in research and development for quite a long time. And then to be fair, that it was it was a research and development project with a hunt, like 120 people.
It was extremely bloated. So it was like it was it was weird. The perks were amazing, but it was hard to understand, like how to make the game awesome. Because when you're surrounded by awesome, but then they're treating the awesome things that everybody's making is like normal throwaway stuff. You can get frustrated, you know, you're like, what do you want?
What do you want? Like, we're making such great stuff for you just throwing it away because you can, you know, that's what it felt like to me. So to be fair, I wasn't prepared either. And so I after a year at Blizzard, I was already like, man, I don't know if I can do this. So I learned a lot there that, you know, and I was like this and I was like, if this is the top of the mountain, like, do I even want to be here anymore? I was like considering like, should I go into film? Should I like start building networks with like, you know, some of my Hollywood buddies and start getting into like movie effects?
Because like the skills kind of transfer, you know, not not everything, but I could at least get in, you know, and I was just kind of thinking like all this stuff. And and then one of the producers on Team 4, Project Titan, his name was Steven Lim. We call him Slim. So Slim left Blizzard just to go to this little studio called Riot Games. And this was around 2011. And then Riot Games was working on this game called League of Legends. And everybody's kind of started talking about it and playing it at lunch breaks and stuff like that. And and I and I was like, this is a pretty cool game. It's fun, but it's really ugly.
Like the characters are ugly. And so I knew that Slim was over there. And so I hit him up. I said, hey, man, you guys looking for character artists? He's like, yes. I was like, hey, I'm thinking of leaving Blizzard.
You guys have room over there? He's like, yes. And he got me in like so fast into Riot. And this was 2011. And I kind of lucked out because I guess Riot had just got a huge investment of like four hundred million dollars from this big Chinese company called Tencent. And Riot had huge plans to to create something called e-sports in America. They had seen that in Korea, Starcraft was a huge e-sport in Korea.
We could do that in America with League of Legends. And that was their goal. And so part of that strategy was to get triple A talent. Right. And the team that they had was kind of like the same team that they started with.
Right. When they were young and scrappy and didn't have any money. And so me coming in from Blizzard was like one of the first like, oh, Josh worked at Blizzard. You know, oh, man. You know, so I came in and and they were like, dude, what was like working at Blizzard? And I didn't want to be a jerk or anything.
I was just like, yeah, it's kind of different. Like, you know, and I was a little bit down, you know, but, you know, so I go into Riot. They give me the job. You know, they like it. I like them. The vibe is awesome.
They're all very, very kind and generous. And and I, I got the feeling that they really needed me. Right. Whereas Blizzard didn't I didn't feel like they needed me. I felt like I was disposable. But Riot gave me this feeling. They're like, Josh, like, we need you to do this. And I was like, dude, I'm right. That's what I want. And so I kind of like I said, a little bit down and I show up to work and I'm talking to the producer and and I'm like, well, what do you want me to do?
Like, what's my first assignment? And is a guy named Thomas Vu. I think he's like an executive vice president over there. He's a good guy. And Thomas was like, dude, do whatever you want to do.
Like, what do you want to do? And I was like, what? He's all, yeah, man. He's like, we could tell you what to do. Like, but like, what would you do to improve our game? And I'm like, dude, I want to redo all your characters because you guys are you know, you guys are getting huge and you can't have your game looking like this.
He's like, I agree 100 percent. So they put me on a few assignments so that I could get familiar with the pipeline and how to make skins. And this is the first time skins, you know, sort of was the thing. Like if you play Fortnite, if you play any of these games, like skins is a huge monetization tool.
But League of Legends was one of the first ones that kind of like made this a thing. And I kind of learned how everything worked. And, you know, it was an incredibly ambitious young team and they had the funds and they had the runway to make amazing things. And so I was part of the team that really made skins valuable. Like we worked on this one skin for a character named Ezreal and it was called Pulsefire Ezreal.
And we put all the bells and whistles on it. We made it like transform every time you leveled up and they wanted to sell it for 30 bucks. And everybody was like, what? Like, no one will pay 30 bucks for this. It's digital.
It's not even real. But they did it and it sold so well, made so much money. And they're like, oh, my gosh, we are onto something. And so they really beefed up the pipeline for the skins team to make these really just top of the line cosmetics for player expression. And they found that that was a huge market. And then I split off and I created or I helped create, you know, this other team was the champion update team. It started out with visual updates where I just redoing textures and then eventually I was redoing the models and then eventually we were redoing the models, textures and animations. And then we found that those were getting as much engagement as like a brand new champion.
So they're like, hey, why don't we give this a few like give this a proper a proper team? And it was really fun. And I was there for five years. I was the longest I've ever been at a studio because, you know, it was just so much variety.
They let me help out with so many things like it hadn't been locked down. It was it was a studio becoming a big studio, you know? So I had small studio mentality where, like, I could kind of do whatever I wanted because it was needed.
But it hadn't really crystallized into, you know, stay in your lane. You know, you only do this. So I got to help out like with making merchandise, cinematics. And it was just such a fun time. Got to travel the world.
You know, I went to Cologne, Germany a couple times for Gamescom and, you know, went to, you know, went to Seoul, Korea for for the worlds like they did it. You know, they made esports a thing. You know, if esports is now a thing, they're in the red for many, many years.
But, you know, they had faith. And now esports is like a viable thing, you know, on Twitch and stuff like that. And you've been listening to Josh Thing share his story. He had made it to the big time. He had made it to Blizzard. And Blizzard Entertainment is a multi-billion dollar video game production company, a huge studio.
And by the way, video games, it's as big a business as movies, if not bigger. And he wasn't prepared for the big time. He wasn't prepared for a giant studio where everybody, everybody was excellence. And it was routinely demanded excellence from everybody.
A lot of great people. Well, it just overwhelmed Josh. And he felt the need to impress people every day.
The perks weren't bad either. That kept a lot of people at bay. At one point, he tired. If this is the top of the mountain, do I really want to be here? And then he gets the call or makes the call to Riot. I had the feeling they needed me. At Blizzard, I was disposable.
When we come back, more of Josh Singh's story here on Our American Stories. Doing household chores can already be time consuming and tedious, and there's nothing more daunting than facing piles and piles of laundry that need to be done. I mean, that can be overwhelming for anyone. So if you want to get those larger laundry loads done right and get back to your life, try all free clear mega packs. All free clear mega packs are bigger packs with two times the cleaning ingredients compared to a regular pack so that you can tackle any laundry load without the worry. All free clear mega packs are also 100% free of perfumes and dyes and they're gentle on skin, which is great for any family's sensitive skin needs, which my family, we definitely have sensitive skin. So the next time the whole family gets home from long vacation or you get the kids back from summer camp or whatever the situation is that's caused this big pile of dirty clothes, just know that all free clear mega packs, they have your back.
Purchase all free clear mega packs today and conquer any laundry load for all fabric types. Let's ride. Hey, you guys, this is Tori and Jenny with the 9 0 2 1 OMG podcast. We have such a special episode brought to you by nerd tech ODT. We recorded it at I heart radio's 10th pole event. Wango tango. Did you know that nerd tech ODT remejipants 75 milligrams can help migraine sufferers still attend such an exciting event like Wango tango?
It's true. I had one that night and I took my nerd tech ODT and I was present and had an amazing time. Here's a little glimpse of our conversation with some of our closest friends. This episode was brought to you by nerd tech ODT remejipants 75 milligrams. Life with migraine attacks can mean missing out on big moments with friends and family.
But thankfully, nerd tech ODT remejipants 75 milligrams is the only medication that is proven to treat a migraine attack and prevent episodic migraines in adults. So lively events like Wango tango don't have to be missed. And we're back with our American stories and the story of Josh thing. Josh was working at Riot Games, the developer of the E-Sports Phenomena League of Legends, a game created in 2009.
It still has 180 million unique monthly users. Back to Josh. And then I eventually got the itch again. I felt like I as an individual contributor, I had done everything I wanted to do. Like I now I wanted to be an art director. I knew how to make great art. And I wanted to learn how to make great artists because I felt like that was the next logical step. And I kind of saw the value in helping people versus just having a portfolio of awesome art. Kind of wanted to have like a network of awesome people that I've helped.
I thought that would be more valuable and that'd be a longer lasting legacy. So that was like around 2016 Tencent bought Riot Games and I had shares in the company that were just kind of granted to me. I didn't really think much about it. And all of a sudden those shares were worth, you know, a lot of money, like seven figures.
And I didn't. And I was like, OK, what's the next step? So I was working on this card game called Legends of Runeterra and I was there for about a year at Riot. And I was kind of like, hey, make me an art director, make me a lead, like I want to learn how to lead.
Teach me, teach me, teach me. But they were like, oh, you know, felt like a carrot on a stick kind of thing. You know, no hard feelings or anything, but it felt like I just didn't want to wait. And now that I had some cash, I didn't have to work. I was like, all right, I'm out of here. I'm going to figure it out on my own. I had enough money to sort of like go on like a two year sabbatical, buy a house and figure out what I wanted to do.
So we moved away from Orange County, back to the hometown of Utah, back to St. George, bought our first house. And I'm just sort of like, all right, I'm just going to chill, you know. I got a buddy reach out to me and say, hey, what are you doing these days? And I was like, dude, I'm just like goofing off trying to do artwork, but just hanging out with my kids and, you know, enjoying, enjoying not having to work for a second. And he said, how would you like to work on as an art director on a fully funded fighting game? And I was like, oh, I love fighting games.
Tell me more. And so he got me in touch with his friends and it was a group of guys that were fairly new. But they had just received like 10 million in funding. They were in Las Vegas. I'm only two hours away from Las Vegas.
They're at Las Vegas at Evo, which is a fighting game sort of tournament. And they were showing their prototype to people. And the general manager, you know, one of the founders, he was in Salt Lake and he was passing by and he said, hey, you want to get some dinner? And we'll talk about it. And we got dinner. We talked about it. And I said, sure, man, I'll come see what's going on at Evo. And so I drove down to Vegas and I saw people playing their prototype and I was like, this looks pretty fun.
Looks has potential. And I and I just kind of started introducing myself as the art director because I like, yeah, I'll do it. And I said, I'll invest, too. I'll invest some money in this.
You know, I'll have a part of this and I'll be the art director. So. So the thing here. So long story short, it was it was incredibly stressful. The money was all gone. It was not received well. And, you know, a lot of people like emotional and mental health took a toll. I was there for three years as the art director on this on this game, and I had never been art director before. And I wanted to be a good art director. I wanted to be emotionally invested in my people. And because money was running out and mistakes were made, I, I wanted to lead with empathy and lead with, like, emotional intelligence. But at the same time, when they were all stressed out, like it stressed me out and I didn't have anybody to help me. And I basically bought myself an art director title, like jumped into the just jumped in the deep and said, I'm an art director. And so I was an art director, you know, and I learned everything from outsourced management to, you know, Excel sheets and manpower and all this sort of stuff. And then I'm having one on ones with everybody, making sure they're OK.
They need raises, you know, dictating the art style, creating slides for investors, like just everything. Not all fun stuff. It was also tedious stuff and emotionally heavy stuff. At times, I'd fire people. I had to talk to people about, you know, you're being late to work, man.
These are the core hours. I had to be the man. Right. I was the man, you know, in the in the bad way. Like, you know, and I wasn't used to it. And but I, you know, I tried to do it the best I could.
Anyway, took a huge toll. I'm gaining weight. My hair's growing my beard out.
Got grays in my beard, gray in my hair. And every year in San Francisco, you know, there's this event called the game, the GDC, the Game Developer Conference. And we were in Oakland at the time. I would live in St. George, Utah, and then I would fly down to Oakland and I would stay there. I would stay in Oakland Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. And then Wednesday night, I fly back home and then do Thursday, Friday and then the weekend. And I do that every other week. And anyway, I was in Oakland. GDC was happening in San Francisco. Easy peasy.
Go over there, see some awesome talks. And I'm just chilling, you know, doing that thing that I do when I'm uncomfortable. I'm in my sketchbook. I'm just drawing in my sketchbook, you know, like same kid from middle middle school drawing Ninja Turtles or something.
And my old art director from Riot, as well as a couple other art directors, like the studio head art director. And then a few other art directors from Riot that I'm friends with are like, Josh, what's up? Oh, you know what I mean?
And I'm like kind of like not feeling very social. And I'm just like, hey, what's going on? You know, they're like, dude, how's how's the game going? How's everything? And I'm like, ah, it wasn't going good.
You don't tell people that. I was like, yeah, you know, it's going, it's going. And I just had so much on my mind. And they just kind of they wouldn't leave me alone. They kept talking to me. And eventually they wore me down. And I asked the studio art director, a guy named Adam Ruggia, who I was never really close with.
I'll be honest. He was just so high level. We would see each other. And I think we had a few like one on ones when he first got hired at Riot. But he very quickly became like the studio head art director of Riot Games.
So we knew each other, but we didn't like no no each other. But I just opened up to him and I said, hey, man, like, you know, how do you fire someone that everybody likes and how do you you know, how do you maintain your emotional and mental health when you have to hold people accountable? How do you get people to step up and become senior artists, you know, and lead artists when they don't want to? Because as art director, I'm doing everything and I can't delegate because nobody wants to step up. And he's like, wow, man, you're you're asking the real good questions. And so we went to dinner and we just talked it out, man. It was so cathartic to have a group of other art directors that had these like leadership questions that they could answer for me.
You know. Fast forward, 2018, very, very hard year. We closed the studio. You know, the general manager and the CEO were they left the board and they made me like the wartime CEO. With not a lot of money in the bank and a ton of outsourcers that needed to get paid. Thankfully, we were able to pay everyone's salary and lay them off. You know, they were laid off, you know, with with pretty good, pretty good advance.
But we still owed a lot of money to outsourcers. And so I had to negotiate it down. I had to be like, hey, man, like, I know we owe you X amount. Would you take like 20 percent of that? You know, or would you like, you know, we need to liquidate these assets, like if I threw in 20 percent plus like, you know, some computers and hard drives. Is that cool?
And man, that was just so rough. But oddly enough, a lot of the outsourcers that we owed money to, they were just like, man, we're so glad you called us. We thought you were going to ghost us because so many people do that. Like, yeah, we'll take 20 percent.
That sucks. But we're glad you at least are trying to make it right. And I was like, oh, hopefully this comes back around, you know, hopefully karma hits me.
Hopefully I get some karma points for this. And you're listening to Josh Singh tell a heck of a story about his own personal growth, his own professional growth and how those two intersect. And he really talks about the perils and the responsibility and burdens of being a boss and what it's like to have to make those life changing decisions for other people. I mean, to make those hard phone calls, make those hard decisions. And he didn't have a lot of places or people to help him with that. And that makes it just that much harder when you're out on your own with no lifeline.
When we come back, more of this remarkable storytelling, Josh Singh's story, his journey, the ups and downs and in-betweens here on Our American Stories. Doing household chores can already be time consuming and tedious, and there's nothing more daunting than facing piles and piles of laundry that need to be done. I mean, that can be overwhelming for anyone. So if you want to get those larger laundry loads done right and get back to your life, try all free clear mega packs. All free clear mega packs are bigger packs with two times the cleaning ingredients compared to a regular pack. So that you can tackle any laundry load without the worry. All free clear mega packs are also 100 percent free of perfumes and dyes and they're gentle on skin, which is great for any family's sensitive skin needs.
My family, we definitely have sensitive skin. So the next time the whole family gets home from long vacation or you get the kids back from summer camp or whatever the situation is that's caused this big pile of dirty clothes. Just know that all free clear mega packs, they have your back.
Purchase all free clear mega packs today and conquer any laundry load for all fabric types. So you're in the garage working on your car and you need the valves you bought last week. You look in the cabinets and on the shelves, but the parts are never in the right place. eBay Motors has the car parts you need. Over one hundred and twenty two million of them all in one place and all at the right prices.
Find parts for everything from your classic coupe to your brand new truck at eBay Motors dot com. Let's ride. Hey, you guys, this is Tori and Jenny with the nine oh two one OMG podcast. We have such a special episode brought to you by nerd tech ODT. We recorded it at I heart radio's 10th pole event, Wango Tango. Did you know that nerd tech ODT Remedio pants, 75 milligrams can help migraine sufferers still attend such an exciting event like Wango Tango?
It's true. I had one that night and I took my nerd tech ODT and I was present and had an amazing time. Here's a little glimpse of our conversation with some of our closest friends. This episode was brought to you by nerd tech ODT Remedio pants, 75 milligrams life with migraine attacks can mean missing out on big moments with friends and family.
But thankfully, nerd tech ODT Remedio pants, 75 milligrams is the only medication that is proven to treat a migraine attack and prevent episodic migraines in adults. So lively events like Wango Tango don't have to be missed. And we're back with our American stories and the final portion of Josh Thing's story. When we last heard from him, Josh was the wartime CEO of a failed video game studio. Despite mounting stress, Josh did right by his employees and his outside vendors. And all thanks to a few mentors from his previous employer, Riot Games, and a particular individual named Adam Regia.
Back to Josh. I get a call from Adam Regia. He no longer is at Riot. He is working with a Brazilian mobile game studio called TFG. He says, Josh, do you want to be an art director again? Like, we're looking for art directors.
And I work for this little, this mobile game company in Brazil called TFG. Don't look them up. Don't look at their website. Don't look at any of the art. Like, what?
He's all, yeah, yeah. Turns out that this this they needed to rebrand. They needed to revamp their entire art culture. And the games that they made were getting tons of downloads, like billions of downloads. But the art was subpar and the sort of optics around the quality of the game were subpar. And so they couldn't get like editor's pick on the Apple store like they couldn't like there was really no prestige. They felt, you know, the games just didn't have that like sort of like shiny, shiny sparkle that like, you know, the best games in the app stores have. Not only that, but the art team was a little bit gutted and we had to rebuild it again.
And he wanted to build an art team very similar to like Riot, which was trying to be world class, creative, push boundaries and just have a lot of fun. And so I was like, OK, I'm interested, you know. And so I had a phone call with their CEO. And they were like, yeah, man, you can. Well, basically, you know, we want you to move to Brazil, but we're going to make another studio in San Francisco.
You could go there or you could stay in Utah and work remote. So I talked about it with my wife and we're like, you know, what do you think? And we were just hemming and hawing. And at the time, I was also talking like other studios like that were like in Finland and Amsterdam, and we were kind of like thinking we wanted to leave. We had been in St. George for three years, you know, and we're kind of thinking, let's go have an adventure.
But it was just where, you know, we were willing to relocate and we're going to rent out our house and then just have a fun little adventure for a couple of years. So they flew me out to Brazil. Dude, they like rolled out the red carpet. Flew in a helicopter, like went to their house at the beach like it was rad.
They definitely like they definitely were trying to make a good impression and they did. So we moved to Sao Paulo in February 2019. We moved out to Sao Paulo, Brazil. We we stayed out there and I wasn't really I felt as though I wasn't really there to like make games.
I was there to help shape the culture of the of the art team and make games. And eventually I was kind of like, OK, you know, I don't know if I dig mobile. Then the pandemic hit and it's like March 2020 and we're all working from home and I'm working from home in Brazil. And I'm like, dude, I don't need to be in Brazil working from home. So I say, hey, we're going to head back to America. I'm still going to work here, but we just you know, it makes no sense for me to be spending so much money on private school when the kids aren't even going to school and it's all online anyway. So we're we're going to head back.
And so we got on a plane and we flew back to the States and it was so good to be back home. But, you know, the people that were renting, we had just rented our house and they wanted a two year lease. And we were like, hey, like, can you like not be there anymore?
Like, we'll give you like we'll pay you back your down payment and even throw like a lot of money in there for you to like, you know, give us our house back. And they're like, no, we're kind of cool. And I'm like, dang it, you know.
OK, that's cool. You know, it was kind of a kind of a ballsy ask, but, you know, whatever. You know, we're like homeless landlords. I lived in my mom's basement with my four kids and in this little town called Central Utah, which is like, you know, just deer and cows and stuff like that. It's one thing to be doing this stuff in Brazil. We like the fun environment and the awesome people.
It's another thing to be doing it in my mom's basement. I'm like, I'm not feeling it anymore. So I left. One of my buddies from Riot again hit me up and was like, hey, man, do you know any like lead character artist looking for a gig? And I was all, dude, me?
He's all, really? You'd like go back to being a character artist from being art director? And I was like, you know what?
I need a break, man. I'd been an art director for, you know, five years at that point that being a lead character artist sounded just fine. And so I went to this small company back in Boston called Proletariat. I didn't work there on site. Everything was off site now.
And they're just the sweetest, kindest, best people. Worked there for a year, this game called Spellbreak. I built a team from scratch. And this was stuff that was like, you know, they're like, oh, it's kind of hard, you know, they're out. They felt like they were making these big asks of me. But after the pressure cooker of, you know, wildlife games in Brazil and wave dash games being art director, like this was like easy. All I had to worry about was the characters, you know, and building a team and nurturing a team of like, you know, eight artists instead of like, you know, 20 entire entire department. And and it was really, really great. And I loved it very, very much.
And I wouldn't have left, you know, except out of the blue. Marvel Games. So I see there's a job posting for Marvel Games and I'm like, oh, man, I have a buddy who works. He works at a studio called Insomniac.
He was the art director on Spider-Man, Miles Morales, a guy named Gavin Gould. And we're old buddies from the forum days. Right. And, you know, again, those connections are the past. They always they always pay off.
And. He's like, dude, these this opportunity comes around a blue moon. You should take it. It's a great bunch of it's a great bunch of guys like you'd fit right in. And so I apply. And sure enough, you know, it was a very long interview process, but I got the gig to work at Marvel Games as an art director.
Well, actually, I got on as the position was for a lead character artist, but the executive vice president, a guy named Jay in our interview, he was at Blizzard. I don't think it was on Team four, but he was aware. But he was around during those days. And so we got to talk about those those times and the pros and the cons. And he kind of knew that, you know, I was from those days and I and I knew what I was talking about. He was impressed with, like, you know, where I'd been. And the offer was actually for an art director.
So they bumped me. OK, cool. Yeah. Art director, Marvel.
Let's go. And I told him, you know, like the hard times in 2018, you know, I told Jay, you know, yeah, you know, we tried to start a studio. We failed. And he's like, dude, everybody should try to start a studio and fail. You learn so much. And he was like super like like he understood, like. Even though, like most people would look at it as like a loss, like the overarching sort of life experience and the ability to pay money and stick your neck out to find a growth opportunity to like want pain. You know, the kind of pain that goes with growth that impressed him and the fact that I was still standing still positive and that I had contextualized this stuff. You know, the sort of hard, hard things that I had gone through and I had contextualized it into a place where I I saw it as something that helped me grow and was for my benefit, I think impressed him. And because, you know, now I'm at Marvel and it's very self-directed.
It's very much like, hey, you see a problem, you help solve it. You know, you're in contact. So I'm in contact with like five different studios all working on different games. And, you know, it's their game.
It's their game. And I'm just there as a consultant, really. And a guide and a friend to make sure that they all become hits and that they're the best thing that they possibly possibly could be. And it takes a great amount of communication and sort of trust building because, you know, every game studio is like their own little family. It's like your own house, you know.
And, you know, here comes Marvel knocking on the door, like wanting to like, you know, look in your fridge. You got to be cool, right? You got to make friends. And it's just been so weird, man, that like every studio that I'm like working with now at Marvel, there is somebody there from my past that I've worked with, either from Blizzard or from, you know, the Forum days.
I have a friend from Iron Lore from the Boston days. Like, it's just like. Remember the Muppet movie? Like, I feel like Kermit the Frog's trying to get from point A to point B and he meets Big Bird and he meets like the band, like the, you know, the guy with the gold tooth and animal on the drums. And then he meets like, you know, celebrities all along the way. And then at the very end, he needs them all for like the big climactic thing.
And they all show up because he did good deeds along the way and they show up to help him. You know, it's kind of that vibe. Here I am, you know, 42 years old, sort of like in the autumn, maybe the autumn, maybe the late spring of my career. Who knows? I don't know. Do people even retire from video games?
I don't think the industry is even old enough to have like people that retire from video games. It's not like I'm like digging ditches or anything. My back hurts.
It's like a carpal tunnel syndrome. It's probably like the only thing. And a great job by Robbie Davis on the production. And what a special voice and special storyteller Josh Thing is. But it's humility in telling this story and running the gamut and being a good guy. And anyone who's been in any career for long enough knows being a good guy is 90 percent of the game. And he did it all. Big companies, small companies, startups. And in the end, what he loves doing is creating either as an art director, as a character creator. But in the end, it's being a part of a team and bringing to life another great video game, a remarkable part and feature of American and world life video game production.
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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-02-15 23:14:44 / 2023-02-15 23:34:44 / 20