Jongwoo Kim: Reimagining History

jongwoo kim

As one of the co-founders of game development company Kitfox Games, History alumnus Jongwoo Kim (BA ’10) draws upon his love for storytelling in his work as a game programmer.

Following his history degree, Jongwoo completed a one-year game design program at Vancouver Film School, and later travelled to Montreal with Imaginary Games to participate in Execution Labs, a business incubator for independent game developers. After he was laid off, Kitfox Games – one of the other teams working with Execution Labs – was looking for another programmer, so he joined the team first on a temporary basis, and later, as a full-time member and co-founder of the company.

In a small start-up such as Kitfox Games, team members are expected to play multiple roles. Jongwoo is currently a game programmer as well as the mobile game development specialist, and fills in for other roles as necessary.

“The technical aspect of game development isn’t the main challenge,” said Jongwoo. “What’s really important is teamwork and communication skills, and those are the things I really picked up during my time at UBC.”

While Jongwoo does not specifically use his degree in the day-to-day workings of game programming, he believes that the ability to think from a variety of perspectives and consider all alternatives has allowed him to create better games.

“People think of history as a collection of names, dates and places, but that’s just the bare basics,” Jongwoo explains. “It’s really about getting you to think about what happened – it taught me about alternative perspectives and ‘what ifs’.”

Just as video game players explore different possibilities and themes, with each gameplay decision resulting in a different outcome, history is much the same. Jongwoo found the recent history of the Communist system particularly intriguing, choosing to focus on Soviet history in his degree, wondering how different his life would have been if he had lived elsewhere, even in a different time.

“History allows you to do that in a real context. These people actually existed and behaved in various ways, so in some ways it is a little more visceral, because it isn’t just made-up,” said Jongwoo.

Does he feel disadvantaged for not having done a more technical undergraduate program? Jongwoo doesn’t think so.

“I could have studied computer science, but at that time I had little interest in being a game programmer. Even now, I’m more interested in gameplay design than a lot of the technical aspects,” he responded. “My history degree allows me to pick and choose what I want to focus on, and it’s given me the skills I’ve needed to be successful right now.”