Kevin Kim, A Korean "Kidult"

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Kevin starting attending our T&GCon and I-SPI Conferences a couple of years ago and brought new perspectives and humor. Ideas often come to Kevin while at parties or silly conversation and one of my favorite inspirational quotes is one that Kevin also finds inspiring. It is Michael Jordan saying, “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. That is why I succeed.” 


WHO ARE YOU? WHAT DO YOU DO?

I’m a 38 years old Korean kidult, game producer, inventor and father. I work for Korea Boardgames (KBG) as head of the development department, which includes import & licensing, development, design, education business and online sales team. So, my job is turning my colleagues into workholics and travelling to other countries.

WHY AND HOW DID YOU GET INTO THE TOY AND GAME INDUSTRY?

When I was studying Computer Vision Tech at a graduate school, one of the main projects at our lab was developing finger mouse and face recognition with camera. I thought those technologies were so cool. But after my second semester I felt bored with coding day and night, I didn’t have passion for it. So, I developed a new project which was game based on the vision tech. It was an interactive boxing game with two cameras and quite cool. But developing a game was not considered a serious project at a research lab in those days.

One day, my friend came to my house with two board games and it had been almost 15 years since I played Monopoly. So, I said, “What the hell is this in 21st century? Let’s just go to internet café and play StarCraft”. But 10 minutes later a new amazing world opened up to me and it changed the path of my life. The games were Carcassonne (Hans Im Glueck) and Scrabble (Hasbro). After the first experience, I bought and played games such as Rack-O, Bohnanza, Settlers of Catan and many German games every week.

Finally, in 2002 I had opened boardgame café called “Play-off” with my three best friends. It was a really great experience seeing people enjoying the games that I introduced to them. We opened 15 more branches within a year. Since then, I have spent 10 years inventing several games by myself, developing educational boardgaming programs, publishing and selling games. In 2010, Korea Boardgames, the leading game distributor in Korea bought out my company and here I am now!        

WHAT ADVICE CAN YOU GIVE INVENTORS PRESENTING IDEAS TO YOU?

Many inventors from other countries aren't familiar with Korean boardgame market. As our boardgame market history is quite short, we have many “not now” categories. For example, you can’t find trick taking games or trivia games in Korea. And the game markets for 4-6 ages are still weak and Star Wars toys are just for very few fans. My point is if you have a great idea already, you need to research about the target publisher or the target market before pitching your idea. It is very important step of pitching but I've seen many suggestions from inventors who skip that step. 

WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE TOY OR GAME AS A CHILD?

I like Euro style boardgame such like Catan, Puerto Rico and Dominion. When I was a child, I really liked dinosaur toys and I even bought several stunning dinosaur figures from Schleich secretly from my wife. ;-)

WHAT DOES YOUR TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE?

I start my work at 8:00am with a cup of coffee. Then…I spend all day long to take care of my 6 teams and meet people who say things like, “Boss, we have a problem!” , “May I get your approval for this budget?”,  “Dear Kevin, you should buy this amazing game”, or “We have to decide this right now” . Usually, I can’t have time to think or invent something during the day time. Even though my days are fully filled with busy schedule, it is good for me and my company to grow together day by day. Around 6 pm, I go to gym near my office, then come back to the desk to check e-mails from US and European partners since they start their day in my evening or draw plans for new projects. I usually go back home around 8pm. After I get home, I play games with my lovely daughter, drink some beer with my wife or friends. That’s my normal day. 

WHAT INSPIRES YOU?

I get ideas while I am talking with friends or colleagues. As my job is making something that needs to be fun, I like to listen to their casual or silly talks. Most our development ideas started from the silly conversations at parties or coffee breaks.

WHAT ELSE DO YOU LIKE TO DO WHEN YOU AREN'T WORKING ON GAMES?

I play basketball or golf sometimes. I like movies (especially Marvels or Disney) or musicals.

HOW DO YOU JUMPSTART YOUR CREATIVITY WHEN YOU FIND YOURSELF STALLED ON A PROJECT?

Yes, sometimes I feel lost and don’t seem to find a way out. Then, I would say, “I don’t know what to do now, so let’s just have a party tonight!”. Usually, I can catch the “blinking moment” to solve the problem while I’m drinking or chatting with my friends. Haha!   

WHAT IS ONE MISTAKE YOU MADE, AND HOW DID YOU LEARN FROM IT?

There have been too many mistakes and failures since I started my job. One of the lessons that I learned is, “Do I like this job and dream? If yes, then never give up”.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE QUOTE?

“I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. That is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan.  I have repeated this words to keep a positive attitude and not to stay without action. And I love Jordan!

WHAT'S NEXT?

Although Korea Boardgames is the leading boardgame company in Korea which has 24 million dollars of revenue, we’re new to exporting our products worldwide. Coconuts is our first successful game in the international market this year and I want to establish second and third key items this year. We’re preparing good games for Essen Spiel 2014 and I’m feeling quite good about them. And I will travel more to scout for great game ideas.

WHAT WAS YOUR IMPRESSION ABOUT THE CHITAG EVENTS?

I visited Chicago‘s ChiTAG events for first time in 2012. During my career I have visited many game fairs and gatherings from Japan to Europe. ChiTAG was absolutely different from my other experiences. People shared ideas, networked with other people and inspired each other. ChiTAG was different with an unique program for inventors, great storytelling with fashion show or by industry leaders. Days passed by so fast in Chicago, but I met many good people and made many new business opportunities.  I visited again in 2013 and there was Philip Sheppard, a cellist, playing at keynote?! It was WOW! I talk about ChiTAG whenever I meet Korean inventors or companies in Korea. I hope we can have this kind of event in Seoul, Korea. Maybe named Seitag?  


Thanks, Kevin, for a great interview!