Charmie Kim, game lead at Space Ape Games, tells us her video game origin story, about the journey that Beatstar is on, and about making games for love rather than glory.
How did you break into games?
I grew up in an immigrant Korean family of two girls and video games were barely a thing. Our first PC arrived with a disc full of shareware and I became obsessed with a Doom-like game called Heretic and saved up my allowance to buy Tomb Raider. It never occurred to me that I could make games as a career. After first pursuing a career in the arts I enrolled in a game design program at Vancouver Film School and my big break came when I scored a job as a junior designer for one of my mentors in the program.
What has been your proudest achievement so far?
The launch of Beatstar! In 15 years of game development, Beatstar is the first game I’ve led from start to finish and the first to really blow up into a phenomenon. Seeing artists like Eminem, Camilla Cabello and Ed Sheeran drop their new tracks in Beatstar is a dream come true.
What has been your biggest challenge to date?
When we were pivoting Beatstar from a rhythm RPG to an arcadey design, most of the studio had lost faith in the project. We shrunk from 20 to six people to refocus on the core gameplay. That was a real rough patch, but we had so much passion for the new direction that we hardly noticed the pressures. In hindsight though … Wow, everybody must have thought we were crazy!
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I love anecdotes of people playing Beatstar. My best friend’s mum loves the game and claims it’s good for her arthritis (who knew!) for example, or stories of someone overhearing people talking about Beatstar in the wild. I’ve always been passionate about widening the reach of games so I adore these stories! Yet those moments are few and far between, so as a game dev I think you really need to enjoy the creative journey.
What’s your biggest ambition in games?
There is so much we are still doing, and so much we still want to do with Beatstar! I want to see Beatstar be more relevant than ever in ten years, just as Clash of Clans just celebrated its 10th year and is played more now than ever.
What advice would you give to someone that wants to do your job?
Do it for love, not for glory. So much internal strength and quality of work comes from love for the craft of making games and teamwork. External factors like recognition and compensation are important too, but for me those are a consequence, not a driver, for what I do.
For women and mothers that are looking for a reason to stay in games, it’s probably not advice that you need but allyships and role models are key. I hope I can be just one example of someone like you that has been through it and will continue to be working through it in this industry.