By Lia Reichman
Most 15 year olds worry about high school, their various extracurricular activities and enjoying their last years before adulthood. At 15, Timothy Kim started a Roblox gaming studio.
Roblox is one of the most popular online gaming platforms, where users can play games designed by other players, for free, or create their own game.
Kim says Roblox is more than just a video game platform, but is a “social platform,” similar to YouTube in that any creator can come on and “create an experience.” He says it is more geared “towards social experiences” in which users “can make friends,” “can customize” their own virtual avatar and “meet other people.”
Kim started playing Roblox at the age of 11, but he didn’t start creating his own games until he was 13. He says he went down a programming rabbit hole which included watching Roblox programming tutorials, going to the Roblox developer website, and interacting with other programmers in chat rooms.
As a junior in a high school computer science class, Kim was tasked with programming an end-of-the-year project. He decided to create a Roblox game to combine his passions for strategy games and programming. In 2019 he released the game Tower Defense Simulator – he received a 100% on his school project.
The popularity of Tower Defense Simulator
In Tower Defense Simulator, players team up to fight waves of different enemies until they win that map or get overrun. Players earn money by defeating enemies and surviving each wave, which they can use to upgrade their towers or buy new ones.
As of September, 2021 Tower Defense Simulator has had over 450 million monthly players and, at its peak, 100,000 concurrent users and 1.5 billion gaming sessions. Kim attributes its popularity to the nostalgia factor that it elicits.
Two months after the game was released he decided to create his gaming studio, Paradoxum Games, to help manage the business side. At the time he was dealing with high school, competitive swimming, college and an increasingly popular game. Looking back, Kim says it was a “very stressful” time of his life, especially for being so young.
“I’ve had to make a lot of compromises…mainly for my social life and my mental health,” Kim said.
Years later, he also decided not to finish college, leaving after two semesters to focus on his business.
“I do not regret a single thing, a single decision I’ve made to get me where I am. Because honestly, I’m very happy to be CEO and running this company and working with amazing people that I work with every single day,” Kim said. “All the help I’ve been getting from everyone in my studio and all the staff and developers on my team has been tremendous because I don’t think without them I would…have been able to be where I am today.”
And despite his game’s popularity, Kim’s parents initially didn’t have a positive view of his budding career.
“My parents thought that I would just sit on my computer and play video games all day, and be unproductive,” Kim said. “But that’s because they didn’t really know what I was doing at the moment.”
However, that outlook changed once he explained to them what he was doing.
“They saw me as quite literally an inventor, and then an engineer working on creating these experiences,” Kim added “And it really became real once Roblox introduced a developer’s exchange program, and I started actually making real money off of Roblox.”
That money paid off. In 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, Kim’s father lost his job as a pharmacist, but due to his Roblox success, Kim has been able to provide for his family during this time.
More than just a game
Most tower defense games follow a similar gameplay, but Kim says what makes his game different is the fact there is a “social element.”
“We wanted to leverage the community that Roblox has, and make that one of [the] core center fronts of our game,” he said. “So whenever it comes to joining the game, and meeting people in our lobby and communicating with them…almost everything in the game leverages off of socialization.”
Kim has also started to focus on increasing accessibility within his game. He says the entire game has been translated to have “maximum accessibility for any language.”
“Roblox has automatic translation as helpful as it is, is only available for a select number of languages and obviously, because it’s automatic translations there may be flaws in the dialect, and there may be flaws with just the grammar,” he said. “So we’re going to have our translators go through, check everything, and fix any grammar issues there are.”
He says it is important to provide language accessibility because he wants everyone playing his game to have an “equal experience, to have the same amount of enjoyment as someone in the United States.”
He also takes pride in being in the position he is in and thinks it is important for Roblox players to see an Asian game developer, especially because it is AAPI Month.
“It is a month that highlights all the contributions our culture has provided to [the] world,” Kim said. “But also, I believe that AAPI Month also represents the hard work that our previous generation has made. Because without them, we wouldn’t be here and we wouldn’t be able to achieve the so-called American dream without their hard work.”
Kim attributes all of his accomplishments to his family. and says none of them would be possible without his parents and his grandparents who immigrated from Korea.
“From all the success of Roblox I’ve been doing nothing but trying to repay the unpayable debt of my parents,” Kim said. “And I’ve been helping them a lot, especially after COVID and after the pandemic…without our parents and our previous generation immigrating to the United States, a lot of the stuff that and a lot of our contributions wouldn’t be possible.
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