Artist turned Entrepreneur
When Matt Raithel began studying at Missouri State in 2000, he came seeking a pathway to video game design through the Electronic Arts (EA) program. Raithel was drawn to EA because of the interdisciplinary progressive nature of the program. Despite the extremely competitive application process, he was accepted and joined the animation track as a stepping stone on his way to developing games. Raithel was one of two animation students accepted that year, and he was genuinely surprised that he made it. For Raithel’s senior capstone project in EA, he and his team made a mock commercial for the Women’s National Basketball Association. The commercial featured a training hologram that players can face off against, with Raithel in charge of creating the hologram.
“Good degree programs should really teach you how to learn.” — Matt Raithel
Raithel says that the EA program prepared him to teach himself and learn beyond the textbook, skills necessary for making it in the industry. He adds that EA provides the fundamentals and gives you room to explore. Raithel found his first job opportunity posted on a bulletin board in the overflow work lab formerly located in the Morris Center. The posting was for a 3D modeler position at a start-up video game company in Springfield, Black Lantern Studios. Raithel stayed with Black Lantern for years, moving up the ladder from artist to president of the studio. As the company grew in size, a new branch was opened in Austin, Texas. Once the original owners of Black Lantern decided they wanted to move on, Raithel bought Black Lantern and created Graphite Lab as an expansion.
Since then, Raithel has made considerable effort to grow St. Louis into a creative hub for video games. He currently teaches at St. Louis University as a professor of practice based on his years of experience in the industry. Raithel has been working with the university to create game designing tracks of study. He fell in love with teaching when he filled in for various professors at Missouri State after graduating.
“I love just making art for art’s sake.” — Matt Raithel
Graphite Lab has worked on several branded projects with Hasbro, Nickelodeon, and several other well-recognized names. Branded projects make up about 75% percent of their portfolio. Some of their most successful games have been “Bratz Total Fashion Makeover,” a mobile game, and “Deal or No Deal” for Wii. “Deal or No Deal” sold one million copies and was featured on the popular YouTube channel the “Game Grumps.” One of Raithel’s favorite past projects is “Hive Jump” because the lab rarely gets the chance to create original games.
“I feel like we’re the most ourselves as a studio when we’re making our own ideas. Nothing makes you feel like a part of the industry more than putting your own thing out there.” — Matt Raithel
Raithel’s advice for anyone trying to break into the gaming industry is not to dismiss any opportunity, no matter how small. He encourages taking a chance and using your network to reach out. Graphite Lab can be found on Instagram and Twitter @graphitelab and on Facebook and Youtube @graphitelabinc.