How Video Game Developer Godric Johnson Mentors the Next Generation of Creators
Back when he was a young student and budding artist obsessing over the latest release from Nintendo, Godric Johnson knew he wanted to create his own video games someday — but there was nobody to show him how to make that dream a reality.
Today, Johnson, the founder of Baton Rouge-based video game developer Jetstreame, is working to make sure local students get an early window into the technology world. Johnson volunteers his time through summer camps and area nonprofits to teach students the basics of video game development and production, with a special emphasis on students in North Baton Rouge.
“It’s very important because me growing up myself in North Baton Rouge, we didn’t have those opportunities and I didn’t have really anybody to look up to,” he says. “As a young kid I didn’t know I could pursue this as a career.”
In addition to his mentoring work, Johnson is carving out a space in the hyper-competitive world of video game development by releasing high-quality immersive games across multiple platforms. The company is preparing to launch a crowdfunding campaign for its most ambitious project to date, a cyberpunk-themed dystopian dating simulation.
Scotlandville to Arizona to L.A. to Baton Rouge
Johnson was born and raised in North Baton Rouge, and graduated from Scotlandville Magnet High School. From there he attended college at the University of Advancing Technology in Arizona, where he earned a degree in game design and digital arts. After college he moved to Los Angeles to take a position with a game development company, where he worked on the first mobile game for rock band Linkin Park.
In 2012 he returned to Baton Rouge and founded Jetstreame. The company, which is located at the Louisiana Technology Park’s Level Up Lab video game incubator, has developed “Circuit Swap,” a 40-level puzzle game for mobile devices, as well as other titles aimed at both casual players and hardcore gamers.
Johnson is a vocal advocate for the Level Up Lab companies, who along with a handful of larger gaming companies at the Tech Park make up the bulk of a growing video game industry in Baton Rouge.
“People need to know what’s happening in their own community and support the booming tech industry and Louisiana game developers,” he says. “We’re definitely the pioneers of new game development in Baton Rouge and Louisiana.”
Encouraging Students to Dream Big
Johnson still proudly claims his North Baton Rouge roots, dedicating time to teaching game development and entrepreneurship to students from the area through two nonprofit organizations. He has also developed his own curriculum to teach students how to create a video game through four popular game engines, and he hopes to employ the learning program later this year.
Johnson is adamant that students often just need an introduction to a technology field to understand that it’s a viable career option.
“It’s paramount to let kids know that they can strive for these dreams,” he says. “They can actually obtain them if you show them the way, if you give them a blueprint of something they can follow. I didn’t have that, so I became that person.”
Coming Next: Cyberpunk Casanova
Jetstreame is currently developing “Cyberpunk Casanova,” a digital novel dating simulation game that is also a thriller set in a dystopian future, where a user's choices can lead to money, romance, danger or death.
The game is being developed in partnership with local musicians collective Patchwork Villain, a group spearheaded by musician Derek Scott. Johnson serves as the producer and creative director for the project, coordinating the programmers and creative talent working together on the game.
Jetstreame plans to launch a Kickstarter campaign in August to raise enough money to complete the project, which has been in development for more than two years. Johnson says crowdfunding support will help the company better compete against larger firms that often lure talent away from smaller developers.
“That’s the real challenge of making independent games: retaining talent and keeping the team together to make the product you want to make the best that it can be,” he says.