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Meet IG LGBTQ ERG 2022 Blog Header

#MEETIRONGALAXY – LGBTQ+ ERG Edition

At Iron Galaxy, our team of talented and thoughtful people make us who we are as a game development studio. Their diverse backgrounds help us create games for all kinds of players. This recurring interview series is our chance to open the floor for our people to speak candidly about their life experiences in the game industry.

As part of our recognition of Pride Month, we’re talking to some of the members of our LGBTQ+ Employee Resource Group. Let’s chat with some familiar and fresh faces of Iron Galaxy.

Header image from left to right: Chelsea Blasko, Nate Herbst, Dan Coleman, Rejess Marshall, Austin Lewis, Autumn Bitterman, Jess Wiedner


Iron Galaxy: Who are you and what would you say you do here at Iron Galaxy?

Chelsea: I am Chelsea Blasko and I'm the co-CEO at Iron Galaxy. My pronouns are she/he/they and I identify as Fluid.

Nate: I'm Nate Herbst and I'm a Software Engineer at IG, currently working on Rumbleverse. I use he/him pronouns and I identify strongly as queer.

Dan: I'm Dan Coleman, Head of Product Development here at IG. My pronouns are he/him and I'm gay.

Rejess: I'm Rejess Marshall and I manage the diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility programs at Iron Galaxy. My pronouns are she/her and I identify as queer.

Austin: I'm an Art Outsource Manager. I'm a sort of art director wannabe for our outsourcing partners. My pronouns are he/him and I identify as gay.

Autumn: This question gives me Kindergarten Cop "Who is your daddy and what does he do," vibes but, besides being a human IMDB, I am an HR/Payroll Specialist. I currently identify as Pansexual with she/her/hers pronouns.

Jess: My name is Jess Wiedner (AKA J-Dubz), and I am an artist here at Iron Galaxy. My pronouns are she/they and I identify as Gender Fluid.


Iron Galaxy: How did you find your place in the games industry?


Chelsea: I definitely fell into it. I was lucky enough to already have a job when I heard EA was looking for Producers. I didn't have much to lose and I was interested in working in a really creative industry, so I gave it a shot, put in a resume, had some interviews...and here I am almost 18 years later.

Nate: I spent so much of my young life playing games that it was honestly impossible for me to want to do anything else! I enjoyed works like Supergiant's Bastion and the stories they told, which led me to try out acting in high school. I turned out to be not that great at that, but I discovered that programming allowed me to participate in the storytelling and creativity of video games, and the rest is history.

Dan: I made an agreement with myself when working toward a Computer Science degree during the dot com boom in the late 90's that I must do something FUN and CREATIVE in my career, and games fit that bill!

Rejess: Somewhat a bit of luck and timing. I never thought about working in the games industry before joining Iron Galaxy. I wanted to do diversity, equity, and inclusion work and Iron Galaxy was hiring for the program manager role. I applied and the rest is history.

Austin: I really worked at it! I wanted to work in games since I was a little kid. I taught myself 3d modeling, took a couple classes, worked on a bunch of vaporware internet projects, and kept applying until I got in.

Autumn: I honestly never expected to find myself in the games industry, but I happened upon the job listing and it checked every single one of my wants in a job. The rest is history!

Jess: I went to Ball State to study Electronic Arts and Animation and got my first contractor job in the industry as a QA Unreal Tools tester at NetherRealm Studios. After gaining real-world experience making games and working for a few different studios, I earned a role here as an artist.


Iron Galaxy: How does being a member of the LGBTQ+ community shape your experience in the games industry?

Chelsea: When I started in games, it was a more frat-like environment. The idea of being out was scary for people. I don't think it has really affected my personal experience much, though. I've often felt like I shouldn't have to be the "out" one as someone LGBTQ, that didn't seem fair, however I now recognize that I have a responsibility to be more open and visible to others to make their paths easier.

Nate: Being LGBTQ+ in a mostly straight/cis space is extremely terrifying to me, but luckily the games industry has tons of folks in the community. The road isn't smooth, and I've experienced backhanded comments, had my identity laughed at as the butt of a joke, and watched coworkers face worse, but I do see things at work that show progress.

Dan: It's been a journey. I first felt very out of place when starting out in the industry and put myself back into the closet after being very out in college. It took strong role-models and really close co-workers to help me feel good about being my true self. I'm proud that we've built a culture at Iron Galaxy where you can bring that day-one.

Rejess: Iron Galaxy is my only games industry experience and, from day one, it's always felt welcoming and LGBTQ-friendly. We have an extremely inclusive benefits program that makes sure the needs of LGBTQ employees and their families are being met. I've never felt out of place, or afraid here at IGS because of my queer identity.

Austin: I have a relatively easy time, compared to other queer folks, so I feel a lot of pressure to be visible and advocate where I can. Probably the biggest impact was an old job working for one person. I danced around mentioning my partner for years, not because I thought it would be a problem, but if it was, my job could have been over instantly. We have a long way to go until everyone feels comfortable in our industry.

Autumn:
With being in a straight-passing relationship, it's not always apparent to others that I am LGBTQ+. While I'm a relative newb to the games industry, my hope is to be as loud and proud as I can be during Pride Month, as it's a whole new world for me.

Jess: My initial observation of the games industry was that it was kind of like a "boys club" in many ways. Ever since I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be one of the boys and loved being able to be a girl at the same time. Barbies and dinosaurs playing in the mud were my jam! So were video games and pwning all the boys at Smash Bros. When I first entered the industry, I felt like I was where I wanted to be, but at the same time I didn't feel like I was "in" with that "boys club" because of my appearance as a woman (even though I dress like a tom-boy more often than I wear a dress). Interactions with these guys felt very surface-level and I was objectified by these men who are considered industry vets. Other than a few poorly-mannered individuals in positions of power, MOST folks I have worked with in games have been totally accepting of who I am without assuming anything about me and have put in the effort to get to know my genuine self. I've seen A LOT of positive change in this realm since my entry point into the industry.


Iron Galaxy: How do you show your pride while working in the games industry?


Chelsea: I show my pride by sharing my experiences and identity across the industry.

Nate: This has been a long process, but I show my pride at work by showing up as myself every day. For a long time, I would hide parts of myself to blend into the crowd of programmers and just keep my head down and work as much as possible. As I spend more time in the industry, I've been able to learn from my incredible coworkers about all the different ways a person can be themselves, and I've tried my best to follow their example.

Dan: I like being loud and proud in accessorizing and fashion! When playing games, I always look for strong character creation systems that allow me to express myself uniquely.

Rejess: I always believe the best way to show my pride is to show up authentically as myself every day. To be a black, queer, woman is an act of rebellion to live in my truth.

Austin: I don't know if you can tell from my photo, but I choose to express my queerness pretty loudly through my appearance, and I try to follow that by being very open about it when talking to coworkers. I'm fortunate enough to be in a stable job at an affirming studio, so I try to be a reminder that queer people are and have always been here, even if they're quieter about it than I am.

Autumn: I may have answered this in the previous question a little bit too, and while I'm a newb to the games industry, I think getting involved early with our LGBTQ+ ERG/Affinity Group early in my career here at Iron Galaxy will definitely help show my pride, not only of myself, but of my company. You gotta start somewhere!

Jess: I share my pride by striving to always be my most genuine self at any given time. I love to wear colorful outfits and be my own brand of fun-lovable-weird, and I do it unapologetically. I love to cosplay and to rock both masculine and feminine looks; however I may be feeling a that given time. I communicate my preferences to others openly and call out distasteful comments from others who need to be thoughtfully educated when I see it happening.


Iron Galaxy: How are you celebrating Pride Month?


Chelsea: I celebrate Pride every day! I am super excited about being able to march as a group of colleagues in the Chicago Pride Parade. I've attended in the past and, honestly, it can feel a little overwhelming with the crowds for me, but being able to be an actual part of the parade with other folks from IGS feels wonderful.

Nate: Pride is a celebration and a reminder of all the work that has been happening for generations. To celebrate, I'm spending time with my personal LGBTQ+ community (we'll probably play a lot of board games). To work, I'll be looking for places to donate time and money to, specifically trans-affirming organizations since those communities have been under sustained attack recently. Trans rights are human rights.

Dan: We're marching in this year's parade! I haven't been able to be a part in a number of years. Looking forward to this year to show my PRIDE!

Rejess: I'll be at the Chicago Pride parade this month.

Austin: Honestly, just being my gay self with all my queer friends all month long! In a world that would rather forget we're here, just living your life being publicly queer is an act of resistance. That said, we're of course going to all the Pride parties, and I'm helping to support some great Pride Month programming here at Iron Galaxy!

Autumn: I have been living in Chicago proper since 2016 and have yet to go to the parade, so 2022 is THE YEAR! I also plan to attend Queer Horror Movie Night at The Brewed in Chicago, because who doesn't love Jennifer's Body?

Jess: I will be celebrating Pride month by not only attending the Pride parade with a bunch of my queer friends as well as queer allies, but I will also be performing as much as I can in my band. I am always looking to channel my inner rockstar and I feel at my best when I am wearing a wonderfully put together outfit while blasting on my trumpet. I just love to inspire folks to be their most genuine, weird selves by being genuine and weird myself.


Iron Galaxy: What improvements would you like to see in the games industry?


Chelsea: Not just in games, but everywhere, I am excited to see more acceptance of the full rainbow of genders and sexualities. I've always felt that, as someone who is fluid, I have to "come out" to both straight and gay people. There is this idea that straight and gay are binary that I see evolving and I am happy to represent some of the gray area in-between.

Nate: There are many ways that the industry needs to improve, and I strongly believe that listening to different communities is critical, so I appreciate this question in particular. I think that the industry could do more in combating online harassment. The internet is an extremely volatile and nasty place, and harassment campaigns are terrifying ways that angry groups of people can ruin the lives of developers.

Dan: I'm super happy to see more representation these days. This helped me in my journey. Allyship is similarly just as important to me.

Rejess: More recognition of our community and representation in the games that get funded.

Austin: Internally, I would love to see the industry as a whole become more proactive about queer issues. There's a feeling in some parts of it that, because game dev happens mostly in large coastal cities, we much have solved everything. Sadly, it's not enough to say you don't tolerate discrimination- active affirmation is necessary to build work cultures that don't tolerate discrimination.

Autumn:
I would love to see a broader representation of gender identities. We've made a lot of progress over the past few years, but it sometimes feels forced or on a "token" basis and I think we have so many options to allow the different representations to become normalized and more mainstream

Jess: I would like to see the games industry be proactive in educating their staff about the beauty in different gender identities, non-normative lifestyles and to create game content that represents LGBTQ+ individuals. I would also like to see much less of the "boys club" mentality that still exists in older circles and create a space where everyone can feel comfortable collaborating.


Iron Galaxy: What’s your favorite thing about being a part of the LGTBQ+ community?


Chelsea: I love the conversations I have with younger people who are not afraid to explore their identities. I can't wait for a time when we can all just be who we are with whomever we choose.

Nate: I really love all of the research and conversation about the differences between sex and gender. Lately I've been falling into rabbit holes learning about what it means to express one's gender and how we can be free to identify as we choose and present in a way that feels fulfilling without worrying about expectations that we might feel from society. As a cis person, I've learned so much by listening and reading about the experiences of non-binary folks, and I highly recommend doing the same.

Dan: Being part of a unique and diverse community that cares for each other as a chosen family. I get to learn so much every day from them.

Rejess: I may be biased, but we are some of the most magical and creative people on this planet.

Austin: The birthright every queer person gains in exchange for all the difficulty is that we have access to life’s dev console. That is, once you’re already so far off default settings, you’re free to build yourself, your relationships, and your life however you want, regardless of what’s “normal." I wouldn't trade that freedom for anything.

Autumn: Can I say everything? I feel like that’s taking the easy route, but it’s true! I love how truly welcoming the community has been toward me. I was involved with LGTBQ+ organizations throughout college before I came out (originally as bisexual in 2010 and as pansexual in 2021) so I was able to build and cultivate friendships and those friendships have only helped me discover who my true self really is.

Jess: I absolutely love seeing people thriving in their true element; it's inspiring and beautiful to see! I love the culture that comes from the celebration of being out and open and free. I think that is something everyone wants to be. Also, love is pretty cool and there are so many different types of love! You can say, it's a spectrum :)


We're constantly working to make Iron Galaxy a company that is inviting to all. If you want to work on revolutionary games with encouraging people, 
view our career page and apply to one of our open positions!

Tiffany Dao Blog Header

#MEETIRONGALAXY – Tiffany Dao, Associate Art Director

Here at Iron Galaxy, our artists breathe life into to the worlds we create for our games. In this interview series, you get the chance to meet a variety of people who help IG create awesome experiences for players. Today, we’re talking to Tiffany Dao. Tiffany started with us in December 2012, making her a pivotal team member for many IG projects. Let’s learn about Tiffany and her journey in games.


Iron Galaxy: Who are you and what would you say you do here at Iron Galaxy?

Tiffany Dao: Don’t confuse me with my twin! My name is Tiffany Dao, and I’m currently an Associate Art Director here at Iron Galaxy. While I got hired here as a Character Artist, I’ve dabbled in lots of art disciplines over the years, be it environment, animation, even some concept work. It’s helped inform a lot of what I do now. I’m working with a dozen or so other artists, providing feedback, and facilitating work down the pipeline from client to artist!


IG: What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

TD: Time management would have to be the skill I’m constantly trying to exercise and improve. Meetings aside, you’d be surprised at how many unmentioned tasks you end up taking on to help smooth out the workflow and unblock your team. Delegation is so crucial to evening out your workload, with the added bonus of showing your team that you can rely on them.


IG: Teamwork and great leadership is a key to success! What’s one skill you learned growing up that you use the most in your role?

TD: I suppose I answered a bit of that in my last question, but an honorable mention here would be communication. It can be messaging your team to improve morale, interfacing with clients to uphold the company image, and even picking the right phrasing for proper translation to outsourcers.


IG: Sounds like choosing your words carefully goes a long way. What has been your proudest moment as a member of the Iron Galaxy team?

TD: For a long while now, it had been my time working on Killer Instinct, and watching the very personal reactions from streamers around the world gush and amaze themselves each month with the release of new fighters... But now I think it’s the reveal of Rumbleverse. It was wild seeing it hit the top ten streamed games the day the First Look dropped! Even having some of my friends and family hit me up on the side, asking if this was a project I was involved in. I might have not worked on the game myself beyond some pre-production way back in the day, but it was great peeking in and seeing it grow through playtests and conversations with other devs.


IG: Those are some wonderful moments to celebrate. What’s one piece of advice you could give to someone who aspires to be an artist in game development?

TD: If you’re an artist, don’t get mired in the details. It’s easy to get lost in the nitty gritty of things or labor over one particular area until it feels just perfect, but sometimes you lose the bigger picture. Always check your work in context and in motion. That face you so painstakingly detailed might not actually be visible in game camera, or it only occupies a couple hundred pixels on screen. It’s not about perfection, it’s about efficiency!


IG: What is the best thing about working at a gaming company?

TD: Just the camaraderie! Everyone on your project is an avid gamer of some sort, and there’s a certain level of just... friendship and connection that you make with your co-workers that doesn’t quite translate in other professions in my opinion. Plus, there’s all the free gamer swag!


IG: There’s nothing like bonding over games. What would you say is your favorite perk associated with your job?

TD: I thought about writing ‘Gamer Swag’ in this spot here, but I think there’s something more useful here. Feedback on your artwork. There’s something about putting your work in front of all of your peers and going through how to improve it together that just oozes collaboration, and it’s great. Posting your work online just doesn’t have the same intimacy. It also doesn’t have to be solely about artwork either, sometimes it can be a program that you never even heard of, but someone else is a pro at it. Seminars are held and we learn so many techniques and skills that you certainly could learn on your own, but here, you can just ask your buddy, and they’ll give you all the cool tutorials they have!


IG: It’s nice to hear that you’re frequently a resource for others, and others are also there for you. How has wearing the hats of an Animator, Environment Artist, Character Artist, Concept Artist, and Art Lead helped you grow in your career?

TD: It’s all about that pipeline. You have a vision, and sometimes it’s simple, like a D&D character that you want to sculpt. Sometimes it vast, like a battle scene of said D&D character smiting the BBEG. Knowing every aspect of that pipeline helps you achieve the larger picture. A concept to design all the players on the field, character art to bring those players to life, animation to strike dynamic believable and stylized poses, environment to add the ambience and mood, and finally... a creative eye to bring it all together and tell a story.


IG: You have quite the mind to understand the scale of your work responsibilities, and D&D rolls. Tell us a story of some of the challenges and successes you’ve encountered during your journey to become an Associate Art Director.

TD: Learning the managerial aspects of it was a challenge for sure. Up until this point, I was very used to having someone else tell me whether my work was hitting the mark or not, and then suddenly, I became that person. It took some time to get used to that feeling, both of power and responsibility (how did that quote go again?), but I had some great mentors down this road. The reward of it is just all that more fulfilling. Suddenly it’s not just your artwork getting praised, but your entire team’s. Their victories become your victories. It’s really rewarding.


IG: What’s one creative thing you wish you could get back to doing?

TD: I miss doing art in general, but if I had to pick something, I miss animating the most. I grew up watching anime and playing action games, and animation is so expressive and dynamic, and full of potential in terms of storytelling. Character art is a close second, but only because I have a very specific idea of what my characters look like in any of my games that I play, and I get frustrated with the tools I’m given to create said character.


IG: What art have you found inspirational in the last few years?

TD: If you haven’t seen them yet, Wylie Beckart’s art has been super inspirational and fun. James Zapata too is moody and dark. Other than that, I’ve also been bumming around looking at Critical Role’s Fanart posts (don’t judge me!) Just seeing the wide variety of interpretations and styles is interesting in its own right!


IG: Aside from playing video games, what is a favorite hobby of yours?

TD: If my previous answers weren’t proof enough, I really enjoy playing Dungeons and Dragons! I did play before Critical Role (veteran from 4th edition here), but it certainly helped inspire me to do more and better in my own games. D&D combines storytelling, art, collaboration and even a bit of theater in such a fantastic natural way. I love it!



IG: D&D Veteran status confirmed! What is something you feel everyone must do once in their life?

TD: Travel. And see natural wonders, specifically, but any travel is good. Expand your worldview. It doesn’t even have to be out of your state or hometown if you don’t have the means, just go somewhere without the intention of buying something or doing something. Explore and be humble.


IG: Where would your once-in-a-lifetime travel destination be?

TD: Vietnam. The place my parents were born and raised in. I’ve always felt a degree of separation from that part of my cultural heritage, and it’d be a great chance to learn and immerse myself in that part of myself someday.


IG: What is something you have always wanted to create?

TD: A world. This is a bit open-ended I suppose, but I had gotten a taste of it when attempting to run my own D&D campaign way back in the day. Writing lore and superstitions, creating tribes and writing up myths and legends, creation stories and weaving together plots, it’s a lot of fun. It’s even better when sharing it with your players, but... well maybe one day.


IG: If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would you choose?

TD: Noodles. It’s just vague enough to provide enough of a variety of textures, and can be paired with soups or sauces of any kind across cultural spectrum. To be honest, I hate eating the same thing over and over, even if it’s something I love. This way, at least I can have my cake... and eat it.


IG: Who is your favorite author?

TD: I’m a big Brandon Sanderson fan (consistency goes a long way for me) and his Stormlight Archive in particular is a favorite of mine. There were characters that I didn’t like that ended up growing on me. Never mind the world building! It’s such a unique perspective on fantasy that just feels different compared to the traditional western high fantasy that is popular now.


IG: What was the last concert you saw?

TD: Final Fantasy 7 Remake Concert in Chicago! Hearing a surprise (really shouldn’t be a surprise) One Winged Angel at the end was a delight! Also Bombing Mission hits every point of nostalgia for me, and while 7 isn’t my favorite game, it has one of the best opening soundtracks. Hearing their rendition of it for Remake is fantastic!


IG: Looks like we have multiple FF fans in the office! Anna Heart also saw the FF7 Remake Concert. What is the one song most likely to earn you a speeding ticket?

TD: Toby Fox’s Death by Glamour. Well, most of his battle themes, but that song in particular makes even these rhythmically inept bones of mine wiggle.


IG: What game have you spent the most time playing?

TD: Considering I’m an avid RPG player, and how long those games run for, I thought it might’ve been a traditional JRPG... but the game is actually Monster Hunter World (and Iceborne afterwards). My first Monster Hunter Game, and I’ve logged nearly a thousand hours into that game. I didn’t even Platinum it (is it even possible?) But it ended up being such a fun way to spend time with my crew, where every battle is a boss battle, complete with in-depth character customization, great animation, and challenging fights!


IG: Name a scene from a movie that makes you cry every time…

TD: I’m a sympathetic crier, so it really doesn’t take me much. Coco is a great candidate though, at the end when Miguel is singing to his grandmother, and more recently with Encanto. That Dos Oruguitas song just *uuugh* hits me so hard every time.


IG: Pixar movies really do hit different. What is one superpower that you would like to have?

TD: I waffle a bit between telepathy, telekinetic power, and the ability to create illusions. Can I have all three? I’m always a fan of the non-violent superpowers, the ones that require a bit more cleverness to use and are more versatile. I can imagine so many good deeds I can do with any three of those powers!


IG: Since they’re non-violent, you get to keep all three. If you had one wish, and you couldn’t wish for more wishes, what would you wish for?

TD: Honestly, I’d probably use this wish to give myself a superpower (see above answer), but if we’re looking for something more traditional, I’d go with more time. It doesn’t even have to be immortality (although I think I could deal pretty well with the existential dread), it could just be an extra hour in the day. Give me more time for myself, more time to relax and play games, more time to chat with friends and family!


IG: Time is a great resource to wish for. What fictional universe would you choose over our own? What if there was no coming back?

TD: This is a double-sided question, given that most fictional universes also involve WORLD SHATTERING DANGERS that I most definitely would not survive in. That being said, if I had to pick a world, it might just be the world in My Hero Academia. Given that a majority of the population was born with a quirk, I might just have something to protect me. Or if I’m one of the unfortunate quirkless, then at the very least my daily life will be interesting.


PLUS ULTRA responses Tiffany! Congratulations to your well-evolved career at IG. Good luck on your next D&D campaign and may your character have telepathy, telekinetic power, and the ability to create illusions.

Wouldn’t it be cool to work with someone like this? We're hiring. Spot an Art opening you fancy on our Careers page? Consider applying today!

AAPI Meet IG 2022

#MEETIRONGALAXY - AAPI ERG Edition

At Iron Galaxy, our team of inspired and motivated people are essential to our ability to make games. Their diverse backgrounds and views help us create exciting and unique gaming experiences that are welcoming to many people. This recurring series of interviews is a chance for us to introduce them and let them tell their stories.

As part of our recognition of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we’re talking to members of our AAPI Employee Resource Group. Let’s learn about what it means to be AAPI and the importance of heritage.

Header image from left to right: Karthik Narayan, Elaine Del Rosario, Tammy Dao, Anika Tabassum and Chaohao Wang.

Iron Galaxy: Thanks for agreeing to talk to us. What ethnicity are you?

Karthik: I was born and raised in India, and immigrated to the US to pursue my master’s in game engineering.

Elaine: I am Filipino but born and raised in the US.

Tammy: I was born and raised in US, but my family is Chinese and Vietnamese.

Anika: I'm from Bangladesh. I was born there but moved to the US when I was young, I think younger than four.

Chaohao: My family is Chinese, and I was born and raised in China.


IG: What role did your heritage play in your home life while growing up?

Karthik: Growing up in India, I learned about our history and how we have a lot of cultural variations, even across neighboring states. Since my family moved around quite a bit, I was very lucky to have seen a small part of all these amazing little details, like the type of food you can experience and the different kinds of festivals that different regions of the country celebrate.

Elaine: For me, I never really got super close with my culture when I was little. If anything, I always kept it at arm’s length. I was never taught Tagalog (outside a few words or phrases). I didn't own any traditional clothes, and I never really took the time to learn more about my culture. The only connection that kept me close to my culture was food, Filipino Soap Operas, the tabo, and mass amounts of Filipino parties. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve started to get more curious about my culture and now ask my Filipino family members more questions about the Philippines. They tell me stories about my cousins and the lifestyle they lived when they previously lived there. More recently, I’ve gotten to talk to some of my cousins on Skype and learn more about my family! With that growing interest, I do hope to one day visit the Philippines and see all the things I've been hearing about through these stories.

Tammy: My parents immigrated here from Saigon, Vietnam in search of a better life. Quintessential American dream. To that end, they didn't put a whole lot of focus on preserving any traditions from their home country outside of food and the lunar new year holiday. I learned a little bit of Mandarin growing up but fell out of it and the focus of my childhood was primarily to do well in school. They loved to watch movies that they'd pickup at the local Chinese/Vietnamese markets and stores, not subbed in the slightest, and I grew to appreciate the fantasy martial arts and the romanticism of that style of movie. It wasn't until I was older that I asked them about their lives in Vietnam. Some of the stories my dad told were scary to hear, the stuff you read in history textbooks. I still don't quite feel a connection to the culture but have become more fascinated by it the older I become.

Anika: I was lucky as an immigrant kid. My family visited Bangladesh quite frequently when I was younger. We even spent a year or so living there when I was about seven. This allowed me to have an early exposure and appreciation for my culture and gave me the opportunity to meet a large chunk of my relatives and extended family (and Bangladeshi extended families are big!). Outside of that, as my parents were the first ones in their families to move to the US, they kept a lot of the culture alive for my younger siblings and I. We ate Bangladeshi food, spoke Bangla at home, consumed Bangladeshi media, and kept in touch with family back in Asia. We've also been a part of the larger Bangladeshi communities in all the various places we've lived, including Raleigh, Toronto, and Orlando. Being in these communities really helped strengthen our ties to Bangladesh and exposed all the kids in the family to the culture. We continue to remain a part of these communities!

Chaohao: Growing up in China, I was taught a lot about our own history, culture, and traditions. Back when I was in school, I didn't really think too much about the meanings behind them other than knowing that it's something we would have to know to do well in tests. Now that I live in the US, I’ve started to appreciate that I learned so much about my own culture. I can pick up different references in movies or other media when it comes to something related to China and explain it to my friends. I am also able to recite certain ancient poems and literature pieces when I see something that reminds me of them. This strong connection with my heritage is something that I learned to be proud of after I moved to the US.


IG: When did you or your family immigrate to the United States?

Karthik:
I came to the US in 2014 to pursue my master’s in game engineering at the University of Utah.

Elaine: My grandfather had joined the US Navy in hopes of successfully immigrating to the United States after serving several years. My mother was born at a Japanese Naval Base, and being in a military family, they had to relocated quite often. They finally settled in Florida when my mom was around her middle school-high school years.

Tammy: My mom had most of her entire family moved here thanks to her older sister marrying an American who worked in the US government. My dad immigrated here shortly after, fleeing from some violence. They met here in the states after a year or two thanks to some mutual friend circles... and that was a year before they had my brother and about 3 years before they had my sister and I.

Anika: My dad got the opportunity to complete his bachelor’s degree in the US and married my mom back in Bangladesh sometime in the middle of his degree. After getting married, they both moved to the US and when my dad completed his degree, they moved back to Bangladesh, and then I was born. Shortly after that, we moved to North Carolina for my dad's higher graduate degrees. That's where I spent a good chunk of my life growing up and where both of my younger sisters were born. My parents never had any intentions of staying in the US permanently as it was far from family and loved ones. Once my sisters and I were born, they decided they needed to give us a life with better opportunities, so they applied for American citizenship. Once that got approved, we moved to Orlando and have been here since!

Chaohao: I moved to the US in 2013 and started my senior year in high school. My mom had been in the States for 8 years before that, pursuing a better future for me and my sister. My stepdad has been here since the nineties.


IG: What's something about being AAPI you'd like to share?

Karthik: There are so many little variations in cultures within India, and it is always a great experience to learn more about these little details. Did you know that the number of established languages spoken in India is more than four hundred!? And each state or region within a state adds its own spin on these languages to make it their own. The same goes for food as well :)

Elaine: When I was younger, I was always told to never speak my native language, and that I should focus on learning and speaking fluent English. As I grew older, I understood that it was so that I could have an easier time assimilating with my classmates and not have to worry about getting bullied or ridiculed (which one shouldn't do regardless). As time went on, being open in expressing culture has become more widely accepted in a lot of places in the States. For those who were in a similar situation like me, I would say take the time to learn more about culture from your family. Visit restaurants that serve your culture's dishes and taste cuisine you haven't had before, and maybe attempt to cook them yourself. Learn the language if you never had the chance. It's never too late to learn more about your own heritage.

Tammy: It's super weird identifying as an Asian American when your childhood was super focused on assimilating well with American culture. The odd experience of coming home and seeing items or smelling things so drastically different from friends made it difficult to reconcile as a kid, and that only pushed me away from my parent's heritage. I don't think it ever really disappointed my parents, but I still regret not having spent the time to look into it growing up and incorporating it more into my identity. It is so fascinating hearing how differently my parents lived compared to how I live now, and really just shocks me at how quickly things have progressed.

Anika: Ooh, this is a tough one! Being AAPI is a huge umbrella. There are hundreds of cultures that fall under the AAPI banner, and we all have different personal stories. For myself, as someone whose parents were new to the country, it was tough to navigate life trying to respect your home culture while growing up in a place with vastly different values from that of your parents. As the first born, I had a lot of restrictions growing up that neither of my sisters did. It's a balance that can be tough and very confusing while growing up. It wasn't the easiest trying to be a "normal" kid when you see your friends doing all these things, when your parents would forbid you from doing those same things with explanations of "It's not our culture." I did harbor some resentment for my culture when I was younger but now that I'm older and an "adult" (not sure I feel like one yet, haha!), I can appreciate that it was a difficult situation for my parents to navigate as well. They moved thousands of miles away from family to a land with a whole other language, food, media, culture, etc. They were essentially "strangers in a strange land" and just wanted to do what was best for their kids with the experiences and framework they had. As my parents helped to retain Bangladeshi culture in myself and my siblings, my sisters and I also helped my parents assimilate more into American/westernized culture.

Chaohao: Since I moved to the US as a teenager, I sometimes feel like it's hard for me to identify with either 1st or 2nd generation immigrants. On one hand, I grew up in China, making it hard for me to relate to people my age who grew up in the US. On the other hand, my learnings of how to be an adult in the US have been drastically different since the way I handle problems is much different than the older generation like my parents. This sometimes has made me feel lost and that I don’t belong anywhere, but as time has gone by, I’ve learned to be at peace with these feelings. I can take inspirations from both generations.


IG: How are you celebrating AAPI Heritage Month?


Karthik: Most definitely food! There are a lot of good places to eat in Orlando for authentic Indian food. I exclusively cook Indian recipes at home, mainly because I don’t know how to make anything else :)

Elaine: Food!! Eating and cooking lots and lots of Filipino food! And of course, I'd like to attempt making some dishes from other cultures as well :)

Tammy: Definitely finding some good Asian food here. It can be difficult being in the mid-west, but the gems I do find give me such nostalgia! I usually compensate by trying to cook dishes my dad prepared for me growing up as well. And then of course, culture research for my Chinese inspired D&D game that I run for myself and my fiancée. It's been a fun thing to learn together

Anika: Oh, definitely food! I get to celebrate Eid (Islamic holiday; Bangladesh is majority Muslim) this month with a ton of delicious home-made Bangladeshi foods by all the uncles and aunties. By the way, we call any older-than-you Bangladeshi person by their respective title so mom's friend = aunty, etc. I'm also going to go out and experience more of the rich Asian culture and foods that are in Central Florida.

Chaohao: I want to try more local AAPI-owned restaurants. I have also bought some Hanfu (traditional Chinese clothing) for myself and want to see if there are any occasions that I can wear them in public. There's also a novel I got, written by a Chinese Canadian author where the story is set in a world with mechas inspired by Chinese mythical creatures, which I am excited to read.


IG: Why is it important to commemorate AAPI culture?

Karthik: I believe that personally being able to understand and experience diverse cultures opens your mind to a whole new level of understanding. I have had some of the best memories of my life while living in India and, at the same time, being able to get the same experience in a country that is across the world. It always feels great to be reminded of where you come from, even in small details in your daily lives.

Elaine: Being able to commemorate AAPI culture allows people to embrace and learn more about their heritage when they have little chance to. I believe the more you learn and get in touch with your culture, the more you'll appreciate and accept it.

Tammy: Diversity is incredibly important in this day and age. Being exposed to different cultures and peoples helps with tolerance and acceptance and honestly leads to more creativity and innovation. And it can help kids like me grow up knowing that it's okay to celebrate your own culture and that it's in fact incredibly cool.

Anika: It's important to celebrate AAPI culture to create more exposure to and appreciation for all the distinct cultures that make up Asian American and Pacific Islander cultures. AAPI isn't a monolith. It's made up of peoples from different backgrounds, ethnicities, cultures, etc. and each and every one is important to the melting pot that is America. It also signals to younger AAPI individuals that it's OK to embrace your cultural background while retaining who you are. Also, the variety of food is amazing and delicious.

Chaohao: Every person has their own background and stories. Being AAPI, we need to preserve our cultural memory and learn, or relearn, the stories of our people. Even if you are not part of the AAPI community, knowing about us and our culture will widen your horizon and lead to more appreciation for the world.


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Jimmy Wasion Header

#MEETIRONGALAXY – Jimmy Wasion, Technical Artist

At Iron Galaxy, our artists bring our ideas to life so you can experience them in games. We’re putting them to the question so you can get a sense of what it’s like to create art that becomes interactive. Today, we’re talking to Jimmy Wasion, one of our Chicago teammates. Jimmy started with us in April 2021, making him one of our newer artists at the studio. Let’s learn about how Jimmy found his way into making games.


Iron Galaxy: Who are you and what would you say you do here at Iron Galaxy?

Jimmy Wasion: Hey, I’m Jimmy and I’m a lead Technical Artist here, working on Rumbleverse. I’ve been around since April ’21. One of the main functions of the tech art team is to be a bridge between the 3D artwork and the game itself, making sure it looks and moves the way it’s intended, which means a lot of rigging and tool development.


IG: Thanks for the quick job breakdown, Jimmy. What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

JW: Making sure we’re prioritizing the right things. There’s a constant flow of new artwork to implement in this game, and the wish list of new tools and system improvements never ends. We have to keep up with the artwork, but at the same time make improvements to our tools and workflow to be more efficient keeping up with the artwork.


IG: With that balancing act of priorities, what’s one skill you learned growing up that you use the most in your role?

JW: I had a lot of practice with creative problem-solving as a Lego devotee when I was a kid. I was pretty proud of my creations, and a lot of my later original models had a sculptural quality to them. There’s a blend of creative and technical skill working with Lego that I believe helped lead me toward this career, which requires exactly that combination of skills.


IG: Legos built a great bridge that we’re glad you crossed. What has been your proudest moment as a member of the Iron Galaxy team?

JW: Seeing Rumbleverse being foisted onto the consciousness of the game world in December with such overwhelmingly positive reception! It’s so gratifying to see all our work coming to life and enjoyed in the wild, and I can’t wait for it to be available to the public later in the year!


IG: We can’t wait for people to play the game again soon. If you could give someone who wanted to follow in your career footsteps one piece of advice, what would it be?

JW: Be open to move your career in a direction that’s a little bit outside of your comfort zone but could enrich your experience, and get a head start learning skills and tools that might be required for such a move. You might find you enjoy the new skills better than the ones you’ve been practicing up until now. And if you don’t, then you still learned something new and that never hurts! I was a 3D Generalist for the longest time doing a little bit of everything when I suddenly had a new opportunity where I ended up writing tools in Python code most of the time. I didn’t know much Python at that point, but after taking a crash course I thrived in that position.


IG: Great advice with a practical example to follow. What is the best thing about working at a gaming company?

JW: I get to be an important part of a team that creates this fantastic world that countless people will get to immerse themselves in and enjoy, which in turn creates this larger community with shared experiences. I love seeing the creative work progress with each artist’s unique contribution and being able to offer my own talents in that process.


IG: What is your favorite perk associated with your job?

JW: I’m a big fan of the company culture in general here, which makes for a great work environment (even if it’s virtual in these WFH days). The work-life balance is very much respected here, which is frequently hard to come by in this industry, but it’s very important for me, especially with the arrival of my first baby a few weeks ago.


IG: Congratulations on the newborn! How does a Technical Artist thrive on a team?

JW: A TA’s work often supports the work of many other artists, so forgive the platitude, but communication is key! A TA needs to seek a good understanding of the work that is required and how it’s prioritized. They should understand their current responsibilities well, so nothing gets missed and work isn’t doubled. They should be methodical in their work, testing thoroughly with a good eye for detail. It’s usually better to catch errors and anticipate problems early, and then either resolve them right away or form a plan to deal with them, especially if other teams will be impacted. Finally, as just about any artist, I believe they are well served by a confident humility – confident in their own skill set and artistic judgment, but humble enough to realize they’re not immune to mistakes and they’re not the only subjective opinion that matters.


IG: Sounds like detailed and helpful TA advice. How collaborative are you with different teams across Iron Galaxy?

JW: As I’ve mentioned previously, Tech Art often works as a bridge between artwork and the game, so my team and I have to coordinate and collaborate with several other teams. Our rigging and skinning work makes artwork functional in the game, whether it comes from the character team or from the environment team in the form of interactive props and weapons. The tools we create support artists’ workflow and help the art comply with the system. On the flip side, we also interface with the systems team as we develop game features that may impact the artwork. In the end, we’re all one big team, and it’s always been a positive experience working with each part of it.


IG: What’s the best part about achieving a result with efficiency?

JW: Good art always takes time, but in a game, the art always needs to adapt to certain technical constraints and requirements. Getting art to comply can often result in a lot of repetitive busywork. But if we have systems and tools set up to automate some of that or give the artist tools to comply during the creative process, the team can focus less on tedious technical stuff and more on making better art and a better game, and that’s rewarding for everyone.

Besides that, it’s just fun to figure out how to do something more efficiently than before – whether it’s learning a tool you weren’t familiar with or tailoring a brand-new tool to your game’s workflow. When you write code or upgrade the workflow to make your life or your teammate’s lives easier, it’s very satisfying.


IG: We heard that you had an adventurous vacation recently. What beauties of Iceland deserve to be captured in a game?

JW: Yeah, Iceland was incredible when my wife and I visited this past October. We found traveling the ring road that, for a small country, it has so many different types of landscapes and features. It’s very difficult to capture the natural beauty of a waterfall in a video game, but Iceland has so many of all sizes, each nestled in its own unique surrounding, that any Iceland-based game would be incomplete without them. I would add some coastal mountains here, some spellbinding rock formations there, rivers cutting through deep canyons and vast valleys, basalt cliffs, lava fields, charming villages nestled in fjords, mammoth glaciers spilling into land and sea, maybe even some whales gracefully breeching the water… yeah, it’d have to be a pretty big game.


IG: What is something you feel everyone must do once in their life?

JW: I think at least once in every person’s life, if they’re at all capable, they should travel to another country that’s completely different from their own – not just a comfy tourist resort, but living among locals, experiencing a new culture, and adapting a little bit to their lifestyle without judgment. It’s always a good idea to research what you’re getting into, and in that process, you’ll probably learn things about your destination that will enrich the experience even more once you’re there. I feel like I’ve had a taste of this kind of adventure, but I’d like to do much more.


IG: What is something you have always wanted to create?

JW: As another throwback to my childhood Lego fanaticism, I always thought it would be so cool to design and build some giant Lego architecture or sculpture. As a kid imagining myself as an adult, I always envisioned living in a house with a vast Lego workshop and miscellaneous creations all over the house… It didn’t quite pan out that way, but I’m at peace with it.


IG: Hopefully we can catch that creation in another Iron Galaxy Lego competition then! If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would you choose?

JW: Latin American empanadas. I don’t think I could pick a specific variety, but you can stuff those things with all kinds of deliciousness! My wife and her Colombian family turned me on to these delicacies, and I’ll take them any way you want to serve them – baked or fried, savory or sweet. Well, thanks, now I’m hungry…


IG: Sounds like empanadas might be on the menu today. What is your favorite travel destination that you have visited?

JW: So far, my favorite would have to be Costa Rica, where my wife and I went on our honeymoon almost four years ago. There’s such a variety of gorgeous places to see within a relatively small area – volcanoes, beaches, rainforest – all with their own ecosystems with different types of wildlife. They have really nice accommodation options, even on a budget, and of course, great food – empanadas included! We definitely intend to return one day!


IG: What is one place that you hope to see one day?

JW: I have such a long list, but if I can only say one, I’ll go with New Zealand. I’ve always been drawn in by the beautiful landscapes and the unique experiences and wildlife they have to offer… and you can’t forget about Hobbiton.


IG: A LOTR fan’s dream vacation. What is one genre of games that you think is underrated?

JW: There aren’t enough different couch co-op games to go around. I usually don’t care too much about playing games online. If I can just relax and play through a game with my wife, I’m happy.


IG: Name a scene from a movie that makes you cry every time…

JW: It’s been some time since I’ve watched the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but there are a few moments in there when I have to choke back the tears a little. One moment that gets me is the end of Return of the King (or one of the many endings), where King Aragorn honors the hobbits… “My friends, you bow to no one.”


IG: That certainly was a “precious” moment. What movie have you seen the most times?

JW: I think it would have to be a Christmas movie, because there’s no other kind of movie I’ve watched as a matter of tradition, especially as a kid. I would guess A Christmas Story tops my view count ranking, with Home Alonepossibly coming in second.


IG: Either way, you are at great risk of shooting your eye out. What has been your favorite series binge?

JW: I caught Battlestar Galactica a few years after it ended (the 2004 incarnation), and I wouldn’t have wanted to watch any other way but a binge. Everything about the show was intense and gripping – great characters, space opera battles, an immersive score and exceptional VFX for a TV show in its time.


IG: What was your favorite movie that bombed?

JW: It wasn’t a huge failure, but apparently the movie Hugo just barely broke even. It was Scorsese’s 2011 undertaking of a family-friendly movie filmed and released in 3D’s heyday. It’s sort of a warm and melancholy love note to cinema, beautifully shot. I still have a 3D TV, so every now and then I bust out my 3D glasses and pop in the Blu-ray.


IG: What is one superpower that you would like to have?

JW: I’d love the ability to go without sleep for as long as I want without any side effects, but still being able to sleep on demand. I’d have so much extra time to do things I’d love to but don’t have time for, and yet I could still get that refreshed, rested feeling from a good night’s sleep anytime I want.


IG: You get one wish. You can’t wish for more wishes. What do you wish for?

JW: If that’s the entirety of the terms and conditions for my one wish, I’d wish for the ability to wish for more wishes. Sounds like a loophole worth exploiting. Why not wish for the terms themselves to change? Reform the wish system from the inside!


IG: You’re a genius. What fictional universe would you choose over our own? What if there was no coming back?

JW: You’d think it’d make sense to choose some magical or fantastical universe, but they always come with pretty terrible baggage like supervillains or hostile aliens (or both). Hostile humans are enough for me in this universe, thankyouverymuch. I’d probably choose the world of some old sitcom like Cheersor Full House (RIP, Bob Saget), where all the conflicts are fairly minor and pretty much get resolved the same day. Seems like a more friendly kind of universe to raise a family in.


Beautiful sights and clever responses shared in this interview Jimmy. Thanks for educating us on the life of a traveled Technical Artist. We’ll be keeping an eye out for your Hobbit sitcom pitch soon.

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