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The Wondrous Grey Box

I was born in Houston, Texas in 1979, which I guess makes me one of those Xennial types. Growing up in a not so great part of town, I mostly stayed inside watching cartoons and doing my homework. Little did I know that a new device would make a huge impression on my life.

One night in the 1986, my mom took me along to her friend's house to make friends with her son. There, I was introduced to magnificent grey on grey box that blew the pants off the previous game consoles - the Nintendo Entertainment System. I was so excited and played all his games, including, The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Bros., Ghost n' Goblins, and even Gyromite with R.O.B.! Needless to say, I was hooked and begged my grandparents to buy me an N.E.S. Because I had consistently good grades, they surprised me with a trip to K.B. Toys, a flash of the Discover Card, and a N.E.S. Super Mario Bros. bundle!

The N.E.S. kept me out of trouble on the streets and opened up my imagination - taking me on adventures in a kingdom full of mushrooms, an elf's quest to battle dungeons and dragons to save a princess, and a final showdown with the immortal, blood thirsty vampire king. These games helped teach me strategy, anticipation, pattern recognition, and resource management. Not to mention, tons of fun and memorable moments of tackling games with friends and family. And one day I wanted to help bring those kind of experiences to others.

The Camo Years

Right out of high school I enlisted in the Army as a Mechanized Infantryman in 1997 to serve our country and earn money for college. My service took me to Georgia, back home to Texas, and South Korea. To my surprise and delight, video games thrived in the barracks with soldiers. And now games had evolved into 3D with Golden Gun 007 Goldeneye matches, fantastic Final Fantasy 7 summons, Tekken fighting tournaments, trick attempts on Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2, and that wtf moment Psycho Mantis knew the games you play. .

Games And Stars

After completing my service, I went back home to Houston and worked in the hospitality and retail industry. I was an assistant manager at E.B. Games, where I helped to lead the team to beat projected goals and win multiple regional awards. An opportunity became available in Hollywood, California, and I soon moved to help open the store on Sunset and Vine.

Prior to the company being acquired by GameStop, I moved into the coffee industry as an assistant manager at Starbucks. I worked at the flagship Hollywood and Highland store, helping to build a solid team and increase the store's rank in sales, cleanliness, and customer satisfaction. Not long after, I was promoted to Store Manager of the iconic and high-profile Sunset Strip store. There, I identified and prioritized potential roadblocks to address them, implemented organizational standards, invested time and training in the team members, and successfully promoted multiple employees. Additionally, the store had the lowest turnover in the area, achieved one of the highest food safety audit scores in the area, and surpassed year-over-year budget goals while providing a great customer experience.

College Years

Since my college G.I. Bill would be expiring soon, I left Starbucks to enroll at the Los Angeles City College full-time on a path with the goal to make video games. During my time at LACC, I won a writing contest and was published in their annual creative arts and literary journal, the Citadel. Additionally, I was asked to join as an English Department student mentor for several semesters. I sat in on the assigned classes and worked in the Writing Center, assisting my students and any others that needed assistance with their writing.

After completing my general education credits, I transferred to the Art Institute of California - Hollywood to earn a Bachelors of Science in their new Visual and Game Programming course. Since the program contained both art and programming, I learned basic design concepts, color theory, 2D and 3D animation, 3D modeling, game production pipeline, game design and gameplay, level design, and basic A.I. concepts.

The Bearded Developer

While in still attending school at the Art Institute of California, my friend Brent Farris and I co-founded a game and software studio: Bearded Man Studios. We came together and agreed that we could challenge ourselves to make games, because nothing was stopping us.

We built and published our first project in October 2012: Zen Gardens. It was an app with switchable camera angles, nature sounds, and several locations displaying peaceful imagery. Publishing this app to the App Store and Google Play was proof that our small team could come together and accomplish a set goal.

With this confidence, we started working on our next project - a 3D word puzzle game: Word Lab. This game took much more time, contained many iterations, and exposed us to team working dynamics. After publishing Word Lab it brought me tremendous joy watching people play and actually enjoying it, and we even had a few regulars emailing us to tell us they enjoyed the game, including one from our biggest "Word Lab Fan". I had finally reached my goal of making games, but, like eating chips, you can't just have one.

After graduating with honors from the Art Institute, I began full-time work at BMS. We already had a prototype of our second game, Warp 5 Overdrive. This game was inspired by other "twitch" style games, and we wanted to get a player to be able to stay in the game and try to see how high their "lightyear" score could be. We included a ship builder so players could customize their ships, and even had a website tallying up the combined "lightyears" from all players.

Since we were a small team, we had to tackle advertising and marketing in-house, and creatively. I had an arcade cabinet built for my portfolio show themed to Warp 5 Overdrive, and planned to demo it to the public. At GDC 2014, I had the opportunity to demo it off at a GDC after party at AT&T Park. I also planned the release of Warp 5 Overdrive to coincide with GDC, and created vinyl stickers with our logo and marketing info for the release of the game to hand out during the expo. People seemed to really enjoy the game even though it was challenging, and provided some good feedback that we used to make adjustments to gameplay.

Alongside the development of Warp 5 Overdrive, we were also working on Gay Fighter Supreme. While I was not able to see it though to publishing, I was able to help the team get the majority of the way.

I began working at Apple in World Wide Developer Relations in 2014, assisting developers to ensure their apps comply with the App Store Review Guidelines.

Now, I want to shift my career back into game development, and channel my passion into crafting games and experiences. Recently, I have started taking courses for Unity, VR, and AR app and game development. Soaking up information when I can, joining groups and meetups, and gathering as much data as I can for these immersive fields. I am excited to be a part of this emerging scene, and ready to create.