We had the good fortune of connecting with Kevin Kim and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Kevin, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
7 Years ago, I worked at a visual effects studio in Melbourne, Australia. I rented an ocean view apartment on St. Kilda Pier. The studio offered me a used bicycle, so I rode it to commute. One night on my way back home, I stopped my bike by the pier to sit on the rock to catch my breath and watch the night sea. I loved the cool breeze made by black waves, but soon I felt flooded by worries of my future. I am not so young (late thirties), divorced, and far from home (Los Angeles), with no savings and no plans for the future. From this night, sitting on the rock and watching the night ocean became my daily routine. About a month later, all the unanswerable worries started to fade away, and fond memories emerged. The memories of my mother’s cooking, family vacations, childhood friends and my original dream of making video games came to my mind. I rediscovered my forgotten passion for video games, the reason I went to art school in the first place. This small spark grew bigger and bigger until it inundated my mind. So, I decided to return to the states to make video games.
When I moved back to Los Angeles, I had two big plans. First, create my own game team to learn how to make indie mobile games. Second, get a job as a professional AAA game developer, so I can gain the experience of developing blockbuster games. I shared my vision with two close industry friends, and we created a team called ‘Brave Turtles’. At the first team meeting, I had a small presentation about the game I wanted to create, and at the second meeting, my team mate showed me a rough prototype of the very same game! I was completely blown away! I couldn’t sleep that night as excitement kept slumber at bay.
While working as a VFX artist, I had the opportunity to work on Hugo which later went on to win the 2012 VFX Oscar. The same year, another project I worked on, The Game of Thrones, also received an Emmy for Outstanding Special Visual Effects. I can still remember the thrill and pride of having been a part of such a distinguished team of VFX artists, but the elation I felt playing the prototype of a game that had previously only existed in my imagination was far greater. I realized just how much more this small dream meant to me and decided to set my sights on starting my own game studio. To this end, I got a job as a Senior VFX Artist at AAA game company Respawn Entertainment 2016 with the highlight being the work I did on Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order in 2019. All the while, I worked on building my dream and began learning more about business, management, leadership, and marketing. After 6 years of preparation, I finally decided to start my own business.

Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
I started the mobile game startup, Brave Turtles, Inc. earlier this year. The game we are developing is called Spell Friends. Spell Friends is a mobile multi-word racing game that will be released in the US 2023 after the soft launch at the next year. Spell Friends breaks away from the existing static and repetitive word games, adding the excitement of competition in real-time with multiplayer capabilities. The degree of freedom in word creation is higher than any existing word game, and each level offers fresh and exciting opportunities and challenges. It’s a next-generation word game with cool graphics, cute characters, fun story and RPG elements. We designed our game with both elements of fun and education in mind. Spell Friends will become the new unicorn in the word game world. And it may be one of the few games that parents encourage their children to play.

I took a three-pronged approach to setting up the business. One. I wanted to learn everything I could about start-ups, from business planning and management to marketing and sales. If I were to lead as CEO, I would have to start from the bottom with the understanding that I have a lot to learn. Second. I wanted to create a work culture that encouraged dissent and discussion over hierarchy. Third. I wanted to make sure we all had the same growth mindset as a team, a willingness and expectation to grow and learn. Although each of us are “experts” in our field, we had room to grow even more. Although we all share the same vision of developing great games, we each have different perspectives and unique voices.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
When I travel, food plays an integral role. And Los Angeles is a city where you can taste the best food in the world in one place. I will recommend Japanese ramen on Sawtelle Blvd. before an energizing walk on Abbot Kinney Blvd. to the Venice Canals. If you like the cityscapes, go to the Art District and have some great coffee and enjoy the art galleries. Then drive to Koreatown for the quintessential table top Korean BBQ experience. If you like the outdoors, I recommend taking the PCH to Malibu then on Mulholland drive to experience the most beautiful scenic drive in southern Cal. And don’t forget the Getty Villa on the way!

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
In 1997, I was completely immersed in a video game called Final Fantasy 7 which was on a PS1 (PlayStation1). (Spoiler alert!) In the middle of the game, the main female character is killed, and that was the first time in my life I felt sad over the death of a fictional game character. The grief was as real as it was powerful. That moment, my view on video games completely changed. The PS1 era was the renaissance of games. After I played Resident Evil, Tomb Raiders and the masterpiece, Metal Gear Solid, I became convinced that video games are my future. So I entered the Otis College of Art and Design, the only art school offering 3D CG (3D Computer Graphic) classes at the time. That evening when I laughed and cried with the PS controller in hand was the beginning of my game dev career. I want to create something that touches people the way these games have touched me.

Website: https://www.braveturtles.com/

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/brave-turtles-inc-4a1122204/

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