(From left to right) The Calypte leadership team: Kirsten Kennedy, Larry Charles Jr., Scott Paterson, and Thomas Gawrys
This article is part of Virtuos Insider, a series of interviews where Virtuosi share about their careers and experiences in the company and video game industry at large. In this installment, we chat with the leadership team from Calypte – a Virtuos Studio to learn their philosophy in developing a co-development and full-service studio in North America.
Calypte, Virtuos’ first co-development and full-service studio in North America, spread its wings earlier this month. With its name inspired by the Calypte Anna, a non-migratory hummingbird native to California, the studio covers all aspects of video game production including art, design, and engineering. Helmed by Kirsten Kennedy as Studio Director, Calypte is founded by a team of veterans who have worked on AAA franchises including The Walking Dead and Call of Duty.
We spoke to the leadership team at Calypte, who shared with us their passions, career highlights, and vision for the new studio.
Launched by Virtuos, Calypte is a new concept studio that delivers all aspects of video game production including art, design, and engineering.
Please introduce yourself and a personal interest/hobby that you enjoy in your free time.
Kirsten: I’m the studio director of Calypte. In my spare time, I enjoy reading, photography, and wine tasting.
Larry: Hello! I’m Larry, design director here at Calypte, and I pretty much enjoy dabbling in all things creative. Photography and drawing are the frontrunners though.
Scott: I’m the studio art director at Calypte and I am often referred to as a magical unicorn. If you don’t know what that means, I can also be referred to as the Rennaissance man. I enjoy death-defying adventures.
Thomas: Hey! I’m a technical director at Calypte. Most recently, I’ve enjoyed trying to teach my two-year-old daughter about fun things in the world. I also enjoy working on home improvement projects, especially when they are woodworking related.
What attracted you to the games industry?
Kirsten: There were (and still are) so many creative people and projects in the industry. I was drawn to the idea of working with a creative and collaborative team, and I also wanted the opportunity to live abroad. But mostly, I thought it would be fun to work in games.
Scott: I started off in the animation industry, so it was a natural transition into video games. I am interested in storytelling at the core, but also fascinated with the blend of technology, visuals, interaction, and enjoyment that games bring. I cannot think of any other media that brings this much immersion into the story experience – and the possibilities continue to expand.
Larry: I wanted to be a 3D animator after seeing the Toy Story movie. While on my journey in learning animation, I fell in love with storytelling and worldbuilding. Being able to create the reasons and relationships between unfolding events was more captivating to me than animating alone. Fast forward to my college days, that love led me right into game design.
I enjoy being able to create and develop entire new worlds and stories that players can experience and reflect on. Interactive games are such a powerful and immersive storytelling medium, so here I am.
Thomas: Initially, I just wanted to learn how games were made so I could understand how some titles had impacted me so much. With experience, I’ve become more attracted to the industry purely because we get to bring joy into the world.
As game development veterans, what is the biggest change you’ve observed in the industry that surprises you?
Thomas: The biggest thing that surprises me is how much society has grown to accept and enjoy games.
Larry: Accessibility. When I was young, finding anything related to game development or game creation was slimmest of pickings. Today, kids have free engines, free software, and entire worldwide communities devoted to learning and sharing game development content. It is pretty mind-blowing to see where we are today as compared to when I specifically got my start.
Kirsten: What surprises me most is the intense growth of the industry in terms of team sizes and game scopes. It takes so many more people to make games nowadays than it did when I started. And games are huge now!
Scott: Every year, new advancements into what can be achieved in video games amazes me. I started off playing games like Zork and Karateka, and animating my own pixel animation walk cycles. Comparing this to the rate of technological advancements, the levels of realism and beauty we are seeing, and the future possibilities that show no signs of slowing down, I am very interested in how things will look like five years from now and beyond.
What is the biggest highlight of your career so far?
Kirsten: Being with my team at a watch party for the game awards when we won Game of the Year for Season 1 of The Walking Dead.
Thomas: My biggest highlights change regularly because I’ve had so many amazing experiences. If I really had to pick one, it would be watching YouTube videos of kids opening Skylanders as gifts and just becoming overwhelmed with complete joy and excitement.
Scott: Each game I work on has its own big events, but some past highs have been: Getting to work on so many different and exciting IP, art directing cutting edge VR games, meeting Muhammed Ali for Knockout Kings, and travelling the world through work.
Larry: When Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare went public, I could finally tell people around me what game I was working on, and better yet, point them to a commercial. At that time, it was the biggest project I’ve contributed to in my career. I’ll never forget the feeling I had – talking to fans while being part of the team responsible for creating it.
How do you constantly reinvent yourself in your career? Where do you get your inspiration from?
Larry: I love learning, and improving in every aspect of life. I spend my time exploring creative ideas, furthering my understanding of creative tools such as the Unreal Engine, or diving deep into the pipelines of other disciplines. This helps me to be able to communicate and respond better to my teammates as we create, brainstorm, or problem solve at work. I enjoy being able to add more tools, understanding, and industry wisdom to my kit. So perhaps, it’s not so much so that I’m reinventing myself, but more so of broadening my skillset. My inspiration mainly comes from being a designer who always wants to create better work.
Kirsten: The games industry is always changing so you naturally change with it. Each new or different project you work on demands that you stretch a bit and learn something new – from the project, your teammates, to the people who enjoy the game after it’s launched. My inspiration has always come from teammates and colleagues.
Scott: I do not try to reinvent myself. My journey in this ever-evolving industry brings me new challenges, but I draw from my years of experience to adapt and navigate through my work and its various situations. There is always a new challenge and mystery to solve in game development and that is what fascinates me and keeps things interesting.
Thomas: I don’t make a habit of reinventing myself. Instead, I work on growing and evolving from every experience. I love learning and this career has always offered me the opportunity to do so.
Inspiration most often comes from my teammates; they surprise and teach me all the time, even when they are brand new to the industry.
How has your experience equipped you to lead a new studio?
Kirsten: Having spent the last 20 years working in games, I’m familiar with the required effort, the industry landscape and the sheer volume of talent we’re surrounded by. Throughout the years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with many amazing people and teams in many different locations, and I’ve learned so much from all of them. These are the insights and experiences that I bring with me to Calypte.
Scott: My father was a businessman who ran his own company. Although I became an artist, there was a lot that I learnt from him by osmosis. I’ve developed management and organizational skills from him, especially for managing teams of different sizes. He also always treated people with respect and kindness, and that impacted me a lot. These are skills and lessons that I bring along with me wherever I go in my career, whether it is running an animation studio or game development studio, these principles apply.
Larry: In my career, I’ve played many roles – both big and small – in various productions. At every company I’ve worked at, there is always a need for my style of leadership. I feel that things like having genuine care and empathy for our fellow co-workers are often underappreciated and underrated. I fully understand and never let go of the fact that we’re a team of people who have lives and responsibilities, feelings and expectations, as well as talent and potential. We have to really see the whole person in each person.
I’ve continued to improve as a leader, mainly due to this genuine interest in seeing my friends and co-workers achieve their own goals and grow. I have had my share of success and pitfalls in my journey, and looking back, I really do think I owe most of my success to how I treat people, as well as my refusal to break ethics or integrity for personal gain. I bet on this more than anything else. My creativity helps, yes, but my heart is an unstoppable force.
Thomas: I have led large projects and studio initiatives for almost a decade. While every challenge is unique, I’ve always found solutions that allow for business success, as well as rewarding work for my teams. I believe that my experience in these areas sets me up well to navigate the director responsibilities in a new studio.
What excites you most about launching a new studio based in the Bay Area?
Larry: Building a game studio in 2022 after the pandemic shift really means no area is untapped at this point. Every company had to define and adapt their approach to doing business with a remote pipeline. To follow that up, I do believe there is value in physically being this close to a rising hub of game development adjacent to Silicon Valley and big tech. As this area booms, so does the interest in candidates wanting to visit, work or join companies located here. Multiple large game development studios broke ground in the Bay Area in the last five years alone – I believe we’re in the right place.
What is Calypte’s philosophy to developing talent?
Scott: The philosophy of everyone working together on a common goal with creativity and enthusiasm, but also having the chance to pass along years of industry knowledge and experience.
Kirsten: Discover what our team wants to learn and gain experience in, and find ways for them to do so. We are invested in helping people build their careers in the direction they want to go.
Thomas: Finding opportunities for our employees to be challenged and to support them in their learning journey. Making games better together means we all need to support each other, especially when we are challenged to do something that we haven’t done before.
What is your vision for Calypte?
Kirsten: A diverse group of enthusiastic people who enjoys coming together as a team to help make great, challenging, innovative, boundary-pushing, and most of all, fun games together.
Thomas: I envision Calypte to be a community of developers that care about each other and together make a positive impact on the world through games.
Scott: A strong, collaborative team that loves what they do. The energy and enthusiasm that is generated by a group of creative people invested in what they are doing, is a great feeling and something to be proud of.
Larry: I want more than anything to see this company continuously grow and present itself as a standout and dependable development partner in the games industry.
I hope we contribute value and repeat success to external companies and ongoing partnerships. I also envision for Calypte to be a fun and collaborative work environment for our employees and teammates, where everyone can thrive in an environment that understands and appreciates them for who they are. Repeated success internally, means repeated success externally!
As a new concept studio that promotes flexible working, Calypte will host employees from Virtuos’ 12 other studios worldwide, allowing for integration and interoperability across the company’s global network. We are inspired by the team’s drive and dedication to creating an inclusive environment that fosters and embraces creative endeavors, and look forward to them making a positive impact through games.